Six Slides

The CEO of one of our portfolio companies is working on a fundraising deck and asked me for some tips. I gave him my favorite, "keep it to six slides." He ended up with thirteen which I see as a moral victory.

The founder and CEO of another of our portfolio companies is wrapping up a large round and he showed me his pitch deck. Guess what? Six slides. I had nothing to do with his deck. But it was a work of art.

Like many things in life, less is more in fundraising slides. You can explain your business in mind numbing detail or you can inspire an investor and let them imagine. Guess what works better?

If you succeed in inspiring an investor, there will always be an opportunity to do a deep dive in a follow up meeting. If you must, you can put your other fifty slides in the appendix. 

I learned this lesson when Brad and I starting raising USV 2004 in the fall of 2003. We retained an advisor to help us raise the fund and they told us to keep our deck to "six slides." I was aghast. How could Brad and I possibly take all that we had done and learned in almost 20 years in the venture business and put it into six slides? 

But the advisor won that argument. Two things happened. We learned to simplify our story and we learned how to create six killer slides. And killer slides are not slides with a dozen bullets each. They are six powerful points that combine to tell the meat of the story.

So when you sit down and build your pitch deck, think of six slides that will inspire and leave something for the imagination. The best part of six slides is that you will get through them in time to have a real substantive conversation face to face about your business. Imagine that.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. David NoΓ«l

    Great advice.Focusing on an inspiring story is key. Added this to my review and series of tips after mentoring at Seedcamp Berlin:

  2. johnmccarthy

    I have always thought that calling it Fundraising was a misnomer that can take the focus of what really must happen. You are Selling, selling your vision, selling yourself. Getting the story to 6 slides focuses the team/entrepreneur to actually come to grips with the vision and a clear understanding of the vision they are selling.

    1. RichardF

      Seven all the way – a very potent number πŸ™‚

    2. Aviah Laor

      Poor guy. Trying to find wisdom in the middle east πŸ™‚

  3. LizScott

    Oh, THANK YOU. There’s nothing I like less than the 30+ ppt slide deck in an intro meeting

  4. Steve Thommes

    The six slides: less is more.My wife has this little thing she does when she’s about to go out. You see, she likes to accessorize. So, thank goodness, she’s adopted a rule of thumb: one last look in the mirror, then remove one, just one more thing…Works with investor slides (works with bullet points in emails to VCs as well). So, which six slides? At Google, I’d get all sorts of over-the-transom stuff and here’s what I’d want to see:(1) Who are you? – If I like #3 then this is relatively less important(2) What’s the market? – Is there an ecosystem, is it big/growing, does it feel like there’s value to capture. I don’t really think using pain point, vitamin vs. aspirin vs. chemo metaphor. I’m simpler: the world is broken, this is a better way and here’s how the world should/will be(3) What’s your product? – Please let me play with it(4) Traction? – Are other people, maybe even a lot of them, playing with it and liking it too?(5) Philosophy? While I focus on #3 ’cause that’s the first lense and a good filter, this is usually the x-factor for me. How interesting, how different-thinking (today executionally and tomorrow aspirationally) and potentially how behavior- ecosystem- or world-changing is this?(6) …Hmmm, I’m starting to agree with my wife’s strategy.

    1. Tereza

      I think your wife got that Coco Chanel, who revolutionized women’s apparel.

    2. Andy Smith

      Your wife’s idea of “less is more” loops continuously in my head.Originating from Chanel or Monroe, for me, it’s immortalized by parody in the film L.A. Story when Marilu Henner’s character, Trudi (also an advisor) is getting dressed:”One of the first things I always teach my clients is about the point system. You should never have more than seven things on. You know, like your earrings count for two points, those daisies count for three points.But the best thing to do is, right before you go out, look in the mirror and turn around real fast, and the first thing that catches your eye, get rid of it. I mean, I had this thing in my hair before I left, remember? And I pulled it right out, ’cause as soon as I turned, gone! Marilyn Monroe did that.”I’m not sure I’d advise an entrepreneur to take off the first thing that catches their eye though!

  5. Pete

    Fred, could you share those 6 slides you used for USV 2004 or is that too confidential ?I’d like to see a good 6 slides-deck as an example if possible.

    1. Louis Berlan

      I agree, that’d be awesome!

    2. Mark Essel

      Can you search slideshare based on length and popularity?Popularity is far from a relevance or effectiveness measure but it migh be a good start

    3. Dave Pinsen

      It would be interesting to know too who the adviser was who recommended you use six slides.

