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  • 09 Mar 2021 by Frank Leffelaar


    Not all startup pitch decks are created equal, and that’s a good thing. Each should be unique, like the innovation, business and founder that it presents. The truth is – and we’ve all seen it – there’s a fair share of pitches that fall short or flat. How to master a winning pitch deck for angel investors comes down to how the most relevant information is presented.

    There is certainly no lack of advice on what makes the perfect pitch. While the fundamental elements are similar, largely focused on core content, many best practices for preparation and design are often overlooked. These can help a pitch standout and win over angels!  Here are some practical reminders of how to improve startup pitch decks, especially when preparing first-time pitches:


    Make the Audience the Hero

    When it comes time to pitch for funding, early-stage tech entrepreneurs are often fixated on presenting data and functionalities that they want to share. But these facts are not enough for investors to get behind an idea. Remember, the speaker is not the hero of the pitch but the guide. So, founders should approach it with the audience in mind, that is - what prospective angels would want to know and how to engage them. For tech founders looking to raise seed capital for early-stage startups in British Columbia, get to know the province’s top five angel investor groups before pitching. 


    Connect with a Story

    It’s a well-known fact, a story is the glue that connects an audience to a presentation, and it activates a higher retention rate far more than features alone. Rather than focusing on an overwhelming stream of sterile details, presenters would do well to narrate their pitch with a purposeful and relatable story around the founder’s experience with the problem, the unique solution, and attractive opportunity. By bringing the audience on a journey through the pitch, angel investors may find it both memorable and motivating. 


    Frame the Message with Great Design

    When founders get caught up in a laundry list of facts/features, the look and feel of the pitch deck is often a lower priority and neglected.  No matter how great the content may be, a low-quality deck design can erode credibility. For details to be persuasive and clear, a pitch needs to look polished and professional to engage the audience. Having an original design that can deliver the story’s most compelling points should be a higher priority when preparing a pitch.

    Therefore, it is essential that tech founders choose the best design – with a modern and progressive visual quality - to frame their pitch. Generally, PowerPoint is the commonly known and used tool because of the large pool of free or premium PowerPoint templates as a starting point.  But there are a variety of other presentation software to consider, such as Google Slides (handy for co-creating), Ludus, Keynote, Slidebean, etc.

    Ideally, a startup should create a master template that is unique to their brand style. More importantly, the framework layout for slides should follow a cohesive design with a consistent style format (fonts, icons, alignment, spacing, columns, image cropping, etc.). A mix-and-match approach on every slide is unappealing and challenging to follow. With a good design template, adding (and limiting) content will be much easier. 

     Some core slide etiquette tips to follow:


    • A base of 2-3 highlight colours and fonts (<30 pts) that compliments the product/service.
    • Graphical motifs or image textures of a brand. 
    • High quality images (same look/feel) only.
    • Unique icons as sub-titles and instead of plain bullets.
    • 16:9 format ratio, optimized for YouTube, devices, and websites.
    • Subtle page numbers.  


    • A black or dark background. Text, images and graphics show up better on a light background.
    • Fancy special effects or animations that distract.
    • Too many slide transitions.
    • Small, hard-to-read text.
    • Too many images on one slide or textless images on all slides.
    • Spreadsheets or tables. Instead, shape data with infographic elements.


    Keep It Simple and Clean. Less Is More 

    The dreaded overcrowded slide with a volume of confusing facts is usually the main reason for loosing an audience’s attention. The key to a successful pitch is to know what to leave out.  Whether it’s a 2 or 5-minute pitch, startups should realize the importance of brevity and aim to condense details down to pivotal differentiators that are presented in a simple and clean manner. The goal should be to increase the likelihood that investors will take the next step and leave the nitty-gritty facts for an angel’s due diligence stage. 

