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I had the pleasure of attending a virtual pitch deconstruction for startups this evening hosted by the Seattle Angel Conference in preparation for SAC XVIII, so I’m going to get the information out while it’s fresh. The deconstruction consisted of a few parts: a meet and greet, a brief 1 minute pitch, another meet and greet, and then a 3 minute pitch with an investor critique. 

As a sponsor for the Seattle Angel Conference, I am not only responsible for ensuring successful marketing campaigns bringing in new companies, but also to provide SAC with ways in which they can help demystify the process of competing in The Seattle Angel Conference.

I was able to compile some common mistakes that startups make when constructing a pitch deck, and I hope to offer some insight into what they are and how to prevent making them yourself.

Now that I’m home after a long night (our meeting ran over by an hour), I’m ready to sit down and get started. Seeing as how John over at SAC will likely deconstruct this article like the startups tonight, I have to add a disclaimer - this article is not to give you a template on the format you should write your pitch in, but rather things that the investors mentioned while critiquing the pitch decks.


  1. What is a pitch deck?
  2. What Problem is Your Startup Trying to solve?
  3. What Qualifies You To Solve This Problem?
  4.  How do you plan on going broke?
  5. Moonshots are great, but there will be no pie in the sky.
  6. 1-Minute Pitch Recommendations
  7. 3-Minute Pitch Recommendations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Additional Resources

What is a Pitch Deck?

A pitch deck or business pitch is a document that covers information an investor would want to see to help guide their decision on whether or not they’re interested in investing. A pitch deck is typically presented by a member of the company or startup to an individual or group of investors. Whether you’re going to a friend, a relative, an angel investor, or a venture capital firm, a pitch deck will save you the frustration and confusion of being underprepared.

What Problem is Your Startup Trying to solve?

This might seem obvious, but it's paramount that you define what problem your startup solves. This is something called Problem-Solution Fit. If your product doesn’t solve a problem for a group of people, then your product may not be viable.

Make sure to do your research, as many investors want to see that you have customers before you even have an MVP (minimum viable product). I know it seems crazy to try and get customers for something that hasn’t been developed yet, but this is something you have to get over. If your product resonates with people, they will be your early-early adopters, which is exactly what you need to prove that people want your solution to their problem.

What Qualifies You to Solve This Problem?

So now that you’ve validated your solution to a common problem, it’s time to validate your team. Yes, your team - the people whose faces are always on your conference calls, the names on your most called list. Another primary issue I heard from investors tonight is that these startups weren’t validating the solution by showcasing the team that was going to provide it.

You can’t expect a dog groomer to build a rocket ship (apologies to the rocket enthusiast dog groomers, it’s just an example). That said, if you are a dog groomer attempting to build a rocket ship, talk about what qualifies you to build that rocket ship. Discuss your credentials, even if they’re self-taught.

Your team is what most investors are investing in. I’ve talked to investors who invested in a company just because they liked the team, despite knowing the idea would likely fail. 

How Do You Plan On Going Broke?

This may seem harsh, but keep in mind how many startups fail. You must have a monetization strategy & structure in mind before you approach an investor. If you don’t know how you’re going to make money, then an investor will likely have nothing to offer outside of advice.

If you don’t have a method for monetizing, I highly recommend you do as much research as possible on how different industries make money. Once you have a good idea of how you’re going to monetize, it’s time to map it out and compare it to your market - because you have a target market, right? 

Your research should include the cost of operations for your industry and structure, your audience size, and user adoption rates for your industry. After you’ve done your research, you should be able to cobble together some realistic numbers that look good to an investor. If you can’t, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

Moonshots are great, but there will be no pie in the sky.

Your idea may well be the next Uber or Facebook, but if you try telling that to an investor, they may roll their eyes. Investors are tired of hearing people talk about being the next tech giant. They want to make a safe investment in a realistic market structure.

If you come into an investor pitch and talk about being the next Bezos, it’s really hard to take you seriously. We saw you pull up in your 80’s Volvo (in 2014 I met with a Venture Capitalist worth $1.6b who had just traded in his 80’s Volvo for a Tesla Model S, so you might be in the right place). Your startup needs to be realistic. Don’t go for the pie in the sky.

