What Startups Can Learn From Famous Pitch Decks   

Every single successful organization began with an idea that was pitched to potential investors in some sort of slide presentation called “the startup pitch deck.”

A pitch deck is basically a series of PowerPoint slides that serve to communicate the overall business concept, target audience, and growth plan of a startup company. When it comes to pitch deck design, there is really no perfect format or magic formula, as each presentation is as unique as the idea being presented. There are, however, a few best practices that any entrepreneur should consider when putting together their first presentation.

We took a look at the original pitch decks of Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Here are a few tips we learned.

1. Focus more on communicating the value of your proposition than trying to “wow” your audience with the design of your presentation.

The original Facebook presentation is certainly not one of the most beautiful pitch decks you’ll ever see. It was a poorly-designed 7-page PDF filled with typos and less than stellar graphics. In fact, it was really more of a media kit to be used for selling advertising.

Just two months old, “The Facebook” – as it was known in 2004 – already had 70,000 users and over 3 million daily page views. Originally developed just for college students, co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin laid out in detail the purchasing power of their audience (over $85 billion at the time.) They also stressed the fact that the user base was growing at a rate of around 10,000 per week.

One of the biggest selling points in this original pitch deck is what Facebook is most famous for today: audience segmentation and targeted advertising opportunities.

So, while the format of the presentation left much to be desired, the facts and figures spoke for themselves. The rest, as they say, is history.

2. Use relevant examples to help potential investors understand what your product is all about.

One way to know if you’ve created the perfect pitch deck is when your audience is able to walk away from your presentation knowing exactly what your product is all about and being able to easily explain your value proposition to others.

LinkedIn nailed this concept with their original pitch deck presentation in 2002. In it, the founders provided several scenarios of past processes based on static directories (dubbed 1.0) as compared to new and improved processes based on dynamic networks (2.0). For example, online classified ads vs. eBay; traditional online banking vs. PayPal, and then traditional online job searching via Monster.com vs. the new and improved networking app LinkedIn.

By using these correlations, LinkedIn was able to highlight the trend that was currently happening in moving to network based applications by showcasing the success of other recent startups. This proved to potential investors that LinkedIn was poised to be the next “big” thing.

3. Clearly define a problem and a solution.

When creating a pitch deck, the most important thing to communicate is how your idea solves an everyday problem.

YouTube’s pitch deck creator made sure the company’s value proposition was clear and simple: To become the primary outlet of user-generated video content on the Internet, and to allow anyone to upload, share and browse this content.

In addition, the very next slide spelled out four very specific problems that were currently relevant when it comes to video:

1.   Video files are too large to email.

2.   Video files are too large to host.

3.   No standardization of video file formats.

4.   Videos exist as isolated files.

The rest of the presentation went on to describe in detail how YouTube would solve each of these problems. The result? YouTube is now the 2nd largest search engine in the world, right behind Google.


The thing that all of these successful pitch decks have in common is that they were simple and easy to understand. If you’ve been designated the pitch deck maker for your startup, just remember this: you’ve only got a few minutes to make a lasting first impression. Clearly communicate your value, utilize real-world examples, and focus on the problem your product solves.