    One might argue that a listicle or point form style offers more advantages than full sentences. Using simple, bite-sized phrases that are easy to digest allows investors to listen to the presenter rather than reading long sentences. There’s also nothing worse than too many bullet points on one slide; therefore, sticking to three highlights is better. The trick is to craft each bullet like it was a punchy caption or a headline. Just as important – avoid the urge to display large tables of data. Instead, transform key numbers into a graphical format for easy consumption and to draw viewers to a focal point. 

    As for images, they should only be included if they are high quality, self explanatory, and reinforce a point. Resist using image cliches to fill space, like the handshake or thumbs up. It’s often better to have more white space then overburden slides with large or the wrong pictures. When it comes to images, size matters; therefore, keep the file size down while maintaining a good resolution (<1000 pixels and < 500 bytes at 96 dpi). 

    Unless it’s necessary, don’t insert a video.  For one thing, a video can eat up precious pitch time, especially if it fails to launch. Be mindful of display efficiencies, that slides load quickly and are readable on any device. Both can be achieved by making the slide deck available in a PDF that is under 10 mb for investors or a pitch event. Bottom line - keep it simple and clean! Be straightforward. In a pitch, less is more.


    Balance the Number of Slides 

    The slide deck is the backdrop for the pitch, not the script! Too many slides are a red flag. So, in addition to designing a minimalist deck to get a story across, angel-ready startups need to find the right balance in the number of slides. Easier said than done, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s safe to say that 10 slides in a 1-minute elevator pitch or 20 slides in a 2-minute pitch is too much! The ideal number for an appointed timeframe will depend on how the concepts and story of the pitch unfolds when designing the presentation. 

    All of this said, our best advice is to continue finessing the slides and script until the optimal number of slides is achieved to prompt interest. Think quality over quantity. For a 5-minute pitch, aim for 10 slides and each slide should be dedicated to one topic. At the end of the day, a good presenter needs to accept when enough is enough and respect the assigned timeframe. 

    Core content for a startup pitch deck:

    • Title slide - executive introduction
    • Customer problem or pain
    • Solution - value proposition
    • Magic - tech innovation
    • Market Opportunity – business model
    • Go-to market – strategy & plan
    • Competitive Advantage
    • Team – management, mentors & advisors
    • Financials – key metrics & projections
    • The Ask – raising & using funds

     Reference: Guy Kawasaki’s The Only 10 Slides You Need In Your Pitch.


    Tap into Presentation Design Expertise 

    Many tech founders tend to be skilled scientists or engineers, not marketers. Despite their best efforts, reimagining their business in a contemporary and story telling presentation is generally not their strength or expertise. If no other team member has the skill to build a standout presentation, then they need to find a creative professional that can upgrade and elevate the pitch deck.  In the perfect world, use a marketer with presentation expertise who has experience in the startup space and is closely familiar with the nuances of pitches. 

    Aside from the time savings for busy entrepreneurs, outsourcing the design or redesign of the pitch deck has many advantages. For one thing, a talented marketing expert is not emotionally attached to the material, so they can customize a fresh and streamlined approach. They also have an arsenal of creative software to enhance the slide deck. If delivering presentations is also not a natural strength for a founder, then use the same marketing specialist to fine tune the voice and style, along with coaching tips on the script or delivery.


    Practice Makes Perfect 

    It may be obvious, but it never hurts to check, check and double check all the content in the pitch. In addition to knowing the material well, there is no such thing as practicing too much or over preparing. Make dry runs in front of business mentors, coaches and advisors to get valuable feedback.  

    Covid-protocols may make it more efficient for startups to pitch online, but it doesn’t mean that presenters should read their pitch script or their slides verbatim behind the camera. In order for investors to get behind a startup, they want to be convinced that founders can deliver results. Founders that can speak about their business with confidence and passion in a short pitch is an important first impression. 

    At the end of the day, startups need to invest in the time, effort and budget to achieve a pitch perfect slide deck. This is especially true of first-time pitches. It’s not enough to just share a great idea and cover a check list of required content. A winning startup pitch deck needs to be designed and prepared to impress investors. Following the above proven pitch deck best practices will improve the chances of capturing the attention of angels. There’s no substitute for getting it right from the start!