Make sure you respect the fact that you’re a small fish in a big pond, and that you’re interested in building a solution that people are going to pay for. The pitch deck should focus on how you’re going to get from point A to point B of your first phase. After you’ve realistically broken down to an investor that you can make that journey and that you aren’t skipping steps, you will have the chance to discuss your phase plan with that investor. You can reach the moon, but there is no pie.

1-Minute Pitch Recommendations

Keep it short, and be sure to mention your name and the name of your company at the beginning and the end, and don't try to cover too much content. Here are a few things that were mentioned earlier tonight:

  1. Explain how you got here and what your credentials are.
  2. Talk about the problem you identified and how you’re trying to solve it.
  3. Describe how you make money.
  4. How many customers or users do you have?

3-Minute Pitch Recommendations

Tonight's 3-minute pitch deck included a slideshow, and this is the core of what this article is about. Your pitch deck is the document (in this case a slideshow) that helps guide the information you need to cover. Make eye contact with the investors, memorize your slide deck, and most importantly, bring your passion! 

The sections above cover the major concerns I heard investors talk about tonight. Some additional tips include:

  1. Avoid using filler or hype words, as they can seem disingenuous.
  2. Assume every investor has ADD - your presentation should be a hand-holding experience.
  3. Make sure that the font on your slideshow is an appropriate size for those who can’t see as well... ahem.
  4. Use graphs and numbers that are easily digestible. Any time investors spend processing numbers is time they may be missing other important information. Save the complex numbers for longer pitches.
  5. Make the investor hungry for more information. This is your shot to get them wanting to know more; they’re here to listen to what you have to say.
  6. Describe why your solution is better than your competitors. Yes, you have competitors. Why are you better?
  7. Make sure your pitch fits the allotted time. If your pitch is too long, you haven’t consolidated the information to really garner the attention of the investors. This can result in important points being missed and filling your presentation with fluff.
  8. Personify the problem. People want to feel emotionally connected to the story of those affected by the problem.
  9. Make sure your name doesn’t cause any infringement issues. If you’re a liability and you haven’t done your due diligence, investing in you won’t be as attractive as other prospects.
  10. Stay on topic, but don’t dive into the details. You aren’t trying to get the investors to buy your product, but to fund it.


These aren’t going to apply to every investor you meet. These are just some of the things that came up in a live investor pitch I attended, and are admittedly subjective. I hope you enjoyed this article regarding my experience with the pitch deconstruction I attended tonight. If you have any questions or want to add additional information, feel free to comment below and one of our consultants will respond accordingly.

Additional Resources

Business Planning is the most important factor to consider for launching a successful startup business. Industry Analysis is that part of business planning which deals in determining which sectors of the market (industries) you will be dealing in. This brief article explains the basics of Industry Planning with a beginner’s in-depth approach.

  1. What is Industry Analysis?
  2. The Importance of Industry Analysis
  3. Most effective industry analysis strategies (SWOT and Porter’s Five Force Analysis)
  4. Things to keep in mind while choosing your industry (Industry Analysis)
  5. Footnotes

What is Industry Analysis?

Analysis of market metrics

Before starting actual business processes it is important to find out where your business fits into the market, its growth and profit potential, and the state of competitors dealing in similar products and under similar circumstances. In other words, to target new potential customers, industry analysis can be used as a tool to break down important factors influencing your target market.

The Importance of Industry Analysis

Efficient Industry Analysis shows effective management and acts as a foundation for long-term growth and survival of the business. Industry Analysis defines the potential liquidity, solvency, and profitability for you and your competitors in the industry. It focuses on analyzing market trends and therefore also helps your business prepare for any future shift in economic patterns of the market.

Most effective industry analysis strategies (SWOT vs Porter’s Five Force Analysis)

SWOT industry analysis infographic

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and Porter’s Five Forces (Competitive Rivalry, Supplier Power, Buyer Power, Threat of New Entry, and Threat of Substitution) are the two most talked about Industry Analysis strategies.

