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Pitch Decks: Brutal Reasons You Don’t Get Funded

Pitch Decks: Brutal Reasons You Don’t Get Funded

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Dr Thommie Burger is the Founder of JTB Consulting


Pitch Decks are not that easy to design, especially if you present to investors who see hundreds of Pitch Decks every year!

Not everyone is going to pitch their Business Plan to investors. Many great businesses start without ever raising a Rand from external investors. With this said, I wanted to present some insight into pitching because I know that:

  • Many people do want to raise funds from external investors, and
  • The level of rigour needed and thoughtful planning that goes into just how to communicate your business idea in convincing employees, co-founders, advisors, customers, and yourself can never be understated.

Want to see some Pitch Deck Examples? Click here to see JTB Consulting’s Pitch Deck Portfolio.


Presenting your Financial Projections:

First off, here are a few things NO TO DO when presenting your financial projections:

  1. Do not paste a spreadsheet from Excel into your pitch deck. A spreadsheet has a lot of data in it, and your goal in pitching is to get someone excited, not to look at your detailed projections. Instead, make your point very clear by focusing on the key metrics and ratios you want to report and only report on those.
  2. Do not create a projected “hockey-stick growth” (linear growth) chart if you are a start-up company and don’t have any past performance history to justify a hockey-stick increase. Everybody shows one of these graphs, but nobody believes it. You will never grow 30%+ year on year.
  3. Do not focus on revenues. Of course, revenues are significant, but there are often more important or exciting metrics for an early-stage investor: signups, churn, scale, traction, and, not to forget, cash flow.
  4. Do not focus on presenting your financial projections. Instead, focus on the story of your business. Your forecasts should help you tell the story, so don’t be lazy and paste in a spreadsheet or a chart with your projected growth: they don’t tell your story.

Read More: Investor Pitch Decks and 8 Dumb Things you should Never Say.


The problem with the typical ‘graph of growth’ is that it’s challenging to have a good conversation about it and use it as a meaningful part of a conversation. It always feels like the weakest part of the story, right? That’s because it tells two stories simultaneously,  but poorly.

The growth graph obscures:

  • Unit economics, the underlying core performance of the business, and
  • Execution, the success of the entrepreneurs in scaling the business.


Investors focus on two things: (1) the assumptions underlying the revenue forecast, and (2) the monthly burn rate or cash consumption of the business.

So, for start-up companies looking to talk to investors, the press, employees, etc., it’s pretty clear – focus on your:

  • Market Potential
  • Cost Budget
  • Business Milestones

As for market potential, you need to focus on summarising the market, justifying the addressable market, looking at market dynamics (challenges and opportunities) and competitors. For financials, do not, as far as possible, “thumb suck” or pick projected figures out of thin air. That carries no weight and will damage your credibility as an entrepreneur. Factual information must underpin all projections and claims. Pick essential metrics, and use that to indicate growth. Remember, growth is key to the story. For fundraising, one common way to present fundraising financials is to create a slide that outlines three things: how much you’re raising, how much runway (# of months) that funds will last you given your monthly burn, and the key milestones you’ll achieve during that time. Here’s an example:

Raising R1,25 M 
Direct expenses on hiring one website developer, one sales representative, one marketing manager, and opening an office. 

Runway: 18 months 

Key Milestones: Complete Version 1 Beta Product Design, Sign 20 customers, Build and launch Version 2 Production Product.

And so, how does your financial model figure into this? While it’s certainly not the centrepiece of your presentation materials, it would be hard to create a solid rationale for a fundraising amount without an idea of monthly burn, hiring plan, and essential costs. The model is necessary to establish the headlines of the pitch, but on its own is more of a background resource to use when investors want to see more details.

You’re not going to win a deal with a great model, but you could lose a deal without one.

In any given year, investors see 2,000+ pitches, looks more closely at 400-600 and ends up doing between 10-20 deals. Investors spend an average of 4 minutes on successful Pitch Decks. At least 15% of investors read decks on small phone screens. Therefore, a good pitch deck design is essential to get noticed.


Don’t Ignore these Investor Statistics:

Here are some statistics on Investor Presentations:

  • The average investor presentation has 20 slides
  • The average investor pitch lasts 42 minutes
  • 75% of Investors get distracted by email or something else in the first 10 minutes of your pitch
  • 43% of Investors pay attention less than half of the time
  • 63% if Investors will never open an emailed Business Plan/Pitch Deck

Of those Investors that opened the email:

  • 73% spend less than 5 minutes reading your presentation
  • 48% read less than half
pitch deckpitch decks

Established in 2006, we have successfully written hundreds of bankable and world-class Business Plans for clients across 25 countries. As South Africa’s Leading Business Plan Company, we are confident that we would be able to assist you too. Kindly note that we also offer “Investor Pitch Decks”, “Excel-based Financial Models”, and “Proposal/Tender Writing Services” in addition to our Custom Business Plan Writing Service. Please visit our Services page for more information.

We look forward to being of service to you. Please feel free to contact our Founder, Dr Thommie Burger, on +27 79 300 8984 should you have any questions. He is also available via email and LinkedIn.

JTB – Your Business Planning Partner.

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