Learn how and why Airtable’s pitch deck too minamilism too far. Airtable is a low-code platform that helps teams manage their data and workflows. It has raised over $100 million in funding, has over 1 million users and was valued at $11bn in 2021.
Positives Honestly, there is nothing here that stands out to me. It’s a wasted opportunity. Your cover slide is an opportunity to make a great impression. Investors tend to skim read decks and this slide gives me nothig to get excited about.
Impovements Include a tagline I want to see a tagline on the intro slide that tells me what exactly what you do in one or two sentences. This will grab my attention, even if I don’t love the idea from the get-go, it indicates to me that you have strong communication skills. Something that venture capitalists like to see.
Include your contact information When an investor comes back to your deck to look at it for the second/third time, make it easy for them to contact you. I don’t want to have to hunt through your deck to find your contact information.
Structure The deck is trying to show some level of structure But, once again there is no value add to this slide. Every slide in your pitch deck is valuable and should add value to me as an investor. I am now two pages in and have no idea what this business is. As a time-scarce investor, this does not maximise the chances of Airable convincing me that they will be a great investment.
Creating an agenda This could be a smart time to include an agenda for the deck. This helps me orientate myself as an investor and to skim-read the planned sections. If the sections make sense and the deck works seamlessly together it will subconsciously earn you points for organisation and communication with potential investors. I wouldn’t bother writing an agenda if your deck is 15 pages or less.
Communication I love the simplicity of the messaging. It hits on the main pain point that customers are facing, which is the inability to get different software to communicate with other pieces of software. The messaging is pitched as more of a vision, i.e. right now the system is broken because of X, we want to build Y to overcome this problem for future customers.
Relevant images I think there are better images to use for the second point. I think there’s a loose connection between the ingredients shown and the building blocks mentioned in the solution. Why not show an image of lego blocks instead? You want to make sure that you words and images work together to enhance your point to an investor. I’m not convinced they have done as well as they could have here.
Communication I like the consistency of minimalism in this deck. If you have some slides that are minimalistic and others that are overloaded with information, it doesn’t read well for potential investors. I prefer a deck with just enough information to excite me as an investor. I don’t need to know all the information straight away, but there are some bits of information that are a must-have before I will commit to offering you a first meeting to find out more about your startup.
Use of Imagery Without knowing the script that accompanied this deck, I am not convinced that this is the best image to have used. It doesn’t tell me anything new to the words written down. For an intro deck, you want the slides to be self-explanatory. The more room there is for speculation over your messaging the more likely potential investors will draw a different thought to the one that you want them to have.
Improvements Too much white space I think this slide and the one before could have quite easily been combined. I think this would have created a stronger one punch message. The overuse of white space and limiting text can dilute your messaging if the slides lack substance. Remember we are on slide 5 and all I currently know as a potential investor is that there is a problem when trying to integrate different pieces of software. This is something I intuitively knew before. Nothing has excited me so far or made me more likely to invest into Airtable.
Improvements Slide Titles Given how limited words are on this deck, I think it is a bit unimaginative to repeat the title of a slide three times. It is such a missed opportunity to tell me more about your idea/company. You should be summarizing the message on each slide with the title to help with the readability of the deck. Repetition can be effective when you are trying to labour a point, but I think the messaging in this deck is too spread out. As an investor skim reading the deck, I am scanning these slides, getting next to no value from them and quickly seeking the slide that actually tells me what you are building and why it is valuable to customers.
Improvements Assume your investors are not experts Avoid using abbreviations at all costs. When looking at this slide I didn’t know what ERP stood for. So I have to break the rhythm of the deck to open a new tab, google the abbreviation and take a guess at what it means in this context. You should pitch your deck at an investor who has no prior knowledge of your space. This way you won’t slip into the common habit of using specific sector knowledge that some investors won’t know or bother looking up.