It is evident by their definitions that SWOT analysis focuses more on internal factors while Porter’s Five emphasizes on external forces. SWOT analysis defines the potentials and capabilities of a business, what it can and cannot do and which chain of actions that it undertakes will be most lucrative. Under this an equity analyst is expected to jot down and deal with a business’ internal Strengths and Weakness in direct relationship to its external Opportunities and Threats. Hence it tells an entity about its own competitive advantages and disadvantages. Therefore it focuses on determining profitability, along with focusing and analyzing solvency and survival potential of the organization.

Porter's five forces infographic

Porter’s Five Forces, on the other hand, tells an analyst about competition within their industry, along with an industry's weaknesses and strengths. Professor Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School coined this strategy as part of his book "Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors."

This strategy can be used for a more comprehensive analysis of the external factors of the industry. Its main objective is determining profitability prospects for an organization.

The five industry analysis forces that make up the industry as identified by Porter are:

In the center of it all, Competitive Rivalry is the power of established businesses in an industry that your business needs to deal with. Effective and efficient analysis of Competitive Rivalry becomes a major force since such existing businesses already possess a greater fraction of market share and resources in the industry.

More supplier power is less desirable for your business. If there is greater demand for producer goods(1) in your industry than their availability, the suppliers are in a greater position to bargain for higher prices. Simultaneously acting forces of demand and supply, if negative, which is likely under such a scenario, leads to lower profitability prospect for the business

Buyer Power, aka demand, consists primarily of demand function:(2) variables such as the demographic distribution, number of customers, taste and preference, price sensitivity (price elasticity), etc.

If you are an established firm, industry analysis is still necessary since modern market is dynamic is nature, thus entering and existing in an industry is a repetitive occurrence. Such businesses look to acquire market share from you by offering greater value in their products or their presentation, by advertising implied superiority.

Substitution effect is the tendency of buyers to switch from one product or a similar product’s brand to another.  A substitute product is one that may offer the same or similar benefits to a buyer as a product from another manufacturer/industry. An industry with a higher threat of substitution is less likely to yield higher rates of profitability.

Things to keep in mind while choosing your industry (Industry Analysis)

Three major variables to keep in mind before initialising an Industry Analysis are following-

Company stakeholders, strategy mind map, business concept

Stakeholders(3) are parties that have something on stake with the business. For example, equity investors or the government. Their policies and preferences should be kept in interest while forming a business plan in the industry.

Competitor analysis inforgraphic

Your existing competitors and their policies/ business structures / producing or purchasing patterns greatly affect and define your own business model. For example, for a startup it is best to adhere to existing, fairly profitable practices than going overboard with experimentation. You can read more about startup marketing here.

Distribution networks

Supplier power included, this defines the range of distribution, demographically targeted, and therefore the resulting buying patterns. Distribution patterns define the prospects of growth by showing the targeted market, effective distribution systems, and sales prospects.

Another factor under ‘distribution’ is the distribution of resources. How limited resources are distributed among your competitors and you, such that maximum profits could be yielded, is another factor to be kept in mind while performing Industry Analysis.

We Can Help!

Symphysis specializes in market structure and strategy. Every day we meet clients from around Greater Seattle for one-on-one training and consultation. Our marketing services extend to businesses of all sizes, family and enterprise. For more information, call or text @ +1 (425) 390-4738.


  1.  Producer Goods are goods used in the production process (manufacturing) by the producer. These are not meant for end use and are rather a means to an end.
  2. Demand Function is the culmination of various factors affecting demand for a commodity/service, like price, taste, taxation, weather, etc.
  3. Primary stakeholders of a business are owners (shareholders in case of a company), customers, employees, suppliers, and government.

When every market form seems to have taken a cut-throat form of competition, marketing for a startup is more hectic and trickier than ever. This brief article outlines the importance of startup marketing, as well as tips on how to start a successful marketing plan.

Startup marketing plan

The following queries are tackled in this article.

  1. The importance of Startup marketing.
  2. The essential strategies of Startup marketing.
  3. Conclusion

The importance of Startup marketing.

