Let’s pitch Sequoia Capital

You’ve got a great idea to turn the world upside down and rewrite capitalism.

All you need is some moolah to get the hoo-hah rolling. Why not ask Sequoia Capital, America’s most famous venture capital firm?

Founded by Don Valentine, the firm has backed companies that now control $3.3 trillion of combined stock market value, equivalent to 22 percent of Nasdaq.

Companies like Apple, Google, Oracle, Youtube, Instagram, Zoom, WhatsApp, Linkedin, and Paypal. Companies that continue to change the world.

Mike Vernal is a partner at Sequoia Capital investing in Seed/Series A companies. He’s seen hundreds and thousands of pitch decks. He knows what the best pitch decks have in common.

+ Great ideas

+ Clarity of thinking

+ Defy conventional wisdom

+ Relentless enthusiasm

+ Shorter is better

+ Broad ambition

Sequoia Capital love partnering with founders hell-bent on bringing an idea to life that conventional wisdom deems impossible. And they love to partner early when an idea is newly formed and has the maximum room to grow. (Also they have a soft spot for founders who are children of immigrants. Like Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Elon Musk, Larry Ellison. Being adopted helps too. Psychopathy as competitive advantage.)

How short should your pitch be? A lot shorter than you think. If you can’t tell the story of your company in five minutes, then you’re either overthinking it or you haven’t simplified it enough.

The best pitch decks should be gone through in five to seven minutes with 40 minutes of conversation after that.

Mike recommends including a succinct description of the problem, a system description of your solution, talk about the market size, overview of the team, and (of course) how much you’re looking to raise. But keep it simple and stupid.

Mike has received hundreds of 70-page decks with thousands of words per slide. Which he stops reading after slide three because it’s just too much content.

If you can’t get an investor’s attention in three minutes, you’re going to have a lot of trouble getting customers’ attention in that same time.

Here’s what Sequoia Capital would like to see in your deck. From the first slide to last.

Company purpose - Start here. Define your company in a single declarative sentence. This is harder than it looks. It’s easy to get caught up listing features instead of communicating your mission.

Problem - Describe the pain of your customer. How is this addressed today and what are the shortcomings of current solutions.

Solution - Explain your eureka moment. Why is your value proposition unique and compelling? Why will it endure? And where does it go from here?

Why now? - The best companies almost always have a clear why now? Nature hates a vacuum. Why hasn’t your solution been built before now?

Market potential - Identify your customer and your market. Some of the best companies invent their own markets. Because when you invent your own market, you get to set the rules in your favor. Think legal monopoly.

Competition/alternatives - Who are your direct and indirect competitors. Show that you have a plan to win.

Business model - How do you intend to thrive? The less complicated and easier to understand the better.

Team - Tell the story of your founders and key team members. (If you’re going to include headshots, make sure everyone is smiling.)

Financials - If you have any, please include. Keep it top level. Don’t get stuck in the weeds.

Vision - If all goes well, what will you have built in five years?

Not 70 slides. Not 20 slides.

10 slides is all it takes.

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