Ah yes, the Series-B, C, D, and every other letter that comes after.
The majority of all financing flows into these businesses
And just like every other round, Series-B and higher rounds start by creating a pitch deck.
However, the story is different. The content is different. The focus is different.
Despite being out of the early uncertain stages of a startup’s life cycle, startups in the Series-B and higher rounds need funding to nudge them to the next level. This is where late stage funding comes in to cover for additional costs as they come up with new products, tactics, channels, services, R&D, and more.
Series-B and higher rounds have a better chance of securing funding from investors. These startups have already killed it in earlier rounds and their track record speaks for itself. With a proven and tested business model, later stage startups have a huge advantage in convincing investors with hard data—something the riskier early rounds simply don’t have.
Bharat Anant, a startup finance expert and founder of DunRobin Ventures elaborated something that is obvious: higher rounds have a smaller failure rate than startups in early funding stages.
In an article in the Medium, Anant explains that “a startup’s failure risk decreases as it grows. Accordingly, ‘total risk of failure’ on a startup investment is truly the compounded risk contained within every future round as well as the current round’s risk.”
Let’s break it down further.
Anant cites that the average failure rate of a Series Seed startup is 86%. If 1,000 companies complete the Seed round, only 140 companies will move towards Series-A.
Moreover, the average failure rate of Series-A startups is at 70%. This means only 42 out of 140 will move on to Series-B.
“Converting this view to look at the overall chance of success, the numbers are more blunt; only 2.4% of Series Seed, 17% of Series A, 56% of Series B, and 83% of Series C companies succeed to exit”
In October of 2020, we did our own digging to update and clarify the mix of conflicting and outdated research and opinions on pitch decks.
We’ve also elaborately discussed our findings on earlier rounds (Seed, Series-A) through our study of 100 pitch decks in previous posts. In this article, we aim to provide specific insights on later stage startups as most publicly-available information on pitch decks is geared towards earlier rounds.
The most impressive trend in the data we’ve collected supports Anant’s claim in his Medium article.
In a hundred pitch decks we’ve analyzed, 53% were seeking Seed funding while only 24% sought funding from Series-B and higher rounds.
Unsurprisingly, most funding went to Series-B and higher rounds due to minimal investment risks. The chart below shows a funding median of $28.5 Mil for Series B and higher rounds while startups in Series Seed only secured a median of $1.1 Mil.
There is still so much to learn about later funding rounds and the pitch decks that come with it. But before we discuss our findings, let’s talk through the methodology of our study.
We went on a Frodo-style journey to hunt for pitch decks that are publicly available online. We successfully built a database of 100 pitch decks to begin with. An extensive background research was then conducted on each startup from the amount they raised (if any) to their current operational status. After this, we analyzed and scored each pitch deck across 36 criteria from design to content.
We studied a whopping 1,686 slides.
Yup. That’s more than the number of episodes of all 20 seasons of the Simpsons.
Here’s a quick run-down of the pitch decks and the startups in our study:
Our analysis was segmented into four major categories:
We will constantly update our study as we move forward.
Got questions about this study? Check out our detailed post about our methodology here.
Let’s talk Series-B and higher rounds.
We segmented our findings into four major areas:
Before we proceed, we’ll collectively pertain to Series-B, C, and D rounds as Series-B+ to make things a little less complicated.
Onto the data.
As mentioned earlier, we’ve previously discussed our findings in Series Seed rounds and Series-A rounds.
We’ve discovered that Seed round pitch decks focused on introducing their business from the problems they solve, how they solve it, along with proof that their solution actually works.
On the other hand, Series-A startups focus on traction, competition, business strategies, and financial forecasts to convince investors that they are equipped to go to the next level.
But how do later stage startups do it?
During our analysis we found that Series-B+ pitch decks put an emphasis on displaying their readiness for their next big milestones. This includes tactics, business plans, and exit strategies that are data-driven and carefully prepared.
We graded the story strength of each pitch deck on a scale of 1 to 5 (1= weak, 5= strong) based on several criteria: logical story flow, conciseness of copy, overall emotional impact, and more.
We found that Series-B+ pitch decks are slightly higher than average when it comes to story strength.
But what does that actually mean?
