It was late May and I was struggling with my stretch. Not for a lack of effort- I was already around 20 hours in by now and I’d done a fair bit of research. No, what I was struggling with was figuring how to approach the workload.
You see, when you start a new organization, there is always a billion questions you want to tackle. “What kind of clients are we targeting? What kind of consulting can students do? What will our organizational structure look like? How do we recruit?” In those early stages, I was bogged down by research and trying to figure out what to tackle first. Things changed for me after meeting with my Faculty Advisor and verifier for my stretch, Dr. Vern Glaser.
Vern’s been an extremely good contact to have in our corner for a couple key reasons. First, the man has an understanding of the two spaces we really need to know about- the consulting industry and the university eco-system. His tenure as a professor allows him to understand how the university eco-system operates, while his experience in the consulting industry is extremely helpful as well.
When I sat down with Vern, he gave me some great advice. “Instead of worrying about market research at this point, I want you to focus on creating a pitch deck. This pitch deck will essentially be a set of slides that tells the story of your organization. It’s kind of like a visual business plan. Through the process of creating this deck, you’ll be able to better understand how your organization operates, and communicate that externally. So, what I want you to do now is book a meeting with me next week, and finish a pitch deck in that time.”
“A week!” I exclaimed, “that’s way too little time. There’s no way I’ll be able to address everything in a week.”
“You’re right, you probably wont be able to. To be honest, the deck probably won’t be that good. But it’ll be a start, and we can take what you have on that deck and re-iterate. And then we’ll reiterate on that version, and the next version and the next. By the time you’re done this process, you may have gone through 6-7 decks. But by doing so, you’ll be able to better understand how your organization operates, and communicate that confidently.”
“Alright, that sounds better, I’ll get it done for next week.”
And so I did. I worked a ton over the course of the next week, frantically trying to complete this deck. By the time I got to Vern, I didn’t have a complete deck, but I had something substantive for us to discuss.
“Not bad, but there’s two key things that are missing here. First, your story doesn’t really flow, and secondly, there’s no specifics in terms of the services you’re offering. You should figure out some niches you want to operate in, and put them on the next deck. I’ll give you two weeks this time, come back to me with some niches and a better flowing deck, and we’ll talk.
And so I did, I came back in two weeks with a much more extensive, polished deck that covered the things Vern asked for.
I walked Vern through the slide deck for about 10-15 minutes, and then we sit down to discuss. “This is better, we can work on tightening down those niches and making it flow more but this is definitely progress. With that being said… I want you to delete this deck and start a new one.”
“Wait, what?! Are you sure, isn’t there some way we can edit this?”
“Nope, the fact of the matter is, the thinking on this deck is too convoluted. Instead of working on this deck, I want you to take a week off and do some research on the best startup pitch decks on the internet, and allow it to guide your thinking. ”
And so, I took his advice, and dived into research. But as I dived into the material, I quickly realized that Vern was right: my initial approach was bloated and convoluted. I looked at a ton of pitch decks, from top startups like Facebook, AirBnB, WealthSimple, Youtube and Linkedin. In doing so, I found a couple key insights…
The best startup pitch decks waste no time being extravagant. Most decks are under 25 slides- a far cry from the 54 I had on my latest draft. A great pitch deck will take it’s audience and sell them a visual story of who the organization is, how they work, and why they need to exist. Each slide on a startup pitch deck has a key purpose, and when taken together, the deck paints a compelling picture for investors.
Since the beginning of the summer, I’ve completed four draft pitch decks, and I’m currently working on draft 5. By the time we hit retreat, I don’t think I’ll have a finished deck. Matter of fact, I don’t think our deck will be completely finished for months. But that’s okay, just like this organization, this deck is a work in progress, and as our organizational strategy changes, the deck will too to reflect that.
So with that being said, I’m excited to share where I’m at, both with building this group and with this deck, very shortly.
Ankur Pandit – PLLC Scholar (2016-2018 Cohort)
PS: Used this resource for most of my research, lots of amazing decks if you’re curious. https://piktochart.com/blog/startup-pitch-decks-what-you-can-learn/