Feb 11, 2021
Keane Angle
Louise Saludo

Creating a Series-A Fundraising Deck? We Analyzed 100 Pitch Decks for You.

Raising Series-A funding is a monumental stage for any startup with tons of questions. So, we did some research and here's what we found.

This is our analysis of Series-A pitch decks from our detailed study of 100 pitch decks. See here for our Seed Round pitch deck analysis and here for our Series-B and beyond pitch deck analysis.

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Moving onto a major milestone requires a lot of preparation. For startups, after a long period of growth and stability, the next big step is acquiring Series-A funding.

A startup looking to raise Series-A funding is a company that is off to the races. They are experiencing major growth in terms of operation and revenue. Startups in this round also have a growing team, a steady base of customers, and an influx of revenue.

The Series-A round is primarily to fuel growth for a startup that is already proven. The goal at this stage is to reach new milestones for product development or customer acquisition in order to capture more market share.

Unlike the Seed round, the Series-A round is more formal due to higher stakes— more investors and stakeholders, and larger funding.

With something as major as the Series-A round, one would think that there would be a lot of research geared towards this specific topic. Unfortunately, most pitch deck research don’t tackle Series-A decks specifically.

Research on pitch decks in general are geared towards the Seed round and they are often outdated or incomplete. Meanwhile, information on Series-A pitch decks are mostly based on opinions instead of data.

So, to solve the problem, we decided to do our own research on Series-A pitch decks. Before we discuss what we learned, Let’s discuss the methodology behind our analysis.

Behind the data of STORY’s study of 100 pitch decks.

First, we needed data, pitch decks to be precise, and a lot of them. So, we went on a winding journey to collect publicly available pitch decks online. Next, we scored each pitch deck and each slide across 36 criteria. This included company background, design strength, slide order and many more.

During the our study, we analyzed a whopping 1,686 slides.

It was a heckin’ lot of slides.

Here’s a quick run-down of the pitch decks & the startups in our study:

  • 100 decks were analyzed from nearly every industry
  • 85 successfully raised funding, 15 did not
  • 22.9% of the pitch decks in our study were seeking to raise a Series-A round
  • The average Series-A round totaled $8.3 Mil – with a low of $500,000 and a high of $23 Mil
  • All decks dated from 1999 to 2020, with 40 of the 100 dating from 2015 to 2020
  • The Series-A decks we analyzed dated from 2005 to 2020

We segmented our analysis into four major categories:

  • Company information (industry, operating status, etc)
  • Round information (how much raised, when, what round, etc.)
  • Design, Story, and Writing (design quality, story strength, word density, etc.)
  • Number and order of slides (slide count, prevalence of common slides, etc.)

We plan on putting out new posts on a regular basis as we gather more pitch decks.

Got questions about this study? Check out our detailed post about our methodology here.

Now, onto the fun stuff.

Series-A round Pitch Deck Breakdown

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll summarize our results into four main areas:

1. The Business Story

2. The Order & Flow

3. The Words & Copy

4. The Visuals & Branding

The Business Story

The focus of a Series-A pitch deck should be all about the growth of the business and its readiness to operate on a larger scale. Venture Capital firms and investors will be most interested in seeing the company’s traction and the particular milestones they’ve reached so far.

Pete Flint, the General Partner of NFX Venture Capital,

“[Startups should] retain focus on their long-term vision while simultaneously hitting their near-term milestones,”

As we studied the Seed round during our research, we found that pitch decks under this funding round is focused on introducing their startup. This included the problems they solve, how they solve it, and that their solution actually works. This time around, the stakes are higher and investors need concrete proof that the company is ready to operate on a larger scale.

Startups that are closer to the Series-A round have been operating for a longer period. Naturally, they have more insights on competition, traction, and financial projections to cover in their business’ story.

In our study, we compiled a list of 21 standard slides that are used in pitch decks according to multiple online resources and our own experience.

Also note that each standard slide doesn’t appear in every pitch deck.

