Pitch Deck Creation with Investor & Advisor Sumeet Shah
In previous posts, we’ve chatted with everyone from entrepreneurs to investors to get fundamental pitch deck tips and resources. In this #ThoughtImports post, we continue the pitch deck fun. By getting advice from a lot of experts in the industry, we can see more angles and perspectives, and you can pick the advice that makes the most sense for your business.
Sumeet Shah, the startup investor and advisor featured in this #ThoughtImports, agrees with this mentality. He firmly believes that entrepreneurs should be networking with and getting advice from as many people as possible. If you had to choose who to talk to about your pitch deck however, Sumeet is the person to go to. Having evaluated over 5,000 decks throughout his career in venture capital and private equity consulting, Sumeet recently launched Deck Therapy to utilize his know-how and help founders craft their pitch decks and stories.
Tell us about your background & experience.
My background spans 10 years, with the first five running project work and business development at a private equity consulting firm started, run by, and comprising multiple engineers (I have a background in Biomedical Engineering). I then transitioned to the startup world and got the beyond-amazing opportunity to not just join the venture capital world, but help start and run one from the ground up, a consumer-focused early-stage VC firm, Brand Foundry Ventures. I was there for three-and-a-half years and took time away in August 2017 to start helping startups, brands, and agencies with short-term strategy and business development work. I also advise various founders and companies through my VC in Residence side work at the NYC campus of Galvanize.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who always make time to help others along the way. This is something I strive to do as well. A story that embodies this and one that has stuck with me is from my time as an Eagle Scout. There is a speech called "The Voice of the Eagle” which is about climbing a mountain to the top. During the ascent, we see others struggling to climb, or those who are too scared to try in the first place. When we encounter people struggling, we have an opportunity as human beings to pay it forward by looking back, outstretching a hand, and helping others up.
What makes a pitch deck stand out?
I come from the world of brand, and brand matters no matter what kind of startup you have. What makes a deck stand out is the story, how the true ethos of the company shines across it, and how the story is told from the Past, Present, and Future of the business.
What makes a deck stand out is the story, how the true ethos of the company shines across it, and how the story is told from the past, present, and future of the business.
What are common mistakes you see in failed pitch decks? When & why do you lose interest in a pitch?
I see a lot of generic copy-and-paste style pitch decks. These are easier to create, but it is also lazier. If the deck takes me further away from WHY you're building this company and WHAT you're trying to do, then I lose interest and get frustrated in the process.
What resources (e.g., tools, communities, frameworks, articles) do you most recommend for early stage founders?
Network, network, network! Always take a periscope-like perspective to your company, get as much feedback and second/third opinions on your direction. A lot of advice won't be helpful, but you'll find some great gems in the unlikeliest of spaces. I also cannot recommend enough this interview by Harry's co-founder Jeff Raider.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see founders making early on? How can they overcome this?
The biggest mistakes I see are when founders pursue the "checkbox" items of starting a company; things like raising more capital than they actually need and going only to the big name VCs. Be deliberate. Take time to figure out what exactly your company needs, listen to feedback, and learn from others. Time may be the ultimate killer of startups, but not being purposeful, tactical about your actions hurts just as much.
Be deliberate. … Time may be the ultimate killer of startups, but not being purposeful, tactical about your actions hurts just as much.
What separates a great idea from a great business? How could an entrepreneur bridge this gap for their venture?
The founder. There are so many examples of founders who were not great CEOs and they ultimately had to step down in order for the company to succeed and grow. Understand what your strengths are and work towards finding people who can help you on bridging those gaps, who can help you where you have weaknesses. Not recognizing what role you play as a founder and how to manage your team is what separates a great idea from a great business.
Not recognizing what role you play as a founder and how to manage your team is what separates a great idea from a great business.
What technologies and industries are currently trending in the NYC tech space?
I am a huge fan of the future of connected cities. Also retail-as-a-service is starting to grow with the onslaught of so many unique consumer brands!
What industries and markets are you bullish on?
I'm very bullish on connected cities. I believe that the startup world has the potential to build better transportation & infrastructure, the ability to fix neighborhood (and income) inequality, and work with local governments.
Any other advice for entrepreneurs across the world?
Always keep the passion to learn and grow on the forefront of everything you do. You'll find a lot of people who share common goals with you, and usually you’ll find them in the least expected places!
Always keep the passion to learn and grow on the forefront of everything you do.
The Key Takeaways of Pitch Deck Creation
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again, it’s all about the story. Sumeet said that the majority of failed pitch decks he sees are from startups following a boring template and straying away from their story. It’s helpful to follow a template: just make sure that template is adding to your story rather than detracting from it.
Know your weaknesses as a founder. Maybe you’re a fantastic engineer and designer but aren’t great at managing a team. Get a strong understanding of your role and of your strengths so that you can bring people on who complement your weaknesses.
Take that broad, periscope-like perspective when making decisions. In the startup world (and in the general business world) it is incredibly easy to get caught in the short-term perspective. Then, we end up making decisions for the short-term… when we should really be playing the infinite game, not the finite one.
It’s Time to Build Your Pitch
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Need some help with your journey? Here at The Port, we help founders and businesses craft their pitch and build their story to reach global audiences. To learn more, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org