Tldr: Peter Thiel pitch deck example for founders to learn from
Peter Theil is sort of a big deal. You have probably read Zero To One? Otherwise, you might know him from the Social Network when he threw in $500k into Facebook (and made over a $bill from it).
Whilst pushing Founders Fund (He does a lot of stuff these days) he wrote a template example of a pitch deck on a hardware device for founders to learn from. It was written in 2012, but surprisingly I haven’t seen anyone share it before (UPDATE: A guy called Alejandro Cremades who copies my content has since shared it. Here is what he wrote, lol 😉 “It was written in 2012, but surprisingly I haven’t seen anyone share it before“. Sure buddy!).
If you have been reading a lot of my blogs you will know that I don’t like most of the outlines that are provided by experts. The issue is that there rarely is ever is context provided. Furthermore, the outlines are just that.
Peter’s outline is more of an example of a deck than an outline such as from Sequoia, but as usual, I don’t really like it.
- It’s far too short. At 11 pages it’s more of the form of the Sequoia or Airbnb pitch deck. Good decks are never 10 slides. They are more 17-22 slides
- It’s text dense. It’s not fun to read. It requires too much reading. I tend to try present information in a structured manner. You should never write paragraphs
- Rubbish headers. Headers help investors parse your deck rapidly. Never just write “team”, you want to spell out what the point investors should learn from is
Let’s go through the Peter Thiel pitch deck slide by slide.
The cover is fine, generally speaking.
Never write the date on the deck. Investors know how long you have been raising for then. Most founders are going to take ages to raise, so this is not in your favor, and it adds absolutely zero value.
Tag line is fine but not very specific.
I want the logo on the cover.
Quotes I am not sure about.
Quotes are generally the most pointless form of illustrating traction in your company. I would never have a discrete slide in your pitch deck that just had quotes unless you really are a very early stage. Of course, you have to work with what you have to work with though.
If you have quotes from very strong people then it is not a terrible idea to put them on the cover It is just not something that I typically do. you will notice that the people who are on the slides quotes have a Nobel Laureate, are from CNET or Larry King who is a celebrity. This immediately imbues use you with some social proof, but writing some quotes from Mandy in Wisconsin is pretty much pointless.
If in doubt it is much more safe to have a nice simple colored background, with probably white text stating your logo and your tagline.
Problem and solution
What matters for a pitch deck is not how many slides are but how long it takes to read it. the answer to how many slides you need is rather how many sides do you need in order to communicate just enough to get a meeting with investors.
Cramming slides together is a terrible idea.
In this example that Peter has combined both a problem and solution slides together. what no one will ever tell you is that you actually want to have a couple of problems slides and furthermore before you even get into the problem, let alone your solution you should be setting up the industry evolution to understand why this actually a problem with solving. By doing this you are explaining the why before the what. People crave the why as we are story-driven people.
When you look at the slide there is no one form of structure or graphical element which makes this text easier and more pleasurable to read. There are just endless walls of text here.
What is decent about how the information has been presented is it follows a logical fashion. It starts out by stating that the scale-o-matta breaks the main barriers to weight loss by encouraging overweight people to actually wear themselves frequently, and then shows how that claim has been backed up by a small scale clinical studies.
You aren’t just stating something, you’re proving it. Whenever you state something in a deck, you need to back it up because investors do not know you, and they do not trust you, and they know you just want their money. If you can back things up with data it is harder to argue with you (especially since you send your deck before meeting them).
You can see in both the problem and solutions section that he refers to specific data points such as 66.7% of the US population and that they may lose 20-40 pounds. You want to do the same.
Include data everywhere you can.
Another learning point that I will reference here is that you can see sources at the bottom of the slide. there are two of them. always include sources in small, sometimes italicize, text to back up where the data has come from, as this supports that what you’re saying is factually based.
Do not write something lame like Copywrite, or private and confidential. Total waste of text and adds more content to your deck. Have as little distractions as possible.
The team slide
The team is important. Where the slides go is a question. If you really are ballers, you can have it upfront. For everyone else, I recommend putting in the middle of the deck, after the story section and before the execution section.
You can read about the importance of founding teams here.
The content starts out by stating that the team has worked together and that they have had exits full stop these are two of the sexiest things that you can say.
- Exits: if you have made money for investors before they will assume that you can make money for them again for more likely than other people. Whether or not the research actually backs that up
- Experience together: Founder blow-ups are real. If you have experience working with each other, then you know people’s triggers, what they are good at, what they are poor at and that you are less likely to hate each other after a couple of months having just raised millions of Dollars
They then say that they have directly relevant experience to the space that they are operating in and that they have invested their own money into the company.
- Relevant experience: Experience in a startup, in general, is beneficial but it doesn’t mean if you start up a company in a space that you have no experience in that you will be able to navigate all the pitfalls and have access to the network that will make you more successful through partnerships and the like. If you really know your industry and your business then you are more likely to be a winner
- Investment: Investors want to know that you have skin in the game. yes we know that you are putting your salary on the line and perhaps even the credibility in order to start your crazy startup, but investors knowing that you have real money on the line is very beneficial
How the team is presented is done in the proper way. He only states who the actual critical people are in the company, which is typically between 3 and 5 people at the maximum. If you are a sole founder then, of course, you’re just going to put yourself on there, but ideally find some advisors to make the slide look a little bit more full.