Here’s a list of these slides:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Value Proposition
  • Market Validation
  • Why Now?
  • Product
  • Market Size
  • Business Model
  • Underlying Magic
  • Competition Research
  • Competitive, Advantage
  • Marketing Plan or Go-to-market
  • Leadership Team
  • Board or Advisors
  • Traction or Milestones
  • Press
  • User Testimonials
  • Fundraising or The Ask
  • Financials
  • Use of Funds
  • Thank you or Contact

While these are deemed as standard slides, it’s important to note that not all of these slides can be found in every pitch deck.

Since everybody has a different opinion when it comes to pitch decks, we wanted to cut through the opinions and use data to determine the slides that are prevalent in Series-A pitch decks. But before we cover slide order, let’s see where the average Series-A pitch deck stands in terms of story strength.

On a scale of 1-5, the average Series-A pitch deck is at 3.0 when it comes to story strength.

An average story strength of 3.0 isn’t bad, but it’s not great either.

Since all the Series-A pitch decks in our study have been funded, it proves that startups can and do get funded with, well, average stories.

However, as we dug deeper, we found that pitch decks that were rated higher in story strength received more funding compared to those who had stories that weren’t as strong.

The table below exhibits this trend among the Series-A pitch decks we’ve analyzed.

In general, Series-A stories were slightly above average in terms of strength. However, by no means were they knock-your-socks-off- great every time. One very interesting finding, was that better stories in Series-A rounds raised more funds. Admittedly though, we did not have enough data to make a firm call on this.

Let’s keep moving.

The Order & Flow

Unfortunately, we’re all left in the dark when it comes to the standard order of slides in Series-A pitch decks.

There are online resources that cite dozens of ways to arrange the order of slides but none of them really agree on anything except for starting with the problem and solution.

Docsend did conduct a study in 2015 which also discussed the optimal slide order for pitch decks.

This was their observed order for all pitch decks:

  1. Company Purpose
  2. Problem
  3. Solution
  4. Why now
  5. Market size
  6. Product
  7. Team
  8. Business model
  9. Competition
  10. Financials

Note that Docsend’s study isn’t exclusive to Series-A pitch decks. Additionally, five years is like an eon with how fast things change in today’s landscape. So, we wanted to shed some light on the specific slide order of Series-A pitch decks.

We’ve discussed in our previous article how Seed pitch decks arrange their slides. The big question is: what’s the huge difference for Series-A round?

Truthfully, they’re both neck and neck.

However, one can see on the table below that Series-A pitch decks tend to put a spotlight on the business model, traction, and the general overview of the market and its key players.

Note that there are some slides that come pretty close when compared with each other such as market validation, traction/milestones, underlying magic and more. We also observed, quite obviously, that pitch decks in both rounds all start and end with similar slides.

Generally, online resources collectively agree that the average pitch deck has around 10-15 slides. However, during our study, we found that the average number of slides in Series-A pitch decks is 21.6. This is a relatively longer deck in comparison to Seed decks which had an average of 14.5.

But that’s enough comparisons.

We segmented each slide into certain sections to make more sense out of the data. Let’s get to it.

Slide 1: Title Slide

Obviously, pitch decks start with a title slide.

Not much can be really said about title slides in general. Normally, they stand as a placeholder for a straightforward headline (e.g.: Investor pitch deck) as we’ve observed in our study and based on our experience.

Our advice is to take advantage of this normally unused space and instead use it to add social proof and establish credibility right off the bat. This can come in the form of awards, or ‘as seen as’ which will definitely leave an impression on potential investors.

Slides 2 - 5: Establish a problem and show a solution

Problem / Solution / Product / Value prop

What followed the title slide didn’t really surprise us.

It’s widely accepted in the world of pitch decks to start with a problem and solution. The pitch decks in our study followed this cadence to demonstrate product relevance for their target market.

In this section, startups also took the opportunity to talk about their products or services and what separates them from their key competitors.

The data backs our standard recommendation of keeping slides short yet impactful as Series-A pitch decks in our study follow this example in writing the key highlights of their products or services.

Slides 6 - 8: How does the business make money and how far has it come

Business Model / Market Validation / Traction & Milestones

After establishing the problem and solution, the pitch decks in our study showed how they plan to create value through single or multiple revenue streams.

