That 30-slide deck won’t cut it anymore

Here are the 16 slides you need in your pitch deck

There’s been a distinct trend in pitch decks recently, and I should know as I review tons of them for TechCrunch+. Pitch decks include fewer slides with less information, but getting across the right message is the name of the game.

Reading between the lines of DocSend’s most recent report about VC activity in 2023, it becomes clear that getting to the point — and staying on message — is the way to catch an investor’s attention.

“Pre-seed founders have responded to the investor pullback by creating shorter decks. They are rearranging the opening slides in ways I hadn’t seen before,” Justin Izzo, research lead at DocSend, told TechCrunch+.

Founders are ditching the narratives around purpose, problem and solutions. “Instead, they are heading right into the ‘why now,’ here’s our product, and here’s how we’re going to monetize that product. It makes for very abrupt reading — I’m used to a little bit more narrativization — but pre-seed founders these days know that investors aren’t spending much time on the decks.”

Founders are actually sending 16% more decks than they did this time last year, which means VCs have a lot to read through. Investors want to get the info they need to make an early decision on whether to spend more time with a company.

From 2022 to 2023, VCs spent almost 20% less time (2 minutes 12 seconds now, compared to 2 minutes 42 seconds a year ago) reviewing pitch decks. If you’ve got 2 minutes of their time, make it count. How much does this matter? Data from DocSend indicates that 40% of successful pre-seed teams had shorter-than-average decks; 65% of unsuccessful teams had decks with more slides than average.

Founders have to be ruthless, both with the number of slides in a deck and the number of words on each slide. From 2022, the average slide deck took a nosedive from 19 slides to 16. That means you have to be very intentional about what to include:

Introduction: Present your company’s name, logo and a captivating tagline or image that gives an immediate sense of what your startup does. It also helps to hint at the size of the round you are hoping to raise.

Mission: I like to start pitches with a mission slide or a summary slide that pulls people in. Good storytelling is layered: Give the 60,000-foot view first; then point your searchlight at different aspects of the business that help getting deeper understanding as you go along.

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