How I Created Our Pitch Deck For Investors And Tales From Our First Startup Presentations

As you may know I’ve turned most of my business attention towards a startup called CrankyAds for the past year or so.

Our team has been busy with the beta version of our software, ironing out bugs and figuring out what are the most important features to work on.

This process of running a software startup has certainly been the biggest learning experience I have had since the days when I first started building a web business in the late 1990s. Since I am not a developer, my role has been more CEO-like, doing an incredible amount of networking, looking at what our main constraints are and how we can solve them.

One of our main challenges has been speed and the prioritization of tasks. With limited man hours to develop features we have to be very picky with what we choose to work on. To help speed things up, we concluded hiring another developer would be worthwhile.

Making this decision lead to a cascade of tasks that has ultimately had the reverse effect – it’s slowed us down. It’s not exactly a completely negative thing, as we have learned a lot in the process of figuring out how we can hire help, but it has made the last few months less productive in terms of feature development than we would like.

Money Needed

When we decided to hire a developer it opened up another obvious constraint – cash flow. None of us take a salary from CrankyAds and what money we are making so far is going right back into the business. Although we tested contracting overseas and other arrangements to find more affordable development help, we have concluded that hiring locally is what we need to do.

Unfortunately local talent in our chosen language C# is not cheap, which lead us to the obvious conclusion – we need investors or some form of cash in a grant or similar.

I wasn’t super keen to take on investors for many reasons, mostly because I like things simple, and adding another interested party would only complicate things further. That being said, I’ve seen how effective investors can be at speeding up the growth of a business, and being so interested in the startup space, I’ve been learning a lot about seed and venture funding.

We decided that we would look at our options and at least get ourselves investor ready.

Looking At Funding Options

I’ve spent many hours over the previous months looking at investment options for CrankyAds. I’ve met so many people, attended a bunch of events and studied a heap of materials about startup funding.

Brisbane, while not exactly a huge city for startups, is experiencing a mini-boom and plenty of support groups are popping up. One of the support agencies is called iLab, which is a university linked incubator program. While attending a networking event, the iLab manager told me that their previous program had shut down and a new one was opening up, which would model the american style incubators like Y-Combinator. A $20,000 grant is included.

We decided to apply for iLab since we had most of the criteria already met. In a couple of hours I filled out the form to apply and we also had to do a short video to introduce our business, which we did one afternoon (and was it ever funny! – my business partners have not done much video before so the outtakes were plenty).

Our First Ever Pitch

One Tuesday a month or so later I received an email from iLab that we had been selected from all the applicants as a finalist and would need to come into the iLab offices and do a seven minute pitch and proceeding question and answer session with a panel interview. We were excited because it would be our first ever pitch, however given only two days to prepare our presentation and practice did not give us much time.

Thankfully the criteria for the pitch was provided, so all we needed to do was sit down and fill in the blanks with some interesting slides, then decide what parts we would each present. I had already studied what to put into a “pitch deck” (your slide presentation), and iLab’s requirements were less than standard, so it was a nice entry into the world of pitching for us.

On the day of the presentation we went in confident after several practices. Upon entering the room we faced a panel of eight, most of whom I had never met before. I found myself quite nervous, which was a bit surprising as I have talked in front of much larger crowds before. I think in this case I was nervous because we were asking for something – entry into an incubator program – where all my previous presentations were teaching sessions with me as a leader.

Our presentation went well. The panel had some challenging questions, however because we have been testing a lot of different things with CrankyAds over the previous months and have fleshed out our strategy, we had plenty to talk about in terms of taking action, so could respond to most questions with an educated answer.

We found out a day later that we were accepted into iLab, which was fantastic, however we wanted to know more about the program before joining, so we scheduled an interview with the manager of the program for the following Monday.

Despite the $20,000 grant, which we could spend on whatever constraints we have in our business, and some pretty good support services, in particular access to potential investors and people who could help with some of our stumbling blocks, we declined the invitation to join the program. Our main justifications were the amount of equity they wanted to take in our business (10%) and the need to attend three week long bootcamps, which would take us away from what we really need to do – develop features.

Although we never joined iLab, the experience of pitching was fantastic, and we still have some great contacts there, so we may yet partner with them. If you are in Brisbane and looking for help with your startup, make sure you check out iLab and say hello to Leigh from me if you work with them.

Pitching Practice 2

As I write this we just completed another pitch this week, this time to a panel within the River City Labs co-oworking space in Brisbane. I recently joined the community by renting a desk, not so much because I need the office to work from, but more so because of the great contacts, resources and community of startups developing there, lead by local success story Steve Baxter, whom I recently interviewed on my podcast.

Steve served notice to all residents that we would have an opportunity to do a practice pitch in front of some successful people, including Steve himself. We jumped at the chance to not just practice our pitch, but show the leaders at River City Labs what we are working on and what our big picture vision is.

