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Aug 19, 2021

Can’t finish your pitch deck? This 300-founder study explains why.

On top of operations and fundraising, being a founder is not an easy task. We surveyed 300 founders on the struggles they have on their pitch deck.

Keane Angle
BY

The wide-eyed, first-time founder is determined to change the world. They are master innovators that will pave way for job opportunities and industry-changing business models.

However, being an entrepreneur is not an easy task. In addition to day-to-day operations, founders also often need to secure funding for further growth. To do this, founders must nail one very important deliverable: their investor pitch deck.

So, we surveyed 300 startup founders on the current status of their pitch decks.

STORY’s study of 300 founders and the status of their investor pitch decks.

In this study, we surveyed 300 startup founders via Pollfish — a market research platform with over 550M+ panelists.

The questionnaire we created mainly focused on the first step of the fundraising process: creating the pitch deck. The results were then post-stratified to normalize for demographic distribution.

36% of founders in our survey are currently fundraising. The remaining 74% are planning to fundraise in the next 12 months. So, in the next year, 100% of founders we surveyed are planning on raising investment capital of some form.

In June of 2021, over 14,000 businesses were registered each day in the US alone according to the US Census.  

That’s a lot of pitch decks.

Our survey also revealed that 84% of founders struggle to build their pitch deck.

That’s a lot of struggle.

Let’s breakdown the 84% stat:

  • 15% haven’t started building their pitch deck at all
  • 33% have started working on their pitch deck but they haven’t finished it yet
  • 23% have been struggling for weeks or months to finish
  • 13% are unhappy with their pitch deck

Why?

We dug deeper into our data and identified two main struggles:

  1. Lack of time to fundraise
  2. No single source of truth

Let’s dive in.

1. Lack of time to fundraise

In startup culture, founders wear multiple hats to keep the business running. Early-stage startups are often conducting market research, beta testing, nailing their business model, talking with potential partners, looking for new team members, and much more.

In our research, we found that 49% of the founders are working for another company while also running their startup. Moreover, 20% are either freelancers or contractors.

Through this data, we assume that most founders barely have time to sit down and create a pitch deck, let alone finish it. Why? Most are working two full-time jobs.

2. No single source of truth

The first step of learning anything is knowing what to do and what NOT to do. However, a simple Google search for something like “pitch deck tips” will usually raise more questions than answers.

Why? Everybody – and we mean everybody – has an opinion on pitch decks and fundraising. Rarely will two people give the same advice, so it’s hard to know what to do or two to trust. Nearly every single founder we talk to will receive conflicting feedback about their pitch deck from different investors.

“Move the team slide upfront…Move it to the very end.”

“Describe your company like this…Describe it like that.”

“Include a chart of this data here…Only show a data table there.”

We’ve heard it all and it can be very frustrating.

As you may know, we’re not a fan of opinions. We like facts. That’s why we continuously conduct quantitative research on qualitative data on investor opinions to determine where that “happy medium” might actually be.

When we asked founders how much time they spent working on their pitch deck, we found the following:

  • 35% spend several hours a day on their pitch deck
  • 23% spend several hours a week
  • 20% spend an hour a day.


That’s a lot of time spent building a pitch. Despite this, only 16% of founders in our survey are happy with their finished pitch deck.

Why? To put it bluntly, fundraising is hard and filled with a minefield of opinions. It’s nearly impossible to please everyone. Unless you build pitch decks for a living, it’s hard to know what constitutes a great one, and it’s even harder know what investors are looking for in a pitch.

Why do founders struggle on their pitch deck? Lack of time or lack of experience? We think both.

The struggle to finish a pitch can be influenced by many things — lack of time, lack of experience, lack of expertise, and many more.

Our study revealed that founders are busy individuals, obviously. But with fundraising being their top priority, founders do make the time to work on their pitch. In fact, some are even spending several hours a day over weeks and even months on end to get their deck in good shape. So for many, time isn’t necessarily the main barrier for completing their deck.

Something else is.

Based on our experience working with founders, we believe the issue is two-fold:

1) Founders often don’t know what “good” looks like in terms of a pitch deck and they don’t have a clear process to get their own deck there.

2) There is no such thing as a standard, one-size-fits-all “how to build a pitch deck” resource that works for all scenarios and pleases all stakeholders.

With so much wiggle room for customization and so little visibility into how to make a good pitch deck, the struggle becomes apparent.

The elevator pitch: the first step to a powerful pitch deck.

At STORY, we’ve spent years helping clients raise millions at a 40x higher funding rate than the industry average.

Our secret? We have a clear, proven process and tools that work.

The critical first step we never skip is to write an elevator pitch, which we also refer to as a pitch narrative.

Simply put, an elevator pitch is the backbone of any solid pitch deck. It helps hone the overall messaging while keeping it consistent across multiple channels. Founders can use, remix, and reuse it in outreach emails, one-pagers, websites, pitch decks, socials, and more.

STORY’s Elevator Pitch Masterclass is a concise, powerful, and online video course that shows founders how to nail their elevator pitch by creating a solid narrative. More than just a theory-focused masterclass, it has end-to-end guidance with exercises and examples to perfect your core message.

Sign up today and kick-start your pitch writing process.

  • AN INVESTOR-READY STORY -

    We ensure your deck has everything in it that investors look for so your startup can land more meetings more often.

  • CONVINCING SLIDE COPY -

    We’ve written hundreds of decks since 2018; we know what works, what doesn’t, and how to embody the tone you’re going for.

  • ON-BRAND, POWERFUL VISUALS -

    For most startups, your brand begins with your pitch deck. We work with existing brands, and even create brand-new ones.

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Keane and his team were fantastic. They educated us on the pitching process, helped us hone in on missing messaging pillars and push the boundaries, and they gave life to our brand styling. We wouldn't want to work with anyone else.
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Working with Keane and his team on our deck accelerated the timeline for being ready for discussions with potential investors. I was impressed at his ability to quickly dive into our market and developing the communication of our positioning within that market.
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We couldn't have made a better decision than to partner with Keane and the team at Story! From understanding our business to graphics selection to creating a concise and accurate message, Keane and his team did a remarkable job of creating a Pitch Deck for our Seed Round. I highly recommend Story.
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