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Jan 9, 2021

The Methodology Behind our Study of 100 Investor Pitch Decks

In October 2020, we conducted a study on 100 publicly-available pitch decks. This article talks about the methodology behind our study.

Keane Angle
BY

First-time founders know how difficult it is to build a pitch deck from scratch. In addition to this, finding credible online resources to guide you through the process is equally hard. Everyone has a different opinion, and those opinions often clash or contradict each other.

These contradictions include:

  • How many slides should a pitch deck have?
  • What slide order should founders follow?
  • How much data should be in a pitch deck?
  • Which slides should founders include?

The answers depend on who is asked.

Usually data and research would come into play to provide fact-based answers to common questions. Unfortunately, pitch deck research is somewhat scarce. Data on pitch decks are either outdated or incomplete. One of the best examples is Docsend’s five-year-old pitch deck research. With the speed of how things change in the world today, five years is like an eon.

There are a few other studies online, but none are comprehensive and none are continually updated.

With this in mind, we made it our mission to find the answers for ourselves. Tapping into our extensive background in market strategy and consumer research, STORY set out to answer these burning questions with reliable data.

We consider our research to be fairly comprehensive and our goal will be to constantly refresh and add data to this research as the world changes.

This article will help founders understand the methodology behind our study: what data was collected, what that data looked like, and how we analyzed it .

Let’s get to it.

What we did

First, we set out on a digital journey to find publicly-available pitch decks for us to closely study and analyze. We started building our database of pitch decks on October 2020. The database will be regularly updated with new pitch decks as we find them.

To start, we gathered a collection of 100 pitch decks sourced from Harvard Business Review, Slideshare, and other online resources.

Before diving into the nitty gritty of each pitch deck, we conducted preliminary background research on each company. We uncovered their industry, operational status, year of funding, and amount raised (if any).

With the foundational research done, we moved into the fun stuff: content and design.

To create this criteria, we used various online resources and cross-referenced it with our years of pitch deck expertise.

This criteria was segmented as follows:

  • Story, content, and copy
  • Slide count and order
  • Design and visuals

Before we dissect each category, let’s talk about our pitch deck database first.

About the pitch decks we analyzed

We analyzed a total of 1,686 slides from our database of 100 pitch decks. These decks were created between 1999 to 2020 and are varied across industries. Of note, software and tech companies make up 34% of the startups in our study.

The pitch decks in our study also ranged from Seed-round to Series-E.

Here’s a breakdown of the pitch decks by round:

  • 60 pitch decks were from the Seed round
  • 20 pitch decks were from Series-A
  • 20 pitch decks were Series-B and beyond

Our database has both funded and unfunded pitch decks to learn what works and what doesn’t. 85 of the pitch decks in our study successfully raised funding while 15 didn’t. As of writing this article, 74 of the companies in our study are still in operation while 26 are either closed or were acquired.

About our analysis

Story, Content, and Copy Strength

Our company is named STORY for a reason.

A pitch deck is a reflection of a brand’s story— what they do, how they do it, where they are, and where they plan to be.

In our study, we judged story strength based on multiple factors.

One is the word density of each pitch deck. We wanted to learn what level of word density is considered “average” for pitch decks to have on each slide.

Do founders get away with “TEDTalk” style slides with one word and a picture? Or are they writing war and peace on each slide?

We graded this on a scale of 1-3 (1= low density, 2= moderate density, 3= high density).

The approximate number of words for each ranking are as follows:

  • Low density = 50-100 words
  • Moderate density = 101-250 words
  • High density = 250+ words

We also considered the presence (or lack thereof) of key slides based on multiple online resources and our years of experience creating pitch decks.

Another key question we asked during our deliberation is whether or not the overall narrative of the pitch deck makes sense or is it simply a compilation of slides with no emotional or logical impact whatsoever.

We graded the story strength on a scale of 1-5 (1= weak, 5= strong).

Slide order

This part’s a little tricky. There’s a ton different ways to order pitch deck slides according to online resources. We wanted our study to uncover how founders usually order their slides.

To determine this we collated a list of key slides both from online resources and from our own experience.

The slides we audited for are as follows:

  • Executive Summary
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Value Proposition
  • Market Validation
  • Why Now
  • Product
  • Market Size
  • Business Model
  • Underlying Magic
  • Competition Research
  • Competitive Advantage
  • Go-to Market
  • Leadership Team
  • Board of Advisors
  • Traction and Milestones
  • Press
  • User Testimonials
  • Fundraising
  • Financials
  • Use of funds
  • Thank You/Contact

During our research, we took note of the order and prevalence in which these slides appear in the decks we analyzed. Moreover, we also counted the number of slides in each deck to find out the standard length of an average pitch deck.

Design Strength

By our standards, pitch deck design isn’t just about creating flashy designs. It’s all about making the slide content and story easy-to-understand.

If the content is hard to understand because design best practices aren’t followed, everything falls apart. If the investor or audience doesn’t understand what a startup is trying to say or show, they don’t invest.

We based our grading system on a pitch deck’s adherence to slide design principles such as alignment, branding consistency, scannability, and many more.

Each deck was graded on a scale of 1-5 (1= weak, 5= strong).

Here’s a peak at our design strength rankings in action:

Articles from this Study

During the course of our research, we’ve uncovered a number of findings on the average pitch deck.


Here’s what we’ve learned so far:


Got a pitch deck that you’d like to contribute to the data pool?

Submit it here.

Read our latest insights

  • 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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