This time we needed a proper pitch, Silicon Valley style. Previously I attended a pitch event at River City Labs just as an audience member and wrote down lots of notes from the panelists about what they did or didn’t like about the pitches from other startups. I also purchased a course from Udemy about raising capital for startups. In this course was a great presentation on what to include in a pitch deck. I used all these resources to come up with what new content to add to the existing iLab presentation we already had.

Over the weekend I went to work on our new slides, and with Mick the CrankyAds lead designer, we added them to our presentation on Monday.

To give you an idea of what we focused on in our presentation, here is a checklist you can use for your own pitch deck…

What To Include In Your Investment Pitch

Here are the topics our pitch deck focused on:

  • Problem: What is the problem your company solves? This should be short, sharp and clear, presented in your first slide, followed next by…
  • Solution: What is the solution your company provides? This also needs to be very short and clear, not long winded or confusing. I’ve seen some presentations where I was like “what exactly do you do again?” – you don’t want that reaction.
  • Opportunity: How big is the market you are entering? Displaying statistics from a verifiable source here is ideal. These should be big enough numbers to get investors excited, like hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.
  • Distribution/Marketing: How are you going to get the word out and drive people to your product? What are your channels of distribution and marketing tactics and why are they the best choices for your startup?
  • Achievements So Far: What kind of results and numbers can you report so far? Amazingly enough I almost forgot to include this slide because it wasn’t in my notes anywhere. It’s the most important slide if you have any kind of traction. Talk about how many users you have, whether you have any revenue, how much traffic you have – any kind of real tangible achievement.
  • Team: Who are your founding team and what do they bring to the table? We listed our names, roles and presented a brief background of our core skills and experiences.
  • Competition: Who are you up against in the market? Listing your closest competitors and the largest players in your market is important, assuming of course you can demonstrate how you are different and how you will defend that difference from being replicated in the future.
  • Business Model: How exactly do you make money from your business, or plan to in the future?
  • Investment: How much money are you seeking and how will you spend it? Tip – break down exactly where the money will go in terms of new hires, marketing expenditure, legals, accounting, etc, and DO NOT say the money will be used for salaries for the founders – you are on your own when it comes to paying your bills until the company is self-sufficient.
  • Founders Investment: How much of your own money have you put in? Showing you have skin in the game demonstrates commitment. You can also list how many hours you have put in. It’s also smart to say you are working full time on the project, assuming you are of course, to again demonstrate your serious about your startup and it’s not just a side project.
  • Legals/IP: Are you protecting yourself legally and do you have any IP or trademarks in place or planned for the future? This can be one of your sources of protection against competition.
  • Demo: Can you show a working demo, or screen shots of one? This can be all your pitch needs if for example it’s a one-on-one coffee shop chat. In our case we showed the demo last after revealing all of the above in our slides.

Our brief for the River City Labs was for a ten minute pitch and twenty minutes of questions after. The presentation we ended up with can be done in five-to-ten minutes depending on how in-depth we go. We wanted to make sure we had time for the demo and that we could do the demo even if internet access is not working.

How Did We Go?

Unlike the iLab pitch, I found the River City Labs pitch a lot less daunting. Possibly because it was technically a “practice”, and maybe because Steve himself and a few of the other guys in the panel I know like Colin and Peter, are laid back guys. However prior to going in and having our turn at pitching, several other residents at the Labs were also doing a practice pitch, and we received some pretty wild feedback on what they experienced.

I thought we were going to get hammered on a few points, but in the end our pitch was well received and everything went smoothly. Our only major weakness is determining a valuation for our company so we can confidently say how much equity we are offering in exchange for the investment.

We received a wide range of great feedback from the entire panel, so overall it was a very beneficial experience – and a confidence building one too.

Our team went back to my place after the pitch to do our customary CrankyAds yoga session (I have to keep the developers healthy with some exercise given they spend so much time in front of computers). We all had a little trouble finding our zen after such an exciting pitch session.

So Are We Taking Investment?

So after all that, are we any closer to taking on investment? The answer is yes, we are closer, but we are going to hold off for at least two more months. What we do know now is we have a solid presentation, which we can continue to tweak and hopefully eventually use to bring on the right people to help grow our startup.

We have begun doing week-long development sprints, a technique designed to zero-in on only a few core outcomes each week so we don’t get distracted, and can move forward consistently. We want to do at least two months worth of sprints to test important features and see how our audience responds. This will help us know more about why people use CrankyAds and also help us advance the business, which will make it easier to raise investment when we do so.

I hope this article helps you come up with your own pitch deck. We’ve only just started this process ourselves and doing two pitches hardly makes me an expert. The people I studied in the Udemy course had done a MINIMUM of 200 pitches, often even more before landing the funding they were after. Clearly there is a lot more to learn, but I’m loving the process, which is what matters most right now.

