Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Reading :: Get Backed

Get Backed: Craft Your Story, Build the Perfect Pitch Deck, and Launch the Venture of Your Dreams
By Evan Baehr and Evan Loomis

I wish I had had access to this 2015 book before I taught last fall's Writing for Entrepreneurs course. It's a beautifully produced book that promises to teach you how to "craft your story," "build the perfect pitch deck," and "launch the venture of your dreams." Essentially, it's about how to undertand and craft a pitch deck (Part I) in order to effectively argue for venture funding (Part II).

In Part I, the authors note that example pitch decks are in short supply since entrepreneurs are reluctant to show them; this book presents several and contextualizes them in terms of how long they took to get funded, how much funding they got, and what the sources were. But the authors also discuss the genre at length so we can understand how it fits in the overall argument and how it interacts with other genres (such as the elevator pitch).

Near the beginning of the book, the authors explain that "Pitch decks do three things: they get people to understand, they get people to care, and they get people to take action" (p.10). They say that there are two kinds of pitch decks: one for assisting presentations and one for standalone reading (p.10). Pitch decks are customizable, and in fact the authors encourage us to develop "a whole archive of slides to draw from and sequence for each meeting or presentation" (p.15)—slides that are modular but yet must consistently yield coherent arguments. Their "essential 10" slides include:

  • Overview
  • Opportunity
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Traction
  • Customer or Market
  • Competition
  • Business Model
  • Team
  • Use of Funds (p.15)
These are similar to, but not the same as, Guy Kawasaki's "Only 10 Slides You Need in a Pitch." The authors provide 1-2 pages of detail on each slide, including multiple examples from real pitch decks as well as descriptions and guidelines. 

After describing these 10 essential slides, the authors discuss how the pitch deck must tell a story. In fact, they say, there are at least three ways that you will use a story in the pitch deck:
  • a narrative arc to create coherence across slides
  • an explanation of one or more individual slides
  • a reservoir of topics for discussions and Q&A (p.39)
They suggest that you'll typically use four story types:
  • the origin story
  • the customer story
  • the industry story
  • the venture growth story (p.40)
Together, these four story types can be layered in the pitch building blocks to create a unified arc (and coherence) (p.52). 

In subsequent chapters, the authors give advice on design (Ch.4) and text (Ch.5). By the time we get to the examples of actual pitch decks (Ch.6), we have the tools to interpret and critique them.

That's Part I. In Part II, the authors discuss how to get backed, starting with a primer on startup financing (Ch.8) and an overview of the five funding sources (Ch.9). Although I was less interested in this section, I was impressed by how clearly the authors laid out the basics of financing and sources—that is, the activity and the audience in which the pitch had to be rhetorically successful.

Overall, I was impressed by the book, and I walked away with a much more thorough understanding of how the pitch deck works and what it accomplishes. The book is a good guide, coherently bringing together advice about the pitch deck that up to this point I've had to piece together from websites and other scattered pieces of information. If you're interested in a primer on the pitch deck and funding, I highly recommend it.

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