Mike Lingle at Rocket Pro Forma
A Walkthrough of My Startup Pitch Deck to Solve Traffic
Updated: Nov 10, 2022
I’m launching a startup to solve traffic. It’s called rShare (get it?), and it’s a mobile app that rewards people for not driving alone:
In real life, the first version of the game encourages people to share rides or take public transit—where more passengers in a vehicle earns more rewards.
In the game, the points you earn can either be used to improve your experience, or withdrawn to your bank account.
I’ve created a pitch deck, and thought you might want to see it. I’ll walk you through my pitch deck strategy, as well as each of the slides.
You can flip through my pitch deck right now if you want
I’ve created a ton of pitch decks, both for myself and for many of the founders I’ve worked with over the years. It helps that many of my own startups were presentation apps—I’ve spent my entire career crafting narratives, making slides, and working with graphic designers.
I may do another post that details my process for creating individual slides in this pitch deck. It’s helpful to see the progression from too much text to (imho) well-designed slide. Short story: I do a brain dump of every possible fact first, and then I pick out the narrative that investors want to hear.
This pitch deck is for an idea-stage startup that’s looking to raise a pre-seed round. Later-stage companies with active users need to include more metrics in their pitch decks, although the basic structure is similar.
I’ve ended up creating two different versions of my pitch deck: the first version is for emailing to people (shorter, without animations); and the second version is for presenting live (more slides, with animations). I’ll discuss why below.
Watch me present my pitch deck (with animations)
Here’s what I’ll cover in this post:
My creative process
I worked with the immensely talented Marlon Portales, an artist I know here in Miami, to design the cover page art and the car game pieces These now form the core visual identity for rShare.
I then worked with a separate graphic designer (the also immensely talented Martin Rainone) who brought all of the slides together. He’s now helping me think through the UX / UI of the rShare mobile app.
Please see my article for non-designers about pitch deck design to learn my process for making my slides look good visually: Top 5 Pitch Deck Tips for Non-Designers
My process was:
1. Wrote out a long-form description of my business plan, which became the Litepaper (which is the current website at rShare.wtf). My secret to success with creating pitch decks is that I always have to word vomit first in order to eventually get to simplicity.
2. Worked with Marlon (artist), who created the car game pieces and the cover art.
3. Drafted the pitch deck using Marlon’s art plus my own (adequate but not awesome) slide design. Here’s what that looks like (you can compare this with the finished slide 9 in my pitch deck walkthrough below)
^ The slide I created ^
vs. after Martin helped with the design:
4. Worked with Martin (designer), who ran with the design concepts and created much better slides.
5. Created my own slide layouts that took the best of Martin’s ideas but focused on:
Professional look and feel (I didn’t use the handwriting font that Martin recommended, for example)
Dialed in the color scheme throughout
6. Started running my deck past as many people as possible in order to improve it rapidly. I’m focused on the questions that people ask, where they get confused, and where they suggest changes.
One example: a friend suggesting that I move the two slides about creating a sustainable economy into the Appendix.
A related example is me using that slide in every pitch, and then moving it back into the main flow of my pitch deck ;)
Keeping slides simple
I work hard to keep text off of my slides. I’m always trying to cut down the amount of content. One trick is to use large fonts that force me to use fewer words.
People are often afraid to present without a bunch of words, but I suggest the following:
1. I know that any words written on my slides will compete with me for my audience’s attention. In fact, people will stop listening to me for exactly as long as it takes them to read any new words on the screen. I want to be the hero of my pitch, so I try to use the fewest words possible.
2. People don’t want to hear me read sentences off of the screen. I try to have just a few words for them to get the point—and then I use different / more words to tell the story while they listen.
3. My slides still need to work when I email people the slides, so I use just enough text—and especially images—for people to be able to understand the story without me.
4. I don’t really need the slides to tell me what to say, since this is my story. I also practice, practice, practice—both with and without the slides—so that I’m comfortable in any situation. I pitch without slides at least half the time.
5. Images are worth a thousand words. I’m always looking for the right images and diagrams to allow me to remove words from my slides.
6. I use animations to reveal text one sentence at a time (see point #1 above). This gives me time to explain each point without overloading my audience with a full slide worth of text.
I did learn a big lesson during the time it took me to write this article, though. I’ve been sending a link to potential investors that allows them to flip through my pitch deck. Someone finally told me that the animations were annoying people who were reading on their own. Potential investors want to move quickly to decide whether to book a meeting. So I took the animations out of the version I’m emailing out. However, I’ll keep the animations in the version I present live, for the reasons I’ve stated above.