  • 22 Feb 2021 by Frank Leffelaar


    For BC tech founders looking to raise seed capital for their early-stage startups, the top five angel investor groups in the tech innovation ecosystem to consider are: VANTEC Angel Network and its member angel funds WUTIF Capital and eFund, Vancouver Angel Forum, and the Keiretsu Forum Vancouver Chapter. These organizations are actively helping high potential ventures in British Columbia to reach and connect with experienced angel funders.


    Angel Investors

    When startups seek capital – beyond sweat equity, money from family & friends, government grants, or crowd sourced investments – angel investors are often the next source of funding for companies with a promising technology. A growing number of wealthy professionals are boosting startups with their expertise, connections and capital because of their interest in i) supporting local entrepreneurs, ii) fostering innovative technology, and iii) making an early bet on an investment that may yield a big return if the company succeeds. In 2019, Canadian angels invested a total of $163.9 million in emerging opportunities. (source: Canadian angel investing set a 10-year record, Investment Executive)

    Generally speaking, angels are high net worth individuals who qualify as an Accredited Investor*. They invest privately – on their own or with a group or fund - with their own money in early-stage businesses, typically in exchange for an equity position and with hopes of a lucrative 10x return in 7-9 years (but it often takes longer) through an exit.  Exits may be a merger, acquisition or a public offering (IPO).

    There are no hard and fast rules about how angels assess companies and conduct due diligence. Saying that, they often enjoy getting to know companies in a space that they are passionate about and they tend to seek out entrepreneurs in their local region or community. Furthermore, they can be seasoned entrepreneurs themselves. Although an angel’s key role is to inject financial support, they also have the potential to provide expertise and/or social capital, that is - their valuable network of connections. Seed funding from angels can vary from 10’s of thousands to hundreds of thousands, or super angels’ investments can be a million or more.

    *See National Instrument 45-106 for the definition and requirements of an Accredited Investor in Canada (source: BC Securities Commission)


    BC Angel Investor Groups

    While entrepreneurs think it is a challenge to find the right investors, private investors also feel it is a challenge to find promising impactful investment opportunities. One of the most efficient ways to discover prospective investors and startups is at local angel investor groups. For fellow angels, the advantage of sharing knowledge, as well as risk, makes these group communities attractive. For emerging businesses, they may benefit from the expert guidance of the group’s investor team during the vetting process.

    Not every group functions the same and formats can range from monthly pitch sessions and annual events to closed meetings. Fellow angels can partner on a deal or join an angel team to collaborate in a fund. Despite the pandemic restrictions, these groups are thriving by pivoting to virtual environments.

    By reviewing and understanding group formats and dynamics, entrepreneurs can assess how the screening, selection or deal process may work in order to help them seek out the right investors. Entrepreneurs should also get familiar with the types of companies that have already secured angel investments via groups. In British Columbia, the more popular sectors of interest to angels include IT, MedTech, BioTech, FinTech, AgriTech and CleanTech.

    When angel-ready founders want to meet potential investors, know that the selection process is highly competitive with success being contingent on how prepared and how well they will do during the angels’ due diligence. From the get-go, founders must be ready to make a positive first and lasting impression. More importantly, know the audience and know how to engage and connect with interested investors - whether it is through a presentation, discussion, follow-on conversation or deep dive meeting.