Truthfully, it’s not that bad; but it’s not ideal either.
The data simply suggested that there’s much to improve in Series-B+ pitch decks story-wise. Some pitch decks took too many slides to explain something that can be done in two. Others simply presented data without invoking any emotional value which could further emphasize the customers’ need for the startup’s product or service.
Either way, all of the Series-B+ pitch decks in our database successfully secured funding. So, yes, pitch decks can get away with average stories. This is also true for early funding rounds.
The data simply dictated that straightforward, no-frills storytelling shined through in most pitch decks in our study.
During our analysis, it was apparent that founders already have a well-defined story in place. This is due to the fact that most founders have been pitching for years. So, a middle-of-the-road, basic story is often what they put forward to investors.
In 2015, Docsend gave a data-driven overview on pitch decks in general. Part of the study discussed optimal slide order.
Here’s the suggested slide order according to Docsend:
Let’s be real, five years is considered an eon in our world today with how fast the landscape is changing. This is why our study aimed to update this data and add more substantial information for pitch deck slide order in various rounds.
So we compiled a list of 21 standard slides according to multiple online resources and our own experience. Of course, not all of these slides are present in every deck.
Here’s a list of these slides:
We’ve noted similarities and differences across all rounds in terms of slide order.
Here are the major differences across all rounds:
One can already notice similarities in terms of slide ranking across all various funding rounds.
Series-B+ pitch decks share similarities with Series-A pitch decks in terms of slide order and cadence. Both rounds put an emphasis on traction, market research, and social proof to convince investors.
Let’s zero in on Series-B+ pitch decks and their average slide order:
Similar to our previous articles, we’ve sectioned each slide into buckets to make sense of the data. Now let’s get to work.
Normally, title slides serve the purpose of being a placeholder for standard headlines based on our study and our years of experience.
We usually advise founders to take advantage of this normally unused space. It’s possible to establish credibility right off the bat by adding social proof in title slides. Awards, press, or ‘as seen as’ can leave positive impressions on investors before founder even begin their pitch.
Problem / Product / Solution / Value Prop
We discovered that Series-B+ pitch decks begin with problem, product, solution, and value proposition slides.
No surprises there. It’s a widely accepted standard in the world of pitch decks to start with a problem and solution. This is reflected by the decks in our study as they began their pitch by demonstrating the relevance of their product to their target market.
Market Validation / Business Model / Traction/Milestones
Once the problem and solution have been established, founders in our study showed how they aim to create value through single or multiple revenue streams.
Market research played a huge role in this section. We’ve observed that startups showed significant data that reflects a real opportunity in the market. The data presented validates the relevance and interest of the target market in the startups’ products and services.
Lastly, startups in our study showed the current and future milestones as proof that their solution is profitable. It also shows that the team is capable of reaching goals that have been set.
Press / Market Size / Underlying Magic
In this section, startups emphasized the effectiveness of their products and services through social proof. Founders often do this by showing the traction that the company has gotten in the media over the years.
Founders also provided a general overview on their market while also discussing their ‘secret sauce’ which will help them tackle their competition and draw more potential customers.
Competitive Advantage / User Testimonials / Leadership Team / Competitive Research
After providing data and insights on the target market, startups in Series-B+ rounds discussed substantial research on their key competitors.
In this section, Series-B+ pitch decks enumerated key market players along with their strengths and weaknesses. This also sets the perspective of potential investors as to where the startup stands among their competition.
The leadership team is also introduced along with their credentials to show potential investors that the startup is capable of further achieving their future goals.
Lastly, startups also provided more social proof in this section by adding positive reviews from current and past customers.
We’ve noticed that competition research comes in the middle of the deck for Series-B+ rounds. On the other hand, Series-A pitch decks present their research on competition early on.
It can be construed that Series-A pitch decks put more emphasis on competition research to show their readiness to compete with key market players. On the other hand, Series-B+ pitch decks are more focused on showcasing data on the market and their traction.
Why Now / Marketing Plan
Next comes a crucial element in Series-B+ pitch decks: the go-to market.
This section is a detailed action plan for Series-B+ startups who are seeking to secure funding. It usually includes business development strategies, marketing plans, and even an exit strategy, if applicable.