        1. fredwilson

          I can remember that conversation like it was yesterday DaynaYou were right as usual

        2. Dave Pinsen

          Nice work, Dayna.

    4. fredwilson

      we are discussing it internallyif we decide to do it, we will post them on the USV blog

      1. paramendra

        Let’s see it!

      2. morningdew

        Please…please …please

  6. LIAD

    Dennis Roth – If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind, give it more thought. Blaise Pascal (1657) – Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte. – Literally = I would have written a shorter letter but didn’t have the timeLeonardo da Vinci – simplicity is the ultimate sophisticationspent the majority of the past few days working on an investor deck. distilling your idea to its core, culling the chaff and finding the raw essence is super hard work – but hugely valuable.I read a post which said prepare a deck as if you only had 1 slide. Once you’ve got the nexus down pat extrapolate it.

    1. reece

      In that line of thinking…”Simplify, simplify.” – Thoreau”One ‘simplify’ would have sufficed.” – Emerson

      1. fredwilson

        Reece, you crack me up. That is great!

        1. reece

          I’m a big fan of the simplify/less is more ethos, so that exchange has always stuck with me.

    2. paramendra

      Okay, so it was Pascal? πŸ™‚

  7. Michael Carniol

    I can’t imagine six slides being sufficient. Would you consider posting them? Thank you, Michael

    1. fredwilson

      we are thinking about it

      1. LIAD

        Would be super-interesting if you decide to release the original deck or even a sterilised versionAm I close?1 – Team & Pedigree2 – Past Successes3 & 4 – Investment thesis5 – The deal and expected returns6 – Cute lol-cat

  8. Michael Carniol

    Would you consider posting your six slides?

  9. maverickny

    Love this advice!Recently, while at a conference someone I met wanted to know what we did consulting wise so I agreed to meet him at his booth. It was a frantically busy meeting and I had a new laptop with me but no slides (forgot to sync them in the hurry to get on the road).In retrospect, this did me a huge favour. At midnight, I sat down, contemplated, then quickly condensed our ethos and some examples together on paper, planning to chart them in the morning. It never happened. Guess what, I took him through the 6 hand drawn slightly tatty paper notes with curling edges based on doodles on graph paper. Sort of Prezi-like rather than bullet points. He loved the impromptu style and now a new client emerges!Must. Do. More. Often.

    1. paramendra

      I bet your doodles made great emotional impact. Felt original. Great story.

  10. Jan Schultink

    Well-said.They are different:A) 6 killer slides for the pitchB) 50 pages in the ongoing business plan deckBut: you need B) to get to A), not the material/graphics, but the content in them

    1. Tereza

      Doesn’t that depend on your stage of business, though?Using the example of a typical consumer-based co that is pre-launch and may be pitching USV or other very early stage investors, you really need to get the product out, iterate it and grow your user base. You’ll have wanted to do substantial market sizing and whatever you need to do to understand your target customers needs. It’s always good to run a model because it’s an end-to end view. You’ll iterate it as you go and the discussions in it inform the operating plan (which is much of the detail in the 50-p deck).I’m a former consultant myself so have written many plans. They have tremendous value but production of a large document is time not spent on product. However I am confident when needed I can do it fast based on experience and because pretty much everyday I know where various decisions/analyses/plans fit in “the big document”. The standard Table of Contents is branded in my headRight now I’m working on go-to-market and other specific pieces that are most operationally critical to me in the near-term but not knitting it all together until later. I’ll wait for that until the first that occurs: (1) operationally we need it, or (2) we’re trying to raise bigger bucks.There are only so many hours in the day.

      1. Jan Schultink

        I do not disagreeThe production quality of the 50-page deck can be lot lower. It contains “all the stuff” you need to plan the next few months ahead.

    2. paramendra

      True. You need B to get A. A lot of people who dislike the six slides idea think six slides are supposed to be the ceiling of your knowledge.

  11. reece

    Like other commenters, I’m definitely interested in what your recommended six slides are.

    1. reece

      Also, your thoughts on animations.Essentially, any animation makes it a new slide, but sometimes they really help you tell a story in sequence.

      1. fredwilson

        i would only use animations if you are really talented at making them

        1. paramendra


        2. reece

          Keynote makes it very easy to create simple animations that help tell astory in sequence.That being said, our deck doesn’t have any.

  12. jaycowan

    I’m with Pete!

  13. Adrian Scott

    Love this approach.

