All hands on (pitch) deck

Since when did people stop referring to PowerPoint presentations as 'slides'? Did I not get copied into that email? I've just come from the medical profession where it was normal to say something like: "Hey, did you send me Jim's slides on that patient with the rare form of [insert condition]". Apparently in the tech/startup world, the language is all different. 

So when I asked a friend at coffee the other day what he meant by 'my deck' I may as well have held up a pencil and said "What does this do?". 

A pitch deck, it would seem, is an indispensable component of any discerning startup's inventory. Like your phone and wallet, your two-page business plan, printed NDA and memory stick containing your pitch deck should always be on or nearby your person. Should a VC firm pop up from behind the fresh produce section whilst you're doing the weekly shop and demand a pitch, you'll be ready...

And so I decided it was time to sit down and think about putting together a solid pitch deck for STAMP. Even without any impending presentations on the horizon, stuff like this is good to do even as a thought exercise - a way for you to distill your product and market into the simplest terms. With STAMP, it would be easy to lose focus on who we're targeting and what we're trying to do, so the pitch deck would be the platform for us to deliver the concise, efficient description of what STAMP is and will become. 

Just like any presentation, medical or not, you need to do your research. Fortunately, the same friend who despaired at my 'deck' confusion, took pity and linked me to Guy Kawasaki's page titled "The only 10 slides you need for a pitch'. Ideal.  A little further googling however led me to a particularly interesting resource that gave me a taste of how other companies had organised and compiled their decks for the purpose of fundraising. 

I instantly knew these decks would probably be good examples because included at the top of the page was the phrase: "In total. these decks have raised over $400 million". Casual.

And then you realised why. Included were the seed or series A round of fundraising for companies like AirBnb, LinkedIn, Buzzfeed - even YouTube. Their archaic 2005 deck looked like something that people would laugh off the stage if it was shown today (just in terms of visuals - not content obvs). It was strange to look through them and think that at some point, a nervous founder had tentatively tapped his way through the slides, hoping those looking on would understand their product and invest in their company. 

For all of them, that clearly happened. And several fundraising rounds later, they're some of the best known and highly regarded companies out there. What did they all share? Clarity. Clear problems and clear solutions. No bullshit. Here's the market we want to enter, and this is how we're going to capture our share. It was all inspiring work that I wanted to emulate for STAMP. 

When you're working on your idea day-in day-out, its easy to get too close to it, to lose that broader sense of perspective that ensures you don't head off down the wrong path. Aside from ensuring you surround yourself with those who can help you regain that perspective, seeing what others have done, particularly those who went on to great success, reminds that everyone was once that same stage. Staring at a blank PowerPoint, Keynote or Google Slides program and thinking: "Whats the best way to sell them my idea". 

What am I hoping for with our deck? Maybe in a few years someone will be looking at a STAMP deck and thinking: "Well this approach clearly worked out well for them..."

Till next time. 

S x 

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