Why You Should Write Out Your Pitch Narrative Before Creating a Deck
Remember the last dry presentation you heard? A monotonous voice. Rambling thoughts. Confusing transitions. There’s a reason why PowerPoint has become the butt of so many office jokes.
But crafting a great pitch narrative is no easy feat. When there’s so much information you could include, it can be all too easy to throw a number on a slide and say, “Here’s our market size.” Or add a screenshot and note, “Here’s our product.” But that’s when your pitch can get dull (and doesn’t stand out).
To prevent your pitch from turning into a snooze fest, tell it as a compelling story. Who is your protagonist? What challenge are they overcoming? How will they accomplish this? Where’s the emotion?
Bring it to life. Keep it authentic. Make it yours.
Writing Your Pitch Narrative
As part of this, we strongly recommend you write out a pitch narrative before you start to build a pitch deck. “Writing the prose forces you to fill in the gaps that can remain if you just put bullets on a slide,” says Lily Lyman, Underscore VC Partner. “It becomes less about how you present, and more about what you present.”
This exercise can help you synthesize your thoughts, smooth transitions, and craft a logical, compelling story. It also helps you include all necessary information and think through your answers to tough questions.
To provide an outline, we’re sharing our investment memo template, which is a document the Underscore VC investment team writes for each investment opportunity.
We’re sharing this template to show how an investor might think about your companyーkey details to include, important points to hit on, and how to structure the information as you outline your pitch narrative. Plus, it’s published in Coda, so you can easily copy the template and start drafting.
Year – Month – Day
Investment Opportunity Summary
Describe your ideal investment outcome. What’s your target ownership percentage, total round size ($), valuation, syndicate structure, or option pool?
Investment Judgement and Recommendation
Why is this a big opportunity to return the fund for this VC firm? Consider your team, market, value prop, etc.
What will be your key challenges?
What does your company do uniquely well for whom?
- Management team backgrounds (with LinkedIn profiles)
- How and why did you come together to solve this problem?
- How are you uniquely qualified to build this business?
- Does your team have experience in the space?
- Have you worked together before?
- Share a brief overview of your trajectory: What’s impressive? What’s not?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Who will be your references?
- Are there any gaps in your existing team?
Trends: Explain your company’s landscape and how you expect it to develop in the future.
- Why now? (Why is this the right time for this business?)
- What is changing in terms of customer behavior? Competition? Product? Cost?
- Is the industry becoming more concentrated or fragmented?
- Is this a new category? How new?
- How does the tech tie into industry development?
- In what macro-industry and sub-sectors does this company belong?
Opportunity Size: Bottom-up and top-down calculation of the total available market (TAM) and growth perspective.
Product and Value Proposition
Value Proposition: Briefly describe the problem you’re solving, your value proposition, and why your product is relevant in the customer’s context. Define your specific value prop in a phrase:
For (target customers)
Who are dissatisfied with (the current alternative)
Our product is a (new product)
That provides (essential problem-solving capability)
Unlike (the product alternative)
Product: Describe your technology and your product’s approach with particular attention to:
- Describe its main features and a basic overview of its functionality. How do these features solve specific customer pain points?
- If your tech is a fundamental enabler, what is its maturity and development stage?
- What challenges are associated with technology: adoption, cost, etc.?
- Why is this technology a better approach?
Differentiation and Defensibility: Explain why your company’s approach is unique. Focus on:
- Does this company have long-term defensibility?
- How replicable is it? If it is replicable, how long would it take?
- Is there specific expertise required to build this tech that only your team has?
Roadmap: Outline the key phases and timeframe for product development, including key features added and how they fit into overall product development.
- Is the problem Unworkable? Does your solution fix a broken business process where there are real, measurable consequences to inaction? Will someone get fired if the issue is not addressed?
- Is fixing the problem Unavoidable? Does a governance or regulatory control mandate drive it? For example, is it caused by a fundamental requirement for accounting or compliance?
- Is the problem Urgent? Is it one of the top few priorities for a company? In selling to enterprises, you’ll find it hard to command the attention and resources to get a deal done if you fall below this line.
- Is the problem Underserved? Is there a conspicuous absence of valid solutions to the problem you’re looking to solve? Focus on the whitespace in a market or segment.
Describe the 3Ds:
What unique combination of Discontinuous innovation, Defensible technology, and Disruptive business model are you using? What makes it truly compelling?
- Discontinuous innovations offer transformative benefits over the status quo by looking at a problem differently.
- Defensible technologies provide intellectual property that can create a barrier to entry and an unfair competitive advantage.
- Disruptive business models yield value and cost rewards that help catalyze a business’ growth.
Describe your competitive landscape.
- What is the overall state of competition?
- Are you targeting whitespace?
- Where does your company outperform the competition?
- Where might it underperform?
Include a market map, if appropriate. In it, show how your company will operate in whitespace and how far apart it is from competitors.
Include a closer look at the competition. Describe each competitor, highlighting key advantages/disadvantages, funding highlights, positioning, and traction.
Include an outside-in review of the competition. What do they think of the market and whitespace? Summarize validation from analysts, customers, employee calls, and other primary research.
Go to Market
Outline your go-to-market strategy.
- What is your rationale for pursuing this strategy?
- What challenges will you encounter, and what are its strengths?
- What will be your key milestones and timeframe?
- Will you pursue multipliers and levers via sales and advertising channels?
- With what possible partners or channel resellers would you work?
Customers and Partners
Describe who is in your minimum viable segment.
- Who is your target customer? Outline the buyer persona for each use case.
- Who influences their decisions? Describe their decision-making unit (DMU).
- What highlights from customer and prospect calls can you include? Validate the effectiveness of your go-to-market approach and set up the business model.
- What verticals or industries could benefit from your product? How much product or implementation customization would they require?
Share an overview of your business model and pricing. How does this company make money?
- Why did you adopt this business model?
- What milestones will you target in its evolution?
Outline key SaaS metrics, including:
- ACV size
- Payback period
- DRR – actual or expected from churn, renewal rate, upsell
- Net new ARR growth YoY, MoM
Analyze P&L, cash flow, balance sheet, etc.
- What is your quarterly burn rate?
- What is your cash-out date?
- What is your expected next financing timetable? It should relate to the milestones outlined below.
Share a brief overview of your funding history. Highlight key stakeholders, significant/unusual shareholders, government grants, and other relevant information about your prior funding.
Outline your current round.
- What’s the total to be raised?
- What parties are involved?
- Include a pre- and post-financing cap table.
Vector Financing: What vector are you on? Add a forward projection of the cap table that includes next round ownership, with pool increases.
Team Equity Budget: Outline how you split ownership between founders and executives.
- Is there enough equity to hire top talent?
- Who is early vested?
- What will need to be re-vested?
Key Risks of Investment
Outline key risks that would be involved in making this investment.
- What plans are in place to mitigate these risks in the next period?
Milestones for the Round
Describe the key milestones you’ll target as you move from your current to a future round.
- Which milestones will increase your company’s value?
- Which will de-risk the venture?
Include links to all reference docs such as customer call notes, Google Drive folder, cap table, slides, etc.
In writing out all this information, you’ll refine your pitch narrative and you’ll be better prepared to build slides for a pitch deck.