  14. Mark Essel

    Once I get my six, I’ll leave them on a public URL so they can be dynamically updated and available.Ideally I’ll be the master of the white board speech.

    1. paramendra

      Create the slide in Google Presentation. Embed in a blog post. And serve over email. Make sure your blog has Disqus integration. Ha!

  15. andyswan

    1. Imagine a world where….2. Here’s how we get there…3. Known obstacles to overcome4 The pot of gold5 Why our team is awesome6 Routing number for investment

    1. Tereza

      Nice, Andy!I’m hearing Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow in the background.

    2. Marius Corici

      indeed nice. good one πŸ™‚

    3. fredwilson

      i love the idea of ending it with a routing numberi’ve never seen a deck that ended with thati’d like to

      1. Guest

        ha! routing number as in here is where you depositing the money to?if thats what that means… I love it!

      2. Steve Thommes

        i’d like to see a link – but maybe that’s too much of a level-set (the math term) regarding the differencing value-add of each participant.

    4. ChrisM

      I assume we are talking about a live pitch situation here, not a summary that you are sending to get the live pitch???

      1. joshaustin

        I would say either. I hate getting summary pitches 20 slides deep…

    5. Eric Friedman

      This would be excellent!

    6. Fred T

      Can #6 also be a paypal account? =)

  16. D. Matthew Landry

    So, how universal is acceptance of the less-is-more philosophy with VCs?

    1. fredwilson

      not as much as it should be

  17. Alan Patrick

    Agree – if you can’t condense the governing thought and the 2-4 killer arguments in 6 slides then you probably should not be running a busines

  18. Pete

    Additional comment: my view is that; to get to the final six slides, you’ll probably need to have produced 50 at some point. It’s very hard to get to the 6 slides straight away, if impossible.

    1. paramendra

      You nailed it. That’s the idea. Start with however many slides you need to say what you need to say. That is draft 1. Now bring it down to six. Might take a few tries. But the idea is not to save your time, but that of your audience. The idea is to make you think. Do you know what you really want to say? If you don’t, why would you later get surprised if your audience looked puzzled?

  19. John Graham-Cumming

    Not long ago I wrote a similar blog post called “Imagine there’s no PowerPoint”:

  20. JLM

    Six slides? Great advice! Fabulous!In every pitch there will be ONE slide which captures the essence of the transaction. It will be THE unique selling point and the one that gets the intended audience to say — hmmm, I’d like to learn more about this.The important is to identify the REAL goal — to get the intended audience to say — hmmm, I’d like to learn more about this.In the 7-touch world we live in, we often make the mistake of trying to go from intro to blood brother in a single meeting when, in fact, the real objective is to just get to the next touch. It is very difficult to restrain ourselves but we all must recognize that our pitch is not the only thing that our audience will be doing that day.This is advice from a guy who used to make 100-slide presentations about 20 years ago who learned this lesson by observing that the intended audience only focused on a single slide when all was said and done.Just get to the next damn touch.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I know of this but still find it difficult.I hope it doesn’t take me 20 years to perfect..

    2. muratcannoyan

      Great point about getting to the next touch. The more concentrated the presentation the better, especially in an investor pitch.

  21. Rex Hammock

    Let me ask the obvious: Why don’t you suggest NO slides? If less is more in fundraising, isn’t the ability to tell your story without a PPT everything?

    1. Fred T

      More like a demo if possible.

    2. fredwilson

      if this post was about pitching to me, i would advise that and i think i have in the pastbut this was based on watching two of our companies raise money from others

  22. Marius Corici

    I think more than 86%(including me) of your readers would love to see a Six Slides presentation

  23. Hank Williams

    its funny. I was recently reading a compendium of opinions on how to do a deck. Guy Kawasaki promotes something similar to what you say. Brad Feld promotes like fifteen slides with every conceivable answer to every conceivable question answered in bullet form. ( am in your camp on this, but I find it interesting how divergent perspectives can be.

    1. fredwilson

      I feel bad for entrepreneurs. All this diverging advice makes it hard to know what to do. I don’t think you want one deck for brad, another for guy, and a third for me

      1. Aviah Laor

        Don’t be. This way you can always find an advice that supports what you wanted to do in the first place πŸ™‚

      2. Mahmoud Hashim

        At the end of the day, whats most important isn’t tailoring the deck to fit each individual VC’s taste as much as finding your own sweet spot and letting yourself shine through it.I’m sure you’d rather see someone do something different and unique that truly reflects their personality than someone that nails every bullet point that you were looking for. We as entrepreneurs could sometimes lose our own voice in pursuit of pleasing an investor.

