There’s the elevator pitch, which is a 30-second or less verbal explanation of what your startup does and what makes it unique. There’s the pitch deck, which is anywhere from 10 to 15 PowerPoint slides organized into a very compelling presentation. And then there’s the e-mail pitch — you can think of this of what would happen if you condensed your very best elevator pitch into just a single PowerPoint slide and sent it out via email.
There are a time and occasion for each of these pitches. Elevator pitches are best reserved for elevators (or any other place where VCs might be casually hanging out, unaware that yet another entrepreneur is about to hit them up for cash). Pitch decks are best reserved for formal presentations, either in front of a group of investors or at a tech event.
So when would you possibly use a pitch slide? That’s an easy one — pitch slides are perfect for cold e-mail pitches that you make to get your first meeting with an angel or VC investor. You don’t want to give away too much information — just enough information to attract the interest of a deep-pocketed investor. The email pitch needs to be memorable, easily understood, and clearly outline how you plan to make money. You don’t need to go into specifics about pricing or revenue, but it’s essential that you show your original thinking upfront about your future path to profitability. With just a handful of pitch slides (usually no more than three), you can make a surprisingly strong case for your startup and why an investor should care about it.
Do yourself a favor — hit up the Internet Wayback Machine and lookup the pitch decks used by the likes of Netflix, LinkedIn, and Airbnb. You’ll be blown away at just how elegant these are. There’s hardly an extra word in there that doesn’t need to be included. And the startup entrepreneurs do an excellent job of telling the story of their startups in a way that anybody — and especially a very educated VC — can understand very easily.
For example, here’s the initial pitch for Netflix: “Think Blockbuster, but with the Urban Fetch/Kozmo delivery concept, except that it’s not done via messenger but regular mail…” The pitch then goes on to describe one of the core features of Netflix that separates it from anyone else — the ability to create a customized online movie library for each person. It follows that up with the company’s mission: “To make the movie experience better” via the world’s most extensive DVD library and unlimited rental service featuring home delivery. (OK, OK, that was nearly two decades ago, when everybody watched DVDs, but you get the idea.)
That’s precisely the type of information that you’d want to put into your e-mail pitch deck. Very high-level stuff, but enough for a VC to decide whether or not to bring you in for a formal pitch. There, you’d be able to crank out your full 15-slide pitch deck, filled with revenue and profitability projections or market forecasts.
So, when approaching potential investors, be aware that there are different types of pitches, and each one serves a particular purpose. There is a big difference between a pitch deck meant for e-mail and a pitch deck designed for a much longer presentation.