Yaro Starak



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  • Thanks Yaro for telling us how your investment went with Cranky Ads.

    The story is what an investment can take and what it takes to launch a successful product.

    We all can learn including myself. I haven’t done anything large with my site Internet Dreams, but will probably do have a large thing in the future.

  • Great article. Good timing, Yaro. I’ve been looking into how startups and investors work. Although I’m not at your stage just yet, it would come handy later down the track. I’ve built a web-based app from self-funding, and hoping it would one day become successful enough to attract investors.

  • Yaro – good breakdown of the process, clearly which some Sharktankers can benefit from 🙂

    curious, how / why did you (the founding fathers) decide not to take a salary? how did you arrive at this decision?

    I have been offered several opportunities to head a start up, and most offers come with a base compensation package with equity (the real home run if the company does well). in speaking with friends who are in a similar situation, the expectation is that a base salary is mostly part of such arrangements.

    anyway, interested in your thoughts.

    • Hi Sunil,

      We don’t take a salary because all the cash we are making is going into the business. There isn’t enough for salaries yet anyway, but even if we do get to that point we will probably keep pouring it into growth until we have more than enough for growth AND salaries.

      Those companies offering you the chance to head a startup very likely have financial backers and they are using investment capital to pay you to run the business.

      Founders do not usually take a salary from seed capital (it’s frowned upon to take money from investors just to pay yourself), but once the business is beyond the seed point, then salaries are looked upon as okay, assuming of course your business is growing and bringing in some cash flow.

      • definitely prudent to reinvest right back into the growth of your business. I guess my experience is more from an established / corporate perspective where I was solicited/poached to participate in a start up (often times with a base salary and plenty of stock/equity if the company was to do well). I do see where your sentiment is coming from, and yes salary taking is frowned upon in such cases

  • Interesting post Yaro. Good to hear your experiences.

    I was curious when you mentioned “seed capital” at that last event I saw you at. Not a term used often in the IM world but as I’m getting more involved in corporate projects now, it’s a term I’m hearing more often.

    Too bad you are developing with c# otherwise I’d be happy to help out. I have a new developer I’m trialling on an app project who is right into c programming. We’ll see how they go. Might be something there.

    Interested to hear how you go with cranky ads.

    All the best,

    • Hey Mike,

      Yeah the world of IM and info publishing is different to the world of startups. The way you go about coming up with an idea and testing it in the market, raising funds, thinking about exit strategies – it’s all different.

      I see IM business more about lifestyle, where a startup is more about making a big impact.

      If you do come across any C# people we would love to hear about it!


  • Hey yaro thanks for great article. . Very interesting and learning lot from this. .

  • Well done.

    I like how you very clearly outlined your thought process, your insights, and your learnings … as well as a nice frame for a pitch deck.

    At Microsoft, as a Program Manager, I regularly have to pitch my ideas … and I learned that one of the best things to do is to put together a quick deck that helps tell and sell the story. It’s a great asset to have on hand because getting buy in for ideas takes time … so it’s nice to have a deck to bring along on your dog-and-pony show. It’s also a nice way to be able to keep refining and improving the story.

    > One of our main challenges has been speed and the prioritization of tasks
    So many things in life come down to that.

    I wrote a book about how to get exponential results by leveraging proven practices for time, energy, and effectiveness … it’s Getting Results the Agile Way (you can read the entire book free online … and I bet you will learn strategies and tactics that gain you exponential results immediately.)

    • Thanks for the tip J.D, if I get a spare spot in my reading schedule I’ll look it up!

  • Glad you’re linking pitching! I have to get on that myself, I’m currently working on a presentation to raise some capital as well. Is always good to learn different things and mostly knowing how to express yourself to proper investors.

  • Olga

    Hi Yaro! Thanks for sharing these interesting new developments, experiences, and lessons learned!

    A $20K grant in exchange for 10% equity?!?!?! You gotta be kidding. This is ridiculous. Great to hear that you turned it down.

    I honestly can’t see your problem, if you are considering an amount in the $20K range.

    I have never dealt with startups. But seriously, if you are talking/considering such small amounts as $20K, can’t you just get a loan? An equity loan based on your condominium? Or get a loan from some private party/individual – and not a bank. E.g., someone can balloon loan $20K, 50% or 100% interest, for a total $30K or $40K. It still would be so much better than 10% equity!

    Get a loan, man, doesn’t have to be from a bank! You’ve got such a stellar track record!

    • Olga, I should note that the $20K is only a part of the deal. It’s a 3 month incubator program, designed really for companies slightly less established than my own. It includes mentoring, office space, access to investors, etc, so for 10% for a brand new startup it’s not a bad deal, especially if you are not well connected already.

      At the moment we are doing a pitch that asks for $250K, so it’s a bit more and more in line with the kind of money we need for hiring people, etc.