In this section, Series-A pitch decks demonstrated a very real opportunity in their market. This was done  by using data-backed research proving that the target market is indeed interested in what the company has to offer.

Lastly, this section exhibited milestones that the company had achieved thus far. This also included future goals that the team had set their eyes on.

In most of the pitch decks we analyzed, this section heavily used concept visuals such as timelines, maps, and organizational structures.

Our tip? When using concept visuals, keep it as simple as possible. Don’t overcrowd them with too much text, data, and other visual elements in order to make it easier to understand.

Want to know how to create a killer business model slide? Read our latest report.

Slides 9 - 10: How does the business thrive in a competitive market

Competition Research / Competitive Advantage / Market Size / Underlying Magic

Unlike Seed rounds, competitive data comes in earlier into pitch decks for Series-A rounds. Established businesses at this stage have been actively studying and battling against their competition. As a consequence, Series-A startups know more about their competition and are also more equipped in tackling their competition head-on.

With that said, startups in the Series-A round gave a general overview of the market and their key competitors in this section. They often laid down with extensive research on key market players along with their “secret sauce” that separated them from their competitors.

Nail your competition slide with our report here.

Slides 11 - 12: Proof that the solution actually works

Press / User Testimonials

Next up, founders in our study provided social proof to show that their solution worked and that their clients loved what they do. In this section, companies demonstrated that people have publicly praised them and there is public interest in what they offer.

Slides 13 - 14: Who’s on the leadership team

Leadership Team / Board of Advisors

After exhibiting social proof, startups introduced the team and their credentials.

Based on a study from Docsend, the leadership team slide ranks second in the longest-viewed slides by investors. It provides investors with necessary insights as to the team’s capabilities in reaching further milestones.

In our study, founders also took the time to introduce their Board of Advisors to show investors who else is on the team helping them navigate the waters of their marketplace.

Wow investors with a powerful Team slide. Read our report here.

Slides 15 - 18: Getting to the next level

Go-to Market / Financials / Why Now

The next section we have observed tackled how the startups planned on reaching the next level. Founders in our study often demonstrated this by providing short-term and long-term action plans to show their preparedness in reaching their future milestones.

This section was also where they detailed all things financials from cashflow statements to long-term revenue projections.

Lastly, founders in our study took the time to reiterate why this is the perfect time to move to the next level in order to add urgency. This tactic also reiterated the startup’s preparedness in moving to the next level.

Slides 19 - 20: Fundraising

Fundraising / Use of Funds

Most pitch decks in our study concluded with how much they’re seeking to raise, as well as the company’s spending allotment for those funds. This often includes manpower, product development and more.

Most publicly-available pitch decks omit the fundraising slide, so we didn’t have additional information to glean insights from.

Slide 21: Wrap Up and Conclusion

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 such as contact details.

Either way, it’s nice to close with a powerful statement, some contact details, and a thank you of sorts.

Let’s move onto copy.

The Words & Copy

In the world of presentations, the words on the slides need to be short and concise—and for good reason.

Aside from the fact that 80% of the information we process is visual, Docsend reports that the average investor spends only 3 minutes and 44 seconds in viewing a pitch deck.

That’s not even long enough to decide what to watch on Netflix, let alone read blocks of paragraphs in a single slide.

To put 3 minutes and 44 seconds into context, if an average person can read 300 words per minute, investors only have enough time to read around 1,019 words in total.

If one divides 1000 words by 15 slides, the most optimal word count per slide is only 75 words.

Here’s what 66 words look on a slide:

We wanted to see if this theory is practiced by startups in our study.

To score word density, we rated each pitch deck on a sliding scale: low (1), moderate (2), and high (3).

We found that Series-A pitch decks are on the higher end of the spectrum with an average word density of 2.6. This is the highest average word density among all funding rounds in our study.

Startups in this round are transitioning from being at the early stage to the next level. So, we concluded that the word density in Series-A rounds reflects how critical this milestone is for startups.