    Most angel preparedness guidelines recommend the following information, at minimum:

    • Business plan and exit strategy
    • Concise and compelling pitch deck (5 and 10 minutes)
    • Unique market opportunity – target audience and size
    • Competitive landscape with barriers and risks
    • Clear business milestones and key metrics
    • Strong founder(s) and management team plus network of advisors
    • Thorough customer validation results
    • Strategic customer acquisition methodology
    • Minimal viable product and early traction
    • Revenue - scalable projections
    • Financial – current valuation and milestones for next fund raise
    • Investment ‘ask’, equity shares, terms and use of capital


    BC Angel Groups In Vancouver Leading The Way With Seed Capital


    VANTEC Angel Network

    VANTEC has been providing investors with a steady flow of pre-vetted, quality investment opportunities since 1999. It is the largest, member-based angel group in British Columbia with 150+ members across BC and the Pacific Northwest. VANTEC is dedicated to helping qualified investors find the right opportunities, as well as tech startups raise funds to accelerate growth. They are considered the first place to pitch to investors. Monthly angel investing meetings are hosted virtually during the pandemic with presentations (90-second previews and 5-minute full) from 8-12 early stage companies that have been screened by an investor panel two weeks prior to the pitch. The investor meetings are typically attended by 80-100 pre-registered investor members, investor guests and VANTEC’s community partners. In general, investors are interested in great early stage tech companies that raise pre-seed, seed 1 or seed 2 money, particularly in IT, Health and Life Sciences, CleanTech and Agrifood Tech sectors. Members of VANTEC are also members of Canada’s National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) and the US based Angel Capital Association (ACA).

    VANTEC also counts several active angel funds as its members. WUTIF was founded and managed by Mike Volker who also started VANTEC. eFund was founded and managed by Thealzel Lee who also runs VANTEC’s monthly investor meetings.


    WUTIF Capital (VCC) – Western Universities Technology Innovation Fund

    WUTIF Capital co-invests with angel investors in promising new technology ventures in British Columbia, such as those being developed in universities and institutions. This includes communications and information technology, health and life sciences technologies, physical sciences, energy and fuel cells. The fund strives towards a broad portfolio. Formed in mid-2003, WUTIF targets early stage (typically <5 years old), ground floor opportunities with a preference for valuations under $3 million.   As of Dec 2020, WUTIF has raised $11 million in capital with 110 companies. Companies may apply at any time.  WUTIF is a Venture Capital Corp (VCC) and only invests in EBC eligible businesses


    eFund (VCC) – Angel Investing Via Teams

    Formed in 2011, eFund (VANTEC’s Entrepreneur Fund) is focused on investing via angel teams and in a portfolio format. They invest in early-stage (seed 1 and seed 2), BC-based technology companies that align with eFund’s investment criteria, particularly innovative companies in Life Sciences, CleanTech, AgriTech, and Information & Communications. Promising companies are introduced by members of the eFund investment team, which carry out an active multi-stage validation process.  In a team environment, investors benefit from thorough due diligence and a range of expertise or experience within the investor group or more than 150 investors.  Investments are made by fund cohorts that are continuously refreshed with new and follow-on investments, resulting in a diversified portfolio across industries, markets, and stages of maturity which deliver a better spread of exits over time. eFund is a Venture Capital Corp (VCC) and only invests in EBC eligible businesses. 


    Vancouver Angel Forum

    The Vancouver Angel Forum started in 1997 and is one of the oldest angel gatherings in Canada. They have a member affiliation with Canada’s National Angel Capital Organization (NACO). Prior to the pandemic, Vancouver Angel Forum organized bi-annual all-day events in rotating locations around British Columbia, with around 100 angels attending presentations from approximately 30 companies. With pandemic restrictions, the Vancouver Angel Forum is offering virtual meet-ups, workshops and educational webinars. Their members are from across BC, Canada and the US, and are interested in all seed stages of companies.


    Keiretsu Forum Vancouver Chapter

    Keiretsu Forum is a community of international angel investors spanning four continents and was originally founded in San Francisco in 2000. Launched in September 2012, the Keiretsu Forum Northwest Chapter, of which Vancouver is the host city for Western Canada, includes the Boise, Kirkland-Eastside, Portland, Seattle, Spokane-Inland, Tacoma-South Puget Sound chapters. Thus far the Keiretsu Forum Northwest Chapter has collectively funded over 300 companies and has invested a total amount of over $192 million in seed 2 and series A funding rounds.