Startup Pitch Deck — The Problems with “The Problem”

Dissecting the startup pitch deck slide by slide

This article is part of a series dissecting the startup pitch deck slide by slide, in no particular order. The intent is to help founders create brief, relevant, and well-structured presentations for their ventures. Read our other article about what NOT to include in the competition slide here.

Nowadays, too many founders seem to build solutions that solve no problem and address no need.

At first glance, it may look like a no-brainer. But there are some startups that are completely disconnected from the market realities. They are the brainchildren of founders fatally in love with their ideas. And nothing is more counter-productive in the world of startups than the lack of adaptability, flexibility, accepting feedback, and embracing change.

A typical pitch deck starts with the slides of Problem and Solution, working in tandem to provide clarity on the scope of business. And this is exactly the issue that we will focus on in this article: I’ll give you 4 specific, actionable tactics you can use in your next pitch for investment in order to make that deal happen and make your startup idea a reality.

1. Think in terms of Frequency and Intensity of The Problem

First of all, think of The Problem in terms of frequency and intensity.

When booking a flight, for example, the problem of the traveler is very intense because, obviously, one can’t swim from Europe all the way to Seattle. The frequency, on the other hand, is low — not many people have to fly from Europe to Seattle weekly, but most probably only once or twice a year.

Similarly, when sending a text message, the intensity of the need is most of the time low — except for the very few cases when it’s an emergency. Yet the frequency of the need is very high — some people send hundreds of messages per day.

Ideally, a startup should solve a problem with both high intensity and high frequency. Finding such a pain to kill is a challenge, indeed, but you might have found something that is almost there — right?

2. Be precise and bold when formulating The Problem

Let’s get into how you’ll be actually presenting the issue in your pitch deck. One of the most significant mistakes founders make is being too vague.

Here are some examples of vague depictions of The Problem to help you better grasp my point:

  • “People need quality in life, and this is exactly what our revolutionary mobile app provides.”
  • “Our platform helps city dwellers deal with the high level of air pollution.”

Quality of life is essential, just as health issues caused by the air-pollution are serious. But can you think of these in terms of intensity and frequency of the pain?

Think about it this way: is the lack of quality in life an addressable problem or rather the result of many other issues left unaddressed? Also, anyone who is genuinely trying to solve the problem of the in-city air pollution will not create a consumer app. Instead, they will invent new filters for industrial use or will fight to enforce new anti-pollution rules and regulations to be adopted by the city halls.

When formulating the problem, be specific and direct. This is not the place to be subtle. Make it clear for everyone that the status quo is terrible, or unjust, or unfair and that your startup is working to solve this. State it clearly that you are not working on a trifle but on something important — if this is the case. Is it, though?

3. Support your statements with facts and figures

Let’s face it: a pitch deck is not supposed to be an essay where founders express their views on life at large. Personal opinions and interests, no matter how progressive or altruist, should not be the basis for getting funded — unless you are pitching for charity.

Otherwise, all investors, including those focused on making a social impact, will only consider substantial businesses that start from real needs.

When you’re building your pitch deck, try to keep this in mind: after reading your slide, no one should be able to contest The Problem. The last thing you want is investors challenging your underlying assumptions outlined on the second slide of the deck, blowing up all your narrative from that point on.

Like everything else that’s meant to face the challenge of time in this life, you won’t be able to build anything solid if the foundation is weak and shaky.

So, what you have to do is support your allegations with solid proof. The evidence that you present could be market data, reports, analytics, expert insights, etc. Basically, anything coming from an authoritative source to confirm that the problem you identified is real, critical, and urgent to solve. Is that the case?

4. Some problems are not worth solving

As you may have already noticed, I ended each paragraph asking if the pain your startup addresses is intense and frequent, if you formulated it straightforwardly, and if you have data to support your claims.

Answer these questions as honestly as possible and if the answers satisfy you, go ahead with your venture. You’re ready.

But, if you are hesitant, if you feel that the problem is not that serious, stop and think again. Figure out if your startup meets all requirements for becoming successful. Otherwise, you may risk spending the next years of your life and all your savings on something that is not worth it. Because some problems are simply not worth solving.

This article was first published on the Early Game Ventures Blog, along with countless other founder resources that will get you closer to your investment goals. Head over to our blog to find out more.

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Blogging about Startups and Venture Capital

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Cristian Munteanu

Cristian Munteanu

Blogging about Startups and Venture Capital

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