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Pitching Without a Pitch Deck

Startups often put a lot of work into a pitch deck. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, you don’t want to be stuck delivering a presentation to potential investors which is eminently awful because of your slides.

But here’s a piece of advice that may run counter to “build good slides.” And that’s “be ready to ditch the slides altogether.”

To do so certainly demands that you’re ready and able to deliver a compelling story and demo in order to pitch your startup.

Primers and Pitch Decks

Investor Mark Suster wrote a post last week, a primer on raising VC funds. Part of the post addresses the pitch deck, including what slides he recommends you include in it. A problem definition, details on the solution, a bio of top 3 people in the company, market size, exit possibilities, and so on — all in hort sentences, bullet points, easy to read.

(Read the whole post. I’m not doing it justice here.)

Following Suster’s post, several other investors wrote responses arguing that, while Suster’s recommendations for VC fundraising were solid, the pitch deck wasn’t necessarily something that they cared too much about.

Bryce Roberts of O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures responded with his argument for a “secret weapon” – the whiteboard. Rather than deliver a pitch that echoes the same format of multitudes of other presentations – one during which your audience is more likely to tune out simply because the format is so predictable – consider stepping up to a whiteboard for a different, more active sort of presentation.

“When an entrepreneur steps to the whiteboard the energy in the room totally changes. There’s movement, there’s action, there’s something happening that requires attention. The conversation moves from consuming images on a screen in lean back mode, to active engagement. Half baked ideas get refined, new ideas emerge and a two way dialog develops where a one way homologue once was,”

writes Roberts.

Telling Your Story to Investors

Jason Baptiste, whose startup OnSwipe just raised $1 million in a seed round led by Spark Capital and Betaworks, agrees.

He too stresses the importance of being able to step away from a reliance on the PowerPoint slides in order to engage more actively with potential investors. Baptiste said that OnSwipe found great success in being able to deliver a strong demo along with a compelling story. While he says he did have a pitch deck, he and his co-founders offered to skip it, something that investors readily agreed to, during the pitch.

Baptiste echoes Roberts, arguing that by freeing oneself from the presentation mode that a PowerPoint seems to dictate, he was able to give a much more engaging pitch to potential investors.

The funding for OnSwipe was raised in a marathon 30 days, something Baptise says the company was able to do by really targeting the right funds – those interested in media and tech. (Baptiste’s startup OnSwipe is a publishing platform for tablets.) But this too points to the way in which the entrepreneurs were able to enter the room with potential investors and engage in a compelling presentation – without relying on slides to tell their story or demo their product.

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