Unlike the Seed stage, there is generally more data and progress to discuss in the Series-A round. The number of words increase in this round as founders have more data, insights, growth, and strategies to present.

The Visuals and Branding

Slide design isn’t about being creative or artistic; that’s a common misconception.

Truthfully, pretty slides are only an added benefit but not the ultimate goal of design.

Slide design is all about ensuring that the slides are easy to understand.

To put it into perspective, if investors spend less than four minutes viewing a pitch deck, founders better make those four minutes count.

This means making sure they understand exactly what founders want them to understand as quickly as possible.

This is where design can be massively helpful. Design influences how easy or difficult it is to understand a concept.

Visual clutter gets in the way of communication, and clutter comes in various forms such as inconsistencies in alignment, margins, spacing, etc..

Design best practices is literally its own field of study, so instead, we’ll stick to the data.

Let’s unpack our analysis of design and visuals of Series-A pitch decks in our study.

Better-designed decks attract more funding.

We rated the design quality of each pitch deck and their adherence to basic design principles on a scale of 1 to 5 (1= weak, 5= strong). We found that Series-A pitch decks are… pretty average with a design strength of 2.6.

But, because this isn’t exactly interesting or insightful, we kept digging.

We compared the design rating of Series-A pitch decks in correlation with the amount they raised.

Based on our findings, pitch decks that put an emphasis on good design attract higher funding.

However, the chart above also shows that pitch decks could get away with an average or even poorly-designed pitch deck.

So, yes, pitch decks can still secure funding without following design best practices.

But mediocrity isn’t our cup of tea, and we hope that it's the same for founders as well.

At STORY, we believe that what we make testifies to who we are.

For founders, this is translated as visual excellence from the very first slide.

With that being said, let’s look into various visual elements that help establish this visual excellence. This includes photos, concept visuals, and charts.

Let’s unpack the data from our study:

The average Series-A pitch deck has 9.9 photos.

We counted the number of photos, illustrations, and screenshots on each pitch deck in our database.

The average number of images in the Seed round and Series-A were both pretty close.

Startups in our study used visuals to communicate ideas, evoke emotions, and even introduce their teams. Series-A pitch decks had a lower number of photos compared to early stage funding rounds as they tend to be more data-focused. However, the gap between both rounds is almost too close to call.

Series-A pitch decks show 3.2 charts on average.

Here’s where we see the clear difference between Seed pitch decks and Series-A pitch decks. Series-A pitch decks have a significantly higher chart count compared to early rounds since they have been around longer, and they simply have more data in general.

Series-A pitch decks have an average of 2.1 concept visuals.

Concept visuals are graphics that demonstrate processes and intangible ideas to make them easier to understand. Series-A pitch decks have nearly doubled in the number of concept visuals compared to earlier rounds.

We assume this is, again, due to the fact that startups in this funding stage exhibit more growth. Furthermore, Series-A pitch decks have more ground to cover in terms of financial projections, future milestones, revenue models, and more.

What we’ve learned from the data

We’ve uncovered helpful insights on Series-A pitch decks during the course of our study. The hard data we’ve collected has helped in distinguishing Series-A pitch decks from other funding rounds.

Here’s a recap of what we learned so far:

  • Series-A pitch decks have an average storytelling strength of 3 on a scale of 1-5.
  • The average slide count of Series-A pitch decks is 21.6.
  • Series-A pitch decks have an average word density of 2.6 which is slightly higher compared to the Seed round.
  • It also has an average design rating of 2.6 out of 5.
  • There are more charts (3.2) and concept visuals (2.1) in Series-A pitch decks compared to earlier rounds.

Series-A decks are all about showing why the business is ready for the next level.

Startups that are getting closer to Series-A are probably doing well as a business. They’re finally out of the early treacherous stages where things might fail or the business model proves unsuccessful. Early pivots have already been implemented and stability is more or less there.

An impressive pitch deck that demonstrates this stability can help in reaching the next big win. Demonstrate consistent traction, a profitable business model, preparedness to tackle the competition, and social proof to show readiness to go to the next level.

Need help in making your Series-A deck?

STORY can help. Click here to start your pitch deck today.

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