New product launch

To establish your brand in a competitive market, brand recognition is an absolute necessity. While the product itself is a huge factor in this, a catchy and relevant brand name is the only way to gain recognition for such a product. This eventually leads to generation of the most important marketing tool for a startup: Word-of-Mouth Marketing. You can read more about branding here.

As a startup, the prospect of earning profits is more important than actually earning profits. Brand is not something you create but something you gain, by product differentiation and offering superior value to the potential customer. From now on, this article will assume the product created is of superior value to the potential customer than those already available.

Now that our valuable product or service has been finalized and ready to be launched, we will take a look at the essential strategies for Startup marketing.

The essential strategies of Startup marketing.

Planning marketing campaigns
Planning marketing campaigns

Choosing a specific market for targeted launch of your product is a very effective marketing strategy for a startup. Even if the product is meant for popular and generic usage, targeted launch is still preferred because it generates credible word-of-mouth marketing from those who regularly use the product/service. It is essentially identifying what market and what segment of the market has the most potential for purchasing your product, then advertising to that part of the market specifically.

Comparative presentation of yourself is basically calling your brand or your market inferior to another. For example, you (XYZ, an accounting firm) aren’t the Microsoft of accounting. You are XYZ. This painfully pervasive tactic appears amateur and doesn't produce long-term results, especially for startups.

Aggressive Selling (focusing on immediate sales by advertisement rather than building up a customer base) can only work for a short-term firm constituted for a particular project. It is a huge obstacle for a firm looking to acquire market share from an established market.

Customer Engagement, on the other hand, is an essential. As is evident by the ever growing need of a good Customer Support, engagement and reliability on the organization from the customer’s side helps build the brand. Occasionally this works faster than any other marketing method.

By offering Quality Products/Services, Customer Engagement, and acquiring brand recognition, a brand builds itself. But not by aggressive brand-forcing, trademarking, advertisement, etc. A lot of failed startups make the mistake of focusing on Brand Establishment and not Brand Recognition. A brand is built once a strong, satisfied customer base has been built.

An extension to the previous point, word-of-mouth marketing is perhaps the most important marketing strategy for a startup. A satisfied customer has a habit of recommending products and services or running independent forums and discussions about the product/service, etc. The main focus should be for the firm and its product to be of some superior value to the potential customer.

Establishing a good network among your market and competition is another essential. It is basically a means of recognition in the sellers’ side of the market. This can be accomplished by attending workshops, meetups, and other networking events and joining forums on various websites like Facebook and Reddit.

Do not waste money on trademarking/advertisement as a startup without proper budgeting. It is very popular among failed startups to spend thousands of dollars on unsuccessful, compulsive, and aggressive marketing. Instead, invest on methods that work best for your market following the very important market research.

An extension to point one, having all the relevant, well-researched data expressed in quantitative terms is a requirement for effective startup marketing. This is often overlooked or disorganized, leading to great losses and even complete failures for startups.

Not all of these marketing tips will work for your startup. The concept of startup marketing is a dynamic, conditional, and subjective one with variables running from 0 to 100 every day based on trends and customer behavior. Therefore, if a particular method does not work for you, pivoting and redirecting efforts is the only option to stay current and moving forward.


Business strategy

At its core, Startup marketing is about customer satisfaction. We have not mentioned the obvious tips like ‘advertise’ since it is the base, hidden variables that run those surface tactics. The most important things are to understand the dynamics of your market identify your target audience. Change is the only thing that is constant, so continue researching your target demographics and pivot when necessary to continue offering valuable products.

Making a startup successful is difficult and time consuming. In fact, most startups never even report profit or success. The path of entrepreneurship is all about facing and beating challenges so do not let the failure stories discourage you. Once you understand what works for your specific market, marketing becomes easier to manage.

We Can Help!

Symphysis specializes in market structure and strategy. Every day we meet clients from around Greater Seattle for one-on-one training and consultation. Our marketing services extend to businesses of all sizes, family and enterprise. For more information, call or text @ +1 (425) 390-4738.

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A business development firm focused on growth strategies, branding strategies, and data-driven marketing for enterprise businesses, start-ups, and small businesses.