Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Want to raise money for your startup?
You'll need to make a great investor deck. I recommend using a Milestones Slide at the end of your startup pitch deck. Your Milestones Slide will do five important things:
Frame the conversation with investors
Remind you to ask for the money (people forget this part)
Give targets and runway
I put the Milestones Slide as the very last slide in any pitch deck. Just leave it up on the screen when you're done presenting and it will support exactly the conversation with you want to have with potential investors.
Here's a video walkthrough of the milestones slide:
Constructing the Milestones Slide
Here's a walkthrough of how to create your own Milestones Slide. The important thing is to show what you’ve already accomplished plus what you’re working on next. I find that two columns is easiest for people to understand.
Here's my secret formula:
Column One: Milestones You’ve Already Accomplished
For the first column, pick the most important items that you’ve already achieved. These typically include product, traction, and fundraising. You want to show investors that you’re a natural born hustler and that you’re already making the magic happen. Now they feel more comfortable giving you their money.
They also start to feel a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) because you're doing so well without them. FOMO is what convinces investors to actually write checks.
Here are some examples of accomplishments you might list:
Completed mock-up and pricing validation with 50 potential customers
Released minimum viable product (MVP) to first 1,000 users
Traction & Revenue:
10,000 registered users with 3,000 weekly actives
$10,000 monthly recurring revenue (MRR)
Signed first two enterprise customers
Founders invested $125k
Raised $50k from friends and family
Completed Y Combinator accelerator and received $125k
You should include anything that shows how awesome you are, but try to keep the list to five items or less so that people can understand it at a glance.
I prefer using checkmarks to indicate which items you've already completed.
Column Two: Money and Roadmap
For the second column, start with your “ask.” This is usually how much money you’re raising; whether it’s equity, convertible note, or SAFE; and how much you already have committed from investors. Your ask could be something different depending on who you’re presenting to, like a strategic partnership, etc.
This is another chance to create some FOMO, especially if you already have some investors on board for part of your round.
“Raising $250k as equity with $150k committed" sounds much better than just "Raising $250k as equity." It makes investors feel like they need to hurry to avoid missing out. Look for every chance you can to create FOMO.
One of the most common mistakes I see in startup pitch decks is forgetting the “ask.” We're at the end of your presentation and I still don’t know what you want—because you haven't asked. Always force yourself to remember to ask by putting it in writing on the last slide. Your audience will thank you.
Investors love it when you tell them how long it will take you to accomplish the items in your To Do list. The cash you're raising gives you a certain number of months of runway. For example, you might be raising $500k for 9 months of runway.
Planning is a crucial skill for you to develop when running your company—and many people find it easier to get things done when there's a big deadline looming. Check out my Rocket Pro Forma financial projection template for startups if you need to create a solid financial plan that includes your runway.
Next list the main items that you’ll accomplish with the money you’re raising. This is your promise to investors: “If you give us this money then we will hit these milestones.” So make sure you can do it.
I try to avoid listing the $ or % that you'll spend on product, salaries, and marketing here. Everyone knows you'll spend the money on product, salaries, and sales.
Instead I recommend focusing on key KPIs (key performance indicators) that play off of the accomplishments you listed in the first column.
For example, if you listed these two accomplishments in the first column:
2k weekly active users
$3k monthly recurring revenue (MRR)
Then I might list the following KPIs in the second column:
10k weekly active users
Now you're saying that you're going to use this $500k to increase both KPIs by five times within 9 months. Investors can see what they're buying with their money and make an informed decision.
Examples of Effective Milestones Slides
Here's a video where I walk through a few examples of how other startups have ended their pitch decks. Some are effective, but some aren't.
This Milestones Slide from Buffer captured the spirit of what I'm talking about, but I find it confusing. Two columns is easier to understand, and I prefer checkmarks to indicate which items the company has already completed.
This Buffer slide took me too long to understand simply because of the way it's formatted. Using green to indicate future events doesn't make sense, for example.
Starting the conversation
You’ve just delivered the best pitch of your life. You get to your Milestones Slide, the investor looks at both columns and quickly understands where you’re coming from, where you’re going, and what you need to get there.
She immediately starts asking questions. This is what you want!
Putting this milestones slide last in your pitch deck usually starts a conversation focused on whatever’s most important to you. Just leave your Milestones Slide up there. Resist the urge to jump to a "Thank You" slide.
Also remember to adjust your deck based on investor feedback. Your goal is to answer investor's questions before they ask them. You’ll get better and better at pitching over time.
Let's review what we've accomplished with our Milestones Slide
1. Frame the conversation with investors
The whole point of presenting our pitch deck is to ask investors for money. In order for them to write a check, they're going to want to have a conversation. Your Milestones Slide sets up that conversation perfectly: "Here's all the great stuff I've been able to accomplish without your money, here's how much I'm asking you for, here's what it will buy us, and here's how long it will take."
2. Instill confidence
Investors want to put their money behind the best entrepreneurs they can find. How do you stand out as one of those? First, show that you have a great plan. Second, show that you're always pushing forward no matter what—even without the money. As a bonus third, prove that you have customers and working business model. Your Milestones Slide communicates all of this to potential investors.
3. Remember to ask for the money (people forget this part)
I can't tell you how many startup pitch deck I've seen that don't say anywhere how much money they're raising. Writing it down forces you to remember and it keeps you from chickening out and changing the number (which is the same reason I recommend writing down your pricing in your startup's sales presentations).
4. Give targets and runway
Remember that investors love entrepreneurs with a plan. Here you're telling them that you're already figured out what you'll accomplish and how many months of runway this money will give you. Remember to focus on a few key metrics for product, traction, revenue, and fundraising. Those are the things the investors truly care about (they already know that you'll spend the money on product, sales and marketing, and salaries.
5. Create FOMO
Fear of missing out it what actually convinces investors to write checks. Do you know why Peter Thiel was the first investor in Facebook? Because they had so many users that they needed the money to buy more servers. This told Thiel how popular Facebook was, and he realized he would miss out if he didn't write that check.
Now Go Raise Money
You can grab my milestones slide template here:
Plan for multiple conversations with people before they actually invest (unless you're Facebook and you just need to more server space to handle all the demand).
For best results, tell people about all the new progress you've made since the last time you spoke to them. Investors want to see momentum in order to feel comfortable putting money into your company. It's part of the way they decide who to invest in.
So make sure you’re always moving the ball down the field.
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!
I'm Mike Lingle, a serial entrepreneur, mentor, and executive in residence at Babson College. I'm obsessed with helping founders grow their businesses. Check out my Rocket Pro Forma if you want to quickly create your financial projections.