Last year, DocSend — a startup focused on sharing secure files — partnered with the Harvard Business School professor Tom Eisenmann to study over 200 pitch decks as a means of determining how entrepreneurs should optimize their pitches to increase the chances of funding. The study contained many interesting results, as well as actionable takeaways from entrepreneurs raising rounds right now.
One of the study’s most pertinent findings was entrepreneurs need to spend more time on their team slides. Behind the financials, this is the slide investors ranked most relevant and spent most time viewing. This note rung true.
Specifically, at Hyde Park Angels, we use DocSend to determine where our investors are spending their time. Overwhelmingly, they focus on team slides, even more than a company’s purpose or financial projections. We know how important positioning your startup’s human capital is for garnering investment, so we put together our key insights into pitching your team effectively.
Take Your Time… But Not Too Much Time
As the startup adage goes “bet on the jockey, not the horse.” Investors are paying very close attention to the founders and leaders of the startup because they are basing much of their investment decisions on who those people are and what they bring to the table. Think about it this way — in the early stages, there are limited quantifiable metrics on the business, but there is certainly qualitative information on the people behind the business.
At Hyde Park Angels, we often see the best entrepreneurs breeze through their team slides because they have so much to show for their efforts already in their growth and success metrics. However, spending a little more time emphasizing how the unique team dynamics and assortment of human capital made that success possible goes a long way to anchor the pitch. On the flip side, we often see companies that aren’t ready to take on investment spend too much time on the team slide, which in turn emphasizes that there isn’t a lot in the way of an actual business, yet. If you’re getting feedback that you’re spending too much time on your team slides, you might want to take a closer look at your business and determine whether you’re ready for investor meetings.
Strength in Numbers
One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make when they pitch is that they gloss over their team members, or worse, only highlight themselves. The point of the team slide is to show the value your company has through its human capital. This doesn’t necessarily mean showcasing every person who has touched your startup in some way, but the individuals responsible for steering it towards the growth and traction that will make it investable. That means representing your senior leaders, as well as your board members, and active advisors.
In particular, highlighting your active advisors is a way to showcase that you have expertise beyond your immediate team. They may be able to fill knowledge gaps or share operational expertise, which in turn will make your company look stronger. Just make sure if you’re telling investors these are your advisors, they consider themselves advisors as well.
Mind the Details
Along those lines, simply showing faces and names in your team slide is not enough to capture interest or effectively represent the value your leadership adds to the organization. You shouldn’t be afraid to call out what they do, and what makes them uniquely suited for their roles and responsibilities.
You don’t have to stick to job titles either. So much of the time, we see titles and don’t completely grasp what they mean. Context is king in a pitch, so add details about a specific milestone project they completed or their unconventional expertise in another arena to illustrate their three-dimensional skills. Most importantly, you should always include enough written information about a given person so that investors can search them online afterwards when they do their own analysis.
Tell a Story
No matter what you talk about in your pitch, you should be telling a story for a multitude of reasons. However, with your team slide in particular, you need to build a story around the people as unit. Instead of framing them as individual players, talk about them like a full team by telling a story about how they work together and their collective efforts produce something larger than themselves.