You always want to state the full name of someone and their title. You then want to have a photo of yourself that is consistent and looks professional.
Peter has put in some Latin text to fill out the bio so it is not instructive. What you want to include here are the most relevant and impressive key selling points about you. If you have won some math competition in China than that it’s a lot more insightful then just what university you went to.
Peter states who the other people are in the company and that is not necessarily a negative thing but it adds more text to the slides that is up to you as to whether you want to include it. I personally don’t, but I see no logical reason why one might not.
This slide is a little bit confusing as it is the product slide, but most of the slide is about the unit economics of the company.
I always have a product slide that explains how the product works step by step in 4 steps.
In the traction section of the pitch deck, I will present things such as unit economics if you have them as they are incredibly useful and something that investors will put a lot of focus on two depending on what stage your business is at and accepted that you’re operating in.
This example is for a hardware company and shows information about the supplier and the design status; that probably makes sense for an early-stage hardware company but for most people, it wouldn’t. For most startups, I would never mention suppliers as that is confidential information and there’s no reason for you to present that at this stage especially since your pitch deck may be shared with other people.
The market size matters because it will determine the limit to the potential exit value, and indeed how much revenue you will be able to generate.
It is one thing for the market to be large now and it is another thing for the rate at which the market is growing. You can see in the slide that Peter writes that the overweight population is growing.
I think the vast majority of information that is on this slide is totally pointless because it is just showing some percentages of people who fit into overweight groupings. There are no numbers on the number of people and there are no Dollar values. It is the Dollar value of the market which an investor actually cares about.
Finally he illustrates what I presume is the r squared, or explanatory effect of different factors. For a biotech company this could potentially be viable but the vast majority of startups it is totally pointless information.
This is not a slide that you would really want to learn from.
Opportunity and competition
This is another example of a bad slide. There is some interesting information in it, but it is hard to parse and most of it is not relevant.
You want to have a discreet competition slide which is either an XY axis or a landscape one which sets out how you are different through the benefits and features of your offerings.
In the slide, he seems to combine both market and competition data points.
In the plan section, he is actually talking about the problem with the business.
Information is being arbitrarily added to different slides and this is not a good thing to do as you want to be focused on specific point that you want to make.
Barriers to entry
Yet again Peter is combining three points that he wants to make which is the defensibility or barriers to entry, exit plan as well as a sales plan. This is frankly a bit mind-boggling.
He states that they have three barriers to entry which is the intellectual property, distribution as well as network effects. These are all very good defensibility factors, however intellectual property is really defensible as you do not have the budget to defend it.
Intellectual-property is backed off by illustrating free patterns that they have which one is pending into or issued and there is a very basic explanation of what the patent means.
Their distribution is through three large distributors which is very positive share, but again, I might not name who these people are in your pitch deck at this stage as that could be confidential information.
The network effect sounds good in theory but you have to be able to actually prove them. If you wrote “Integrated with Facebook and Twitter” these days I would just laugh at you. Maybe in 2012 that was something that matters but it sure as hell isn’t now.
Go to market slide as it stands now it is just a wall of text that no one wants to read and frankly I didn’t even bother reading myself. That’s just what is going to happen if you write too much text.
Funding history and use of capital
Most of what Peter writes in this slide should not be written there.
He starts with a mini-essay talking about making 400000 units at a cost of 4 million this could have been put in bullet points under milestones.
You do not want to write that you want some to take 25% of the round as that is implicitly helping investors figure out your valuation.
You do not need to write who your ideal investor is as that should be why you should have reached to them in the first place and you should have written why you want the investor when you wrote to them in the introduction email.
Whilst the history of your investments to date is interesting, it is not required for you to provide as much detail (at least now). I might just write how much you have raised in total to date as well as how much the founders have invested. I’m not going to be really strict on my recommendation on this though, it just is a bit too much info at this point.
I never include a vision slide in a pitch deck because frankly, it is normally total bullshit. Most founders write some meaningless guff… “revolutionize carrot delivery!”.
What Peter has written is ok but I would dramatically reduce the content and I would probably make this the final slide of your pitch deck to remind me vs why they should be investing to summarise.
I never include a contact slide in the pitch deck because the investor already has your email… since you emailed them, right?
What is the actual point of writing the address of your office? It’s not like people post anything these days right?
It is also totally pointless to provide dataroom access at this stage of the raise since you are not going to provide access to them until they have actually committed to the investment process. The investor might just go into a data wrong pull out your data and use it for their own internal purposes with no actual interest of ever funding your company, at which point you have just given up all of your data for no actual reason and investor hasn’t committed to the process.
Financial model and assumptions
This slide just makes my eyes bleed full stop. If you want to include a financial page in your pitch deck do the exact opposite of this. You want to have something like 12 line items max.
I personally do not include financials in the pitch deck because everyone knows they are bullshit. they are likely to be a contentious topic and you may lose people at this point.
What I do instead at least for early-stage startups is a slide which I invented call the range of values. this enables you to have a discussion about how large the business can be whether or not a small, medium, or large dependent on the number of scenarios.
I have no idea whatsoever why this is after the contact page. That’s just weird.
Conclusion on the Peter Thiel pitch deck
If you know nothing about pitch decks, there are some things for you to learn. If you had a deck like this, you might get a meeting for sure, but that depends on who you are and your traction.
For the most part, I hate how a lot of the deck was done.
What do you think of the Peter Thiel pitch deck? Agree or disagree?
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