I mean, how many pitch decks do you REALLY need?
It’s like asking, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Ask one expert, and they’ll say four; ask another, and they’ll say five, but you only really need three. So what is it? Long versions, short versions, teasers, leave-behinds, pre-pitch, appendices… it’s a bit confusing to say the least.
Every startup and every capital raise is different so there may not be an easy, out-of-the-box answer. The fact is, you can have as many versions of your deck as you want. More than a couple, though, and you’re asking for trouble. You’ll have to ensure that you keep them straight, send them out at the right time to the right target, stay internally organized, and ensure that your messaging and narrative is exactly the same across every version you produce.
It's not like a resume or CV where you really should tailor it for every prospective employer. (Who actually does that, anyway?)
The fact is, making seven or eight different decks (or more) is going to make life and your capital-raising process almost impossible. You’re bound to mess up and send the wrong one.
So what’s really needed? In my experience what you really need are the following:
A teaser – This is basically a 1-page pitch deck that summarizes the opportunity as quickly and succinctly as possible. It’ll let prospective investors decide yes or no very quickly. That’s important because you don’t want to waste your time chasing VCs or PEs that simply aren’t interested. (A little acknowledged fact is that venture & private equity firms are terrible at saying ‘no’… they prefer to just ghost you. Sad, but true.)
A short deck – This version should be your basic, go-to pitch deck that you use once interest has been established. It’s like that suit you can wear anywhere and be acceptably dressed. It should use fewer words and more graphics to get your point across. Not everything can be communicated in pictures or graphics, so you’ll need to make sure there is enough text to communicate your message clearly.
A long deck – This is the gold standard. Once you’ve gotten a nibble, this deck comes with all the bells and whistles. Loads of detail, with appendices. It is a meatier presentation with as much detail as you feel comfortable providing. That said, it’s not for everyone… just serious investors. Include most of the hard-core detail in the Appendices.
So three is the magic number. Any more and you run the risk of becoming disorganized and not communicating effectively. Fewer and your business and product may not get the attention it deserves.