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Written By: Kelly Bryant 


A number of years ago, DocSend partnered up with HBS professor Tom Eisenmann to study the fundraising process by analyzing 200 startups. (You can find the highlights here). What they found is pretty interesting: startups needed to contact an average of 20-30 investors and took a little over 12 weeks to close a round. Similarly, investors don’t look at pitch decks for very long — just an average of 3 minutes and 44 seconds. 

If you’re like me, you might’ve thought it would be even less than that (shoutout to all my millennials out there with short attention spans!). Still, 3 minutes and 44 seconds does not leave a ton of time to make a stellar first impression. With this in mind, I compiled a list of 5 things to consider as you’re constructing your own pitch deck. 

#1) Keep it Tight

No one wants to receive a pitch deck that is 20+ pages long (trust me, it’s painful). Your deck should be 10-14 pages long without an appendix. If you can’t pitch it comfortably in 10 minutes or less, it’s too long. 

#2) Punchy Titles 

Each page of your deck should have a title that is 1-3 words max. (Think ‘Problem’, ‘Solution’, ‘Go-To-Market’, etc.) This seems overly simplified, but it helps an investor understand where you’re at in the story and keeps you focused. See this article from Sequoia on suggested titles for a Business Plan. (Bonus points if you spend extra time on the ‘Team’ and ‘Financials’ slide since those were most viewed according to DocSend!)  

#3) No Paragraphs or Long Sentences 

Your deck should be filled with hero images, attractive visuals, headline statements and bullet point thoughts. An investor can’t read your deck and listen to you at the same time. Invest effort into making your pitch deck visually appealing and easy to understand (absolutely no paragraphs allowed!)

#4) 6th Grade Level 

It’s very rare that an investor will have the same knowledge you do about your industry. If you know the team and I at Kerosene personally you’ve probably heard us say you need to keep the language in your pitch deck at a 6th grade level (seriously, practice on your kids or nieces and nephews). No industry acronyms or unnecessary jargon. 

#5) Tell a Story 

People love a compelling story. Investors get pitched constantly so it’s important to stand out from the crowd and make an authentic connection. Think of your pitch deck as a story book where each slide is a new chapter and the book has a natural beginning and end. 

Piece of cake, right? Not exactly… 

Crafting a compelling pitch deck takes time and lots of patience. It’s normal to have multiple iterations and I’d encourage you to seek out feedback and practice on whoever will listen. When time is literally of the essence, preparation is key! 


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