How to create a winning pitch deck in five steps


By Nathan Beckord

Raj Nathan wants you to have a voice. In fact, he wants everyone to have a voice. And he helps startups use their voices to tell their stories – and to pitch investors.

Based in Chicago, Raj is a pitch and presentation coach who helps startups stand out and stand out in a crowded field. His small team Launch Hypeman works with five to ten organizations a week to sharpen their elevator pitches and pitch decks. “Startup Hypeman aims to be a hype man for startups, helping them not suck with how they present themselves,” he says. “And usually that’s to raise money.”

The problem with most pitch decks, according to Raj, is that they don’t tell a compelling story or don’t tell a story at all. That’s true even if a company has an incredible product.

In this article, Raj walks us through the steps he uses with entrepreneurs to turn everyday pitch decks into ones that do the heavy lifting for you.


A winning pitch in five steps

Step 1: Make your elevator pitch the basis

The first thing Startup Hypeman works on with a client is the elevator pitch. Raj says many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of cramming too much information — or not enough — into their elevator pitch. “By the end, you’re just incredibly confused about what they’re doing. There’s a push from a lot of founders to be like, I have to use all possible slang words to make this sound interesting,” he explains.

Instead, he has what he calls a “Que PASA” framework: problem, approach, solution, action. We’ve all seen (or maybe made) the pitch deck that starts with “X is a $50 billion industry.” While numbers can be useful elsewhere, Raj wants founders to think about defining the problem deeply, because as his father used to tell him growing up, “A well-defined problem is half solved.”

Step 2: Set the emotion

Raj talks about the difference between what he calls “Cinderella storytelling” and “sophisticated storytelling.” An example of Cinderella storytelling might be, “Jimmy has a problem. Jimmy is frustrated. Jimmy finds a solution and lives happily ever after.” More complex storytelling leads more from emotion than from problem/solution. For example, he approaches a problem from an emotion rather than a mechanics perspective: “We build this story through a few slides about how the world is becoming more authentic,” says Raj.

He gives the example of celebrities making authentic connections with their fans on social media. The hashtag “#nofilter” is more popular than using filters on Instagram. He then links that back to the (hypothetical) product: Despite the increase in authenticity, dating still remains inauthentic. Here’s an app to increase the authenticity of dating.

Step 3: Detail the go-to-market strategy

This is the place to be explicit. You can have a great product, but if you don’t show how it’s going to make money, it’s worth nothing to investors.

“I will ask entrepreneurs a question about their traction strategy. And they’ll just be like, ‘ Oh, social media. Okay, what about social media?’ And then it’s a reaction of a deer in the headlights,” says Raj.

Whether through advertising, social media or partnerships, think carefully about how you will make money and put that at the center of your go-to-market strategy. And with advertising, think about how quickly you can attract advertising dollars. He says, ‘You stand here and you tell me that on day five, when you have nine users, are you going to attract advertisers? Why should they buy from you? What value could you offer them? That excites me.”

Step 4: Specify what success looks like

Metrics can be tricky. While some industries have standard metrics, they’re not always the best for showing you how your startup works. So show investors how to measure your success from the start by telling them which metrics mean the most.

Also, don’t use neutral headers in your slides. Instead of labeling a slide “Customer Acquisition,” start with “We’re great at acquiring customers – here’s how.”

Step #5: Rethink the competition

Instead of using the classic four-quadrant competition grid that has been seen time and time again, Raj likes to create exclusivity. He explains that by crafting a category all your own, you can set the pace and create more hype around what you do. It’s not always possible, but with some creative thinking you can set yourself apart from the crowd.

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Raj’s dos and don’ts for pitching investors

Here are some final tips for a pitch that investors won’t forget:

Zoom in

For many investors, viewing pitches on Zoom is a keeper. Raj recommends investing in a few pieces of equipment to make sure your photo is professional. That means spending a few hundred dollars on a good lighting setup and an external camera with a higher resolution than whatever your computer’s built-in webcam offers.

Don’t forget that your background also helps to tell your story. Let it reflect your personality and your brand. Finally, listen to a tip from newscasters around the world: get up! Reconfigure your desk if necessary. The energy boost from standing while talking will pay off.

Start early

Don’t make your pitch the night before you’re due to give it. Ideally, Raj recommends starting your deck at least a month before you plan to pitch investors. That leaves plenty of time to practice and revise.

Over the bump

When it comes to actually putting together the slides for a card game, Raj starts in Word rather than PowerPoint.

“We start in a Word document,” he says. “If you sketch it first… it’s a much easier exercise. It then makes it a lot easier to put it on slides because you’re not just thinking about the raw information, but about the information [asking yourself], What is my belief? Or – What can I say about this thing?”

Sometimes the hardest part of making a pitch deck is getting over yourself and getting started.

Article is based on an interview between Nathan Beckord and Raj Nathan on an episode of Foundersuite’s How I Raised It podcast.

About the author

Nathan Beckord is the CEO of Founder suite. com, which makes software for startups raising capital. Nathan is also the CEO of, a new platform for VCs and investment bankers to both raise capital and help clients and portfolio companies. Users of these platforms have raised more than $9.7 billion since 2016.

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