Improvements Don’t take too long We are now 8 slides deep and all the time so far has been spent labouring the problem slide. Whilst it is possible that the script that went with this deck called out unique insights into the problem for all of these individual slides, I doubt it did as the words and images on the slides don’t. Remember that investor time is precious. Are you truly maximising your limited opportunity to impress them?
Positives Screenshots Finally! We have something of value. Screenshots can be an effective way to showcase your product. However, in this case, I think the slide is clustered with too much information. What are the three main takeaways you want me as a potential investor to make when reading this slide? The text is too small to read, so I am getting limited value from this slide. It doesn’t help me understand your product. Perhaps a video would have been more effective. If you are planning on getting a video made, I suggest that you either use Loom to make a product walkthrough video or a freelancer on Fiverr to create an animation of what you plan to build.
Positives Communication I like how concentrated the messaging is here. All founders find it difficult to summarise their thoughts down into one or two sentences because they are thinking about so much at once. A free tip I often share with founders is to show the deck to someone who’s never read it before. You become blind to the deck with all the revisions that you’ve made to it over time. By getting someone to look at it with fresh eyes. Listen carefully to the questions they ask you as these will more than likely reveal anything that isn’t clear enough in the deck. Ask them question to test their understanding of the deck. Did they understand all of the key messages that you wanted to communicate?
Positives Use of images I am going to be generous and assume that the original image used here was not as pixelated as what I have to work with today. I like the use of images when they help to communicate your message and I think this slide does it better than what would have been achieved had only words been used.
Positives Strong User Retention This slide tells me two things at the same time: 1) That a normal user is able to use the technology. This is reflected in the number of columns created axis. If the product was too complex then users wouldn’t be able to interact with the product this much. 2) The product has good retention with some users. Typically startups have a high monthly churn rate. For technology startups the top tier venture capital funds want to see a 5% ANNUAL churn.
Improvements Don’t waste space Again, this is a great opportunity to give me more information that will help to convince me that Airtable is a must have investment. However, the images used are recycled from the Product Demo Slide and as a result I am left with a lot of unanswered questions. As a potential investor, I want to know a lot more information before I would extend an invite for a first meeting. This includes: the team, your business model, pricing strategy, current traction (users or revenue), your target market, how much you are looking to raise, what your go-to-market plan is and what the risks are.
Conclusion Overall Airtables’ pitch deck has a lot of good foundations. I particularly like their ability to be concise with their messaging. This can be particularly difficult for founders when all they want to do is bombard a potential investor with lots of information to convince them to invest. Sometimes less is more. However, in my opinion I think this deck is too minimal. As I called out in the last slide, I am left with a lot of unanswered questions. This makes it less likely that I will invest, as it is now my responsibility to reach out, write an email with all my questions and wait for a response. Very few venture capitalists will do this. They feel under time pressure to review all the deals coming into their inbox. You would be better suited by minimising their effort and delivering more of the initial crucial information that they want to see. By using Pitchreview.ai you can get more actionable feedback just like this above to maximise your chances of fundraising.
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If you’re still waiting, here are some interesting anecdotes of famous founders and their fundraising journeys:
Brian Chesky of Airbnb: “We were rejected by literally hundreds of investors before we got our first yes.”
Travis Kalanick of Uber: In their Series A pitch deck, Uber projected a total TAM of $4 billion, however since then the low price of taxis and increased availability has grown the global ride-hailing market to over $100 billion annually.
Slack, initially started as a gaming company, but once the team realised that they weren’t succeeding, they pivoted into one of the features that they had built for their users and this became the messaging app we know today.
Spotify approached every VC in Europe when fundraising for their Series A, only to be rejected by every fund except Northzone and Creandum.
Netflix was forced to lay off 30% of their staff in 2001, as they were struggling to raise capital in the dot-com bust. Interestingly Reed Hastings (the founder) said that once these staff were fired, the remaining employees got more productive and the overall output at Netflix increased!
The staff that were fired slowed down decision-making and frustrated high performers.