Decks matter

I liked this piece by Bill Gurley ‘In Defence of the Deck’.

The great storytellers have an unfair competitive advantage. They are going to recruit better, they will be darlings in the press, they are going to raise money more easily and at higher prices, they are going to close amazing business developer partnerships, and they are going to have a strong and cohesive corporate culture.

A great presentation about a business is a brilliant thing and a huge amount of work goes into the best ones. Of course, a pitch is no use on its own — and nobody would (I hope!) invest based on a deck alone.

We’ve now had over 50 ventures pitch at BGV Launch Nights and we consistently get feedback from audiences that they’re some of the best presentations they’ve ever seen. We have a few founders who can carry off the ‘no slides’ style. Jamie from Talklife did it really well last year. But most use visuals and simple text to create an impact. I remember Miquel knocking it out of the park when he gave the Fairphone presentation back in 2012 — the format revealed a lot about the company. There have been many more that are memorable. In fact you can see them all here.

To be honest we don’t have a magic formula for helping teams create great pitches. We simply get them to pitch to each other on Friday afternoons over a few beers for the second half of the programme. They then give feedback (usually in the form of a ‘praise sandwich’) and do it again the next week. We tell them to think of investors as just one audience for their pitch — it should appeal to customers, future employees and their friends and families just as much as it does to people with cheque books.

Also worth noting that we’re not interested in decks when teams apply to BGV — we ask people not to use them at our interviews. While we would never fund anybody ‘pre-idea’ we do fund teams ‘pre-deck’. We think assessing a team based on a deck that they haven’t yet had a chance to really develop is a bit unfair.

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