CommandBar, a B2B device designed to make software program simpler to make use of, closed a $4.8 million increase in 2021 with some of the starkly minimalist decks I’ve ever seen. The deck solely has seven slides and is lacking a ton of actually vital info, however that didn’t cease Thrive Capital and Y Combinator from opening their checkbooks.


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Slides on this deck

  1. Cowl slide
  2. Product slide
  3. Demo slide (with a hyperlink to a Loom demo)
  4. Thesis slide
  5. Downside/aggressive panorama slide
  6. Worth proposition slide
  7. Staff slide

Three issues to like

Within the midst of a fairly slim pitch deck, there are some improvements which are value shining a lightweight on.

Data design, not graphic design

I’ve lengthy held that design is much much less vital than folks appear to suppose with regards to early-stage pitch decks. This is smart: The first function of a pitch is to speak the startup’s potential to would-be traders. These parts are essentially rooted within the content material and readability of the message relatively than the aesthetics of the presentation.

That doesn’t imply that design isn’t vital, however startups would do effectively to concentrate to info design (i.e., whether or not the content material is simple to ingest and browse), relatively than graphic design; early-stage traders are predominantly targeted on substance over fashion. They’re in search of compelling enterprise concepts with robust market potential and groups able to executing these concepts.

Focusing an excessive amount of on design can usually misallocate valuable early-stage sources. Startups sometimes function underneath tight funds constraints, and spending important money and time on pitch deck design is probably not the perfect use of restricted sources. The effort and time could possibly be higher spent on validating the enterprise concept, conducting market analysis and refining the services or products. You probably have a proficient designer on workers, by all means, allow them to free on the deck, however remember that nice pitch deck design is a extremely specialised area of interest in its personal proper, and different design disciplines is probably not as transferable as you suppose.

CommandBar sidesteps this by basically not designing the deck in any respect. In doing so, the corporate created a stark, easy-to-ingest stack of slides.

[Slide 1] How’s that for minimalism. Picture Credit: CommandBar

In case you’re on revision 900 of your pitch deck, and you may’t get the design fairly proper, maybe much less is extra.

Elegant combo of downside and aggressive panorama

In my a few years of poring over pitch decks, I can’t say I’ve seen the issue slide mixed with the competitors slide earlier than, however on this case, it simply works:

[Slide 5] These go effectively collectively. Picture Credit: CommandBar

Startup founders are all the time in search of methods to make their pitch deck stand out to potential traders. On this case, CommandBar created a contemporary take by merging its aggressive panorama and downside slides.

Sure, the design is utilitarian, however the mixture of the 2 slides sharpens the presentation and helps do one thing uncommon: It cohesively exhibits the corporate’s deep market understanding and the answer’s distinctive worth.

The best a part of this slide is that it exhibits that CommandBar can tackle some really huge markets. The corporate doesn’t have a market measurement slide (boo!), however the examples on this slide give us an concept: WalkMe has an $830 million market cap. In accordance with PitchBook information, Zendesk final raised at a $10 billion valuation. As of its final funding spherical, Intercom and FullStory had been valued by traders at $900 million and $1.8 billion, respectively. Again-of-a-napkin math says CommandBar goes after a market of no less than $13 billion. Not too shabby.

I do need to underscore that whereas integrating these slides gives some advantages, readability is vital. Make sure the slide will not be overcrowded with info. The purpose is to boost understanding and engagement, to not confuse. Cautious design and content material choice are essential to creating this technique work — and do not forget that an increasing number of VCs are utilizing AI to learn pitch decks to do first-sifts. My very own AI-based pitch deck device was confused by this slide, incorrectly figuring out it as a buyer slide. Your mileage could range, however your pitch deck does have to be machine-readable.

Simplicity

A variety of founders get stumped making an attempt to specific what the corporate is doing and who it’s doing it for. That is smart: Of course a startup is difficult and filled with nuance. However traders don’t want that stage of in-the-weeds precision, particularly not the primary time they have a look at a startup. CommandBar’s second slide cuts via the temptation of complexity, providing up the next:

[Slide 2] Distill your function in as few phrases as you may. Picture Credit: CommandBar

It’s uncommon {that a} product-led pitch works effectively, however CommandBar is completely different right here, too. Being a “search-based interface for interacting with software program” explains the what, and enabling “internet apps to configure command bars” explains the how. “Leveling up their UX” exhibits why CommandBar can profit firms. That is nice, and exhibits that the founders actually perceive CommandBar’s why.

Three issues that could possibly be improved

Intelligent improvements apart, there’s so much to be desired with this deck.

The workforce slide doesn’t have a workforce on it

[Slide 7] The place is the workforce? Picture Credit: CommandBar

Princeton, McKinsey, Bain Capital, AngelList are all spectacular, however nothing about this slide suggests why CommandBar’s founding workforce is the perfect workforce to run this firm. And that’s not all; the workforce slide is commonly an important slide in a deck. It ought to spotlight the workforce’s deep expertise, connections or anything that offers this explicit startup a aggressive edge.

There’s lacking info

The deck doesn’t embrace sufficient info to know whether or not it’s enterprise scale. There’s no actual sense of how huge the market is. There’s no ask or use of funds. The workforce is lacking. There’s no monetary plan, no enterprise mannequin, and no go-to-market plan. There’s no clear pricing or unit economics. There’s no readability round who the goal prospects are, how this firm could be defendable, or why now’s the precise time to start out the corporate.

Picture Credit: Haje Kamps

For reference, my AI-powered pitch deck device gave this deck a 16.9% likelihood at elevating funding.

You want traction

CommandBar’s deck has no actual traction metrics, which isn’t nice. Even when there’s no income, no less than some work has been completed to de-risk the corporate. That’s the traction; report it and present it as graphs.

So, what occurred?

It’s seemingly that CommandBar raised its spherical and not using a deck in any respect and that traders got here into the pitch understanding extra in regards to the firm than we see right here. Maybe the workforce is extraordinary, and the traders knew that as a result of they invested in a earlier firm, or have had publicity to the founders up to now. Maybe the corporate did a compelling demo when it was in Y Combinator.

I requested the founding workforce about what really occurred.

“Vinay, Richard and I are overthinkers, so earlier than writing our seed deck we created some ideas,” stated CommandBar’s CEO and co-founder, James Evans. The corporate took an uncommon tack: “We checked out our seed deck as a memo to ourselves of why we — self-proclaimed sensible individuals who might do a bunch of different issues with their time — ought to make investments the subsequent decade+ of our blood, sweat and tears into this firm. If that had been clear and we might fairly persuade ourselves, conveying that message to draw capital must be straightforward. And if it weren’t . . . then why had been we losing time making an attempt to lift cash for this firm to start with?”

Evans really tore down the corporate’s deck himself in a current weblog put up, which makes for a good behind-the-scenes read (I hadn’t learn it earlier than I wrote my teardown above). He advised me that whereas the corporate could or is probably not elevating one other spherical of funding (shhhh), it did increase its subsequent spherical and not using a deck, saying “it wasn’t a conventional course of.”

“We led the A due to a continuation of things that had been current on the seed — a workforce with nice ambition + clear considering, and a product that prospects cherished and you would see turning into ubiquitous,” stated Itai Tsiddon, when For Millionaires requested him how the Collection A spherical got here collectively. “The stellar early buyer traction, with some marquee logos, definitely helped!”

The complete pitch deck

 


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