The go-to market shows investors that the startup is ready to get to work once funding is secured.
An added element in this section is the why now slide which emphasizes urgency that it is indeed the perfect time to invest.
Fundraising / Board / Financials / Use of Funds
Most pitch decks in our study concluded with everything financial. This applies to Series-B+ pitch decks as well. This is where founders discuss fundraising details as well as spending allotment for those funds.
Most publicly-available pitch decks omit the fundraising slide, so we didn’t have additional information to glean insights from.
Thank you / Contact
After analyzing a hundred decks, we noticed that most pitch decks just kind of… end. It’s possible that an ending slide might have also been omitted to protect sensitive information.
Either way, founders should end with a powerful statement, some contact details, and a thank you.
Let’s move onto copy.
In the world of presentations, copy needs to be concise. After all, investors only spend around 3 minutes and 44 seconds viewing a pitch deck according to Docsend.
Less than four minutes isn’t enough for investors to read blocks of paragraphs in a single slide.
If an average person can only read 300 words per minute, investors only have enough time to read 1000 words in total. That’s only 66 words per slide.
Here’s what that would look like:
We scored the word density on each pitch deck on this scale: low (1), moderate (2), and high (3).
We discovered that Series-B+ pitch decks have a word density of 2.3 on a scale of 1-3. This is lower in comparison to Series-A pitch decks with the word density of 2.6.
While the numbers are neck to neck, it’s clear that Series-A pitch decks are more wordy due to the fact that it’s a critical milestone for startups who are transitioning from the Seed round to the next level.
Meanwhile, Series-B+ startups have years of experience in pitching to investors. Thus, they know the exact words they need to put on a slide. They’ve done this a million times before.
Unlike what many people think, slide design isn’t about making fancy slides.
Slide design is all about ensuring the ease of comprehension and pretty slides are just an added benefit.
It’s important to ensure that investors understand information as quickly as possible. After all, investors spend less than four minutes reviewing a pitch deck.
Great design allows viewers to easily understand a concept. Inconsistencies in alignment, spacing, margins, colors, and more are roadblocks to easy comprehension.
However, we can’t detail design principles in this article alone. Let’s continue analyzing the data.
We rated pitch deck design on a scale of 1-5 (1= weak, 5= strong).
Similar to Series-A pitch decks, the average design rating of a Series-B+ pitch deck has an overall rating of 2.5 out of 5.
The data in the chart above shows that Seed round pitch decks placed a higher emphasis on design. On the other hand, Series-A and Series-B + decks are more about substance.
We also compared the design strength of Series-B+ pitch decks in correlation to the amount it raised. We discovered that higher design strength attracts higher funding.
But again, due to the low number of data points (20 pitch decks) this likely isn’t enough data to confidently say this is true.
During our analysis, we counted every photo, illustration, and screenshot in every pitch deck on our database.
We found that Series-B+ pitch decks have significantly less photos unlike earlier rounds. This is due to the fact that later stage rounds put more emphasis on data than visuals, hence the decline in the average number of photos.
In Series-B+ rounds, charts have soared to an average of 4.9 which is relatively higher compared to earlier rounds. This is because later stage startups have been around longer thus, there is more data to discuss in market research, competition research, financial allotment, financial projections, and more.
Concept visuals are graphics that explain intangible ideas. Business models, timelines, and strategies fall under this category. These visuals make help founders explain these ideas more easily to investors.
In the chart below, one can see there was an increase in the average number of concept visuals in Series-B+ decks. However, the gap between Series-A and Series-B+ isn’t as drastic.
There’s simply more complex data to deal with in bigger organizations. This can often come in the form of market research, competition research, financial projections, and more.
Over the years, later-stage startups have acquired a tremendous amount of growth, and revenue. This is the reason why later-stage startups have a higher chance of getting funding from potential investors.
However, this pivotal stage in the startup cycle often comes with a new or incremental story as Series-B+ companies shift towards new revenue streams. And impressive pitch decks in our study exhibit this growth while also having a concrete action plan to branch out further.
Here’s a recap of what we learned over the course of this study
More than simply enumerating accomplishments, detailing a startup’s preparedness to tackle the competition, and move forward to the next level is crucial in winning over potential investors.
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