  • Olga

    Yaro, have you considered peer-to-peer lending? 🙂 A lot of those can be arranged with reasonable rates. I understand, with loans you’ve got to pay back, but you instead want to keep putting money back into growing business. But still, something like $20K for 10% equity?!

  • Exciting times Yaro. Good to see even after all these years, you’re still hungry. I respect that man. Kudos.

  • Joe Awesome

    Next time knock back a couple of beers before the presentation!

  • Andre Ibuspro

    Hi. I’ve learned a thing or two about what you’ve shared today. Investing is quite a gamble. One needs to know how to play the game and play it smart. Nice post!

  • TheBrain

    The best part of your article: technically spitting “f you” at iLab. $20K for 10% is an insult! They’re trying to take advantage of people who work so hard… Damn bastards! Good job on turning them down. My co-founders and I raised over $10 million. I know how it feels to give up even 1%.

    Regarding your CrankyAds… Good idea but extremely small market. Not everyone owns a popular blog. Let’s say you own a blog that ranks 50K (out of millions of websites in the world in Alexa). You’re lucky to make a few bucks a month. Out of 50K websites, only maybe 10% are blogs (specifically WordPress). That means you’re targeting about 5K bloggers. Good luck with that.

    BTW, you’re an amazing writer.

    • As I wrote above in reply to Olga, that $20K is part of a 3 month incubator program, like Y-Combinator in the USA, so it is a proven model for very early stage startups, although I think the equity stake can be lower, like 5-8% in those USA programs.

      CrankyAds is in the online advertising industry, which is actually one of the largest online – Google makes most of it’s money in online advertising. The industry did $31.7 Billion last year, so it’s not a small market. That of course makes it a highly competitive one, so we do need to find our place with some innovation.

  • Olga


    (1) Looked at your Looks like it is operational already. BUT: Also looked through – no advertisement for CrankyAds?! I don’t see it anywhere. How come? Especially since CrankyAds’s services seem to be geared precisely to the type of people who read, such as bloggers looking for ways to make money through their blogs, with ads being one of the ways. Instead, has a bunch of ads of other people?

    E.g., Neil Patel’s Quick Sprout: he’s got a superb blog, which that blog is a platform to market his KISSMetrics and other services he provides. In reading his blog there is no way to miss the fact that he is offering KISSMetrics and other services.

    (2) Why not roll out another Mastermind-type of training/program or another product that you can put together quickly as a way to raise money? Granted, it will take some time. But given your track record with those, it will be relatively easy and quick for you to do that and it is fool-proof that you will make money that way. It’ll take some time, but going after investors, making presentations etc probably takes a ton of time, too.

  • Customary yoga session? Whats wrong with a customary celebratory beer session! 🙂

  • this is very interesting, i always like to know how projects start from the scratch
    this gives me more ideas on how to start a successful business
    thank you

  • […] How I Created Our Pitch Deck For Investors And Tales From Our First Startup Presentations […]

  • […] You can find the list of concepts to cover in your pitch deck in this article – How I Created Our Pitch Deck For Investors. […]

  • Jay

    Great share, Yaro. Specifically speaking, creating and presenting your pitch deck can be a challenge. Entrepreneurs we were working with a few years ago echoed your concerns, which led us to stumble upon a service to take that work off their hands.

    Would love to see what you came up with, if you’re willing to share?

    • Glad you liked it Jay. I’ll see what I can do with the slides. I should have them still and I’ve wanted to try out slideshare so this might be a good chance to do so.


      • Jay

        Great, Yaro. You can also try PitchEnvy – haven’t tried it ourselves. Please let me know if you do publish it somewhere.

  • […] In this series, Walter and Yaro will explain one slide per podcast, and you can also read about their previous pitching experiences at this link in the Entrepreneur’s Journey archive). […]

  • […] Walter and Yaro continue with their pitch deck series, using the presentation of their previous startup, CrankyAds as an example. You can find the entire presentation at Entrepreneur’s Journey How I Created Our Pitch Deck For Investors And Tales From Our First Startup Presentations. […]

  • Tom

    Great article, Yaro! I have a question though: how much emphasis would you place on the design of a pitch-deck? I read an article recently ( that quoted LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman as saying that his original pitch deck had ‘many stylistic errors — and a few substantive ones, too ‘, however they clearly still got funded and became a unicorn. Obviously a lot of things play into this: what sort of traction you are seeing, how disruptive your idea is, how good is your tech, do you have a passionate founding team, etc, so my questions is really, how important is the design of the pitch deck?

    • I think it depends on the context of who you are pitching to and what you are pitching. If design matters to your company as a business, your pitch deck is a good place to demonstrate this.

      If however you are pitching to people who only care about the numbers, then the design might just get in the way of giving them the facts.

      I think simple and clear is the way to go.


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