7. I use informative slide titles, rather than simply using “Problem Slide,” “Solution Slide,” etc.
I want to point out something important about the flow of this pitch deck:
In general, I’m a builder and most of the entrepreneurs I work with are builders. We builders have a powerful urge to talk about the problem—and the product or service that we’re building to solve it.
Investors, on the other hand, want to hear about how this is going to become a profitable business. Investors therefore want to hear about team, traction, and customer acquisition. In a weird way, the problem and solution don’t matter as much to the investors.
Therefore, I’m always trying to keep the problem and solution section of my deck as short as possible. I’m always going to focus on customer acquisition, team, and traction in order to get best results from my investor pitches.
In fact, I’ve kept the entire deck as short as possible. It’s 16 slides for the main pitch, and I’ve moved everything else into the appendix.
That being said, I’ve given my pitch five times this week and I haven’t ever had time to get through all 16 slides. Does my pitch deck need to be shorter? Maybe.
I also have some extra slides in the appendix. I found myself using the last two slides a lot, so I moved one of them back into my main flow. These talk about existing Web3 play-to-earn games and how they boom and then bust. The final slide is key to our pitch because it explains our strategy to succeed past where most games stop.
My co-founder talked me into moving it to the appendix, but I’ll move it back into the main pitch if I find myself using it in most of my pitches.
It’s also possible that it belongs in the appendix when I email the pitch deck to someone, but that it belongs in the main pitch when I’m presenting in-person.
Potential investors ask me questions every time I give a pitch. Best practice is to write down all of the questions—either during or immediately after the meeting—and then look for patterns.
When I hear the same question a few times, I update the deck to answer it before it’s asked.
Pitch decks (and financial models) are living documents. I’m constantly tweaking my slides.
Sometimes these are minor edits. Other times these require more work.
For example, last week Apple changed its rules around using NFTs in apps, which required a 2-hour session with my development team and then significant updates to some of my slides.
When we raised our Series A round for a previous startup, we pitched 40 or 50 investors over 8 months. That gave us a lot of time to evolve our thinking, our metrics, and our slides.
Slide 1: Cover slide
Marlon did a great job here! I asked him to create an image of a car with two people in a city with no other traffic. I specifically wanted a man and a woman in the car, and I wanted them to be visibly enjoying the open road.
I ended up creating the temporary rShare logo. Martin and I have been experimenting with other options—including pixelated throwback video game fonts—but we haven’t found anything better…yet.
I always want a pitch deck cover slide to explain what the project is. I’ve settled on “Earn rewards. Solve traffic.” for now. This helps people understand first what’s in it for them, and second what the goal of the project is.
Some other good options for the investor-facing pitch deck would be:
“A mobile app that rewards people for solving traffic”
“A mobile app that rewards people for not driving alone”
"Profitably solve traffic"
I want to give potential investors an idea of exactly what rShare is from first glance. And I want to make them feel a burst of excitement when they look at this slide
Slide 2: TL;DR / Summary / Quick Pitch
Mission accomplished! I found a way to include the sentence “We’re building a mobile game that rewards people for not driving alone.”
I just added this slide after a few weeks of pitching. I want to give investors the overview to save everyone time:
Investors can quickly decide if they’re interested, without having to read the entire deck
I’m finding that I can’t even make it through 14 slides in my investor meetings, and this one slide is exactly what I want to talk about in our limited time together
This also lets me talk about our experienced team up front, without having to start with the team slide.
Slide 3: Traffic…
We can all agree that traffic is a problem.
I chose this full-screen image of a traffic jam because I think everyone has an immediate emotional response.
My first two slides are as much about emotion as message: the cover page is joy and freedom, while this second slide is frustration and helplessness.
Do I have your attention?
Slide 4: Traffic…Is getting worse
What’s worse than being stuck in a traffic jam today? Being stuck in an even larger traffic jam next year!
This problem is only going to get worse.
Slide 5: Opportunity: A profitable economy to solve traffic
The whole point of this startup is to create a sustainable economy that:
Drives real-world value into the wallets of everyone who contributes.
This is what elevates this project from simply being a game. It’s also what’s different about rShare vs. most Web3 projects.
I was inspired by my conversations with David Katz of Plastic Bank. He’s created a for-profit solution (ie- a sustainable economy) to stop plastic from entering oceans. Plastic Bank profitably boosts the economies of third-world countries using money from large global manufacturers, and cleans our planet in the process.
I temporarily moved this slide into the appendix, but found myself using it in most of my pitches. So I’m bringing it back into the main flow.
Slide 6: We earn subscription revenue, and…
Now we’re shifting gears to talk about revenue. I originally had this slide later in the deck, but I know that investors want to talk about revenue—and this is part of our secret sauce.
Our baseline is that we’ll earn money from subscriptions.