How to build an early-stage startup deck in Latin America
February 23, 2021
There are many great resources on building decks to raise money. Unfortunately, most founders either don’t read these resources or don’t follow the advice in them.
After giving this advice to Magma founders over the years, I wrote an actionable list of how I would think about doing a deck for a pre-seed or seed stage Latin American startup. This advice is likely still applicable for Series A, but things start to change as you get farther along.
A deck is for getting a meeting with a VC, not to tell a VC everything about your company
Tell your story in your deck
Make sure it flows
That there’s not too much information
Get me to take a meeting so you can share your business with my team and me
I’m sharing these tips, especially for underestimated founders. The quickest way for an underestimated founder to level up is to understand the rules of the game of VC.
The deck is the first time you are telling your story to an investor. It is your first impression. If you follow this process, fundraising should start to be easier.
A deck is for one thing: Should I take this meeting?
The vast majority of investors look at your deck for 1-3 minutes and are trying to figure out one big question:
Should I take this meeting?
Build your deck with that objective in mind. It is not for telling an investor everything there is to know about you, your business and the industry.
Keep it short, engaging, and exciting.
10-14 slides max.
Tell the story. Get me excited
The deck should more or less be how you would tell your story if you were talking to someone. I should be able to read one slide, which gets me excited about the next slide. The slides should flow into each other, not in a random order.
One idea per slide
Do not include more than one big idea per slide. Less is more.
Create one headline at the top that is understandable if I only read that one thing
My most common comment to Magma founders on their decks is:
“this doesn't mean anything”.
Read your titles to yourself out loud. Assume you only read that one slide’s headline, and you don’t know anything else about your business. You have failed if you can’t explain the idea you’re trying to get across.
Your headline should be good enough that if I only read the headlines on each slide, I know exactly what you’re doing, and I’m excited to take a meeting.
Kill “the problem” “the solution” labels
Don’t put “the problem” or “the solution” to label slides. They take up space from telling your story.
Write a sentence at the top that is extremely clear. I should know I’ve just read the problem slide from reading your sentence. Same for all of the other slides. Kill those titles.
Don’t tell me you’ll list your advantages or your roadmap. Write a headline that makes it clear these are your advantages or your product roadmap.
Avoid the curse of knowledge
You know more about your business than anyone else on Earth. But you have to tell your story to people who don’t know anything about your business and probably don’t know much about Latin America. Keep it simple and direct.
Don’t include how much you’re raising
If you include that you are raising $5M in your deck and end up raising $4M, it should be considered a success. But VCs might see a failed round since you didn’t reach the $5M goal you put in your deck. Avoid putting amounts in both the deck and emails.
Don’t include valuation
You can go wrong twice here. If you put a valuation that’s too low, you might take too much dilution. If you put one that’s way too high, people won’t take a meeting. Get a VC excited, and then we can talk about valuation.
Don’t include a competition slide
If you were in a job interview, would you start talking about how bad the other candidates were? If you were on a date, would you start talking about your “competitors”? The deck is to get someone to take a first meeting. Get me excited, don’t give me a reason not to take the meeting.
Also, everyone has either an axis with themselves in the upper right and everyone else worse than them, or a list of features with their all green checkmarks, and the competitors have some red ones. They are cliches and don’t help at this stage.
Hire a designer for amazing design
Great design is table stakes. Don’t give a VC a reason to overlook you by skimping on your design budget.
Spend the money on a designer to make your deck look amazing. Your startup might be a Ferrari, but if it looks like a 2004 Toyota, many VCs won’t dig deeper to find that Ferrari inside the Toyota. Great design is the easiest, lowest-hanging fruit to raise credibility in your deck. In LatAm, great design won’t break the bank.
Don’t send the appendix
If you want to build an appendix with more slides, you can do it. Do not send these slides with your initial deck.
Put your company name in the file name
Your file name should be Company Name Deck. If you want to include a month, you can do it. Why? So that I can search for it later. I would write it as:
Startup Name Deck Month Year
Don’t do this:
The Magma Recommended Deck structure for an early stage Latin American Startup
Cover Slide: Your tagline
If you send your deck via PDF, this is the preview I’ll see in my email. Include your company name, email, and one sentence about what you do. Make me want to open it.
Slide 1 and 2: Symmetrical problem and solution
Your first slide should be one headline that tells me about the problem, with 3-5 bullets below showing how bad the problem is. Your second slide should be the solution to that problem, with each of the bullets responding to the problem.
Billpocket, a Mexico-based business that helps businesses accept credit cards, used a headline and give bullet points:
Slide 3: This is a massive market
Our portfolio company Neivor, which helps thousands of Latin American apartment buildings and condos streamline operations, used this headline:
“There are 200M Latin Americans living in residential communities, spending more than $30B each year.”
The goal of this slide is to show that there’s a single or double digital billion market size.
Slide 4: Answer the question, why now?
Why is this opportunity now? What big changes in the world are making this product needed now? Did Covid force more digital adoption? Are there huge VC investments in companies that will buy your product? Or give you distribution? What are the tailwinds or mega-trends that can help you win?
This is a hard-hitting slide. It tells me that the problem is solvable now in the headline but then gives some social proof.
Don’t steal this. If you can find information that backs up your statement of why now, it's helpful. It can be a quote, it can be a stat, etc., but make sure it's not someone who should be investing in your startup and hasn’t yet, or it could be a yellow/red flag for some investors.
Slide 5: Traction slide
Show your traction, ideally with 3-4 stats. The headline should include your strongest traction point.
Our portfolio company Talanta, a startup that trains the world’s best talent and helps them find top global jobs, used this headline:
Slide 6: Secret sauce...or why you will win
Pick the 2-4 things you do better than everyone and why you will win. Make it clear what it is.
Slide 7: Why your team has founder market fit
Tell us why your team is the best team to win this market.
Slide 8: Who has already backed you
You can combine slides 7 and 8 if you don’t have a ton of top angels. Put the logos of the good funds that have helped you below your team.
Slide 9: But wait, there’s more!
This is stolen from YC demo day. There’s always a but wait, there’s more! You have told me there’s an initial beachhead market of X Billion. What else could you do in the future to extend it? Pick the 2-3 more things you will do, and estimate the market size.
Slide 10: Mirror your cover slide
Additional, options slides:
Go to market
How do you plan to win the market? What are your first steps? I generally don’t need this in a first deck, but some funds like it. Include it if you have a specific go to market or wedge that sets you apart.
How you make money
If you have a clear revenue model, include it either just before or just after traction. You could say:
Selling Insurance - 1 time fee for each product sold
I hope this overview was useful. If you have questions or comments, or things that I missed or got wrong, please send them our way. If you would like feedback on your deck and/or your company, please fill out a Magma Memo and we'd be happy to connect.