      3. paramendra

        Between 15, 10 and 6, I say go for six.It is like some famous writer saying, I did not have the time to write you a short letter, so I am writing you a long one.

        1. John Sharp

          “I did not have the time to write you a short letter, so I am writing you a long one.”Great line! I looked it up – at first it appeared to be from Samuel Johnson, who also said, among other things “A man who uses a great many words to express his meaning is like a bad marksman who, instead of aiming a single stone at an object, takes up a handful and throws in hopes he may hit.” (rather relevant to this discussion, I thought)In actuality, it was Blaise Pascal, who in 1657 wrote (in French) “I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.”

          1. Tereza

            Mark Twain said it too.

          2. paramendra

            An European commenter revealed the name as well. But thanks.

      4. Tereza

        That’s a very kind sentiment and I know you mean it…but you know what? A serious entrepreneur should be used to getting totally divergent opinions from intelligent people in many many things. Product focus, key hires, go-to-market. So 6 vs 10 slides is nice somewhat trivial. S/he has to make the best choice based on the best info at the moment, and then own that decision. And then later if it’s not working, pivot. Save your tailoring to Biz Devt when you really might need a different message in each meeting.No one ever required the presenter to go through every single slide in the meeting, either. Read the situation, and respond. If you know your business cold then you can do this.These 6-8-10-12 slide reco’s are individual VC preferences. 100 is bad.I cannot imagine that a VC worth his salt would ding me based on 8 slides vs 6. The ding is for one or several of a million possible reasons but slide count at that magnitude would be silly.On the other hand, 6 is a great goal. Why not give it a whirl?

      5. bmconry

        What about 6 core slides and a ton of back-up slides to answer every conceivable question?

  24. George Howard

    Great advice. Not dissimilar to Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule re presentations:1. 10 slides (problem, solution, team, underlying magic, etc.)2. 20 minutes in length3. min 30 point type size on the slides…

  25. Matt A. Myers

    is it too late to present 6 slides once you’ve already presented something larger? i’m guessing you already filled the person’s head with preconceptions so doesn’t allow their imagination to play as much

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t think you can take them back

      1. Matt A. Myers

        crappyi guess you can try to refocus onto general overview, if that chance is given

  26. Virgilio Costa

    Six slides and small speeches! If one can’t say it in five to ten minutes, then it’s not feasible. Great Post, thanks!

  27. Bora Celik

    I just don’t understand why number of slides matter. 6, 10, 13… I personally prefer a lot of slides. Maybe even 100, as long as they don’t have any bullet points on them, no cheesy clip art, bad fonts, intricate graphs, table views to present confusing numbers and not a lot of words. I like impactful slides with powerful imagery and very few words. In my presentations I go through slides every 10 seconds. So if I have 10 minutes, that’s 50-60 slides. Maybe I would like to tell a story to make a point and every slide is a milestone in that story. I feel like if you have only 5-10 slides, you would have to cram a lot of information on the slides in order to make your point. After reading Presentation Zen and Slide-ology, I am convinced that impactful presentation design that stays true to universal design principles, story telling and minimalism is much more important than slide count. imho…

    1. Fred T

      I thought 10 slides was all there is to it. I stand corrected.Matter of fact, I was also told that you might as well present the demo if you already have the product. Slide presentation could be analogous to classroom lecture. If you were the student and have been seeing the same lecture format for years you would definitely sense a “second-nature” experience. Why? Because your brain has been acclimatized to the same form of presentation almost everyday for the past several years. Worse if it were a one-way discussion. But if the professor had an interesting demonstration of the concept h/she is trying to convey, then that unorthodox form of presentation might stimulate or re-wire your brain to absorb the information and get more involved in the learning experience.Fred W is right, engaging the audience to imagine more is definitely more compelling that laying out all the cards in the table. It’s human nature for us to get excited with imminent possibilities.

      1. fredwilson

        you don’t even need a deck for me if you can demo your service live on the internet

        1. Fred T

          With you there, Fred.

    2. fredwilson

      if you are going through a slide every 10 seconds, then you are rightbut at some level, the approach you take is like watching a moviecan you get lively discussion going during your pitches and still get through them?

    3. muratcannoyan

      Pace has a lot to do with a successful presentation but I feel like the more time you spend addressing specific questions the better. No matter how perfect your presentation is there will always be things the audience needs to understand better.

    4. Lou

      Bora is right, slides don’t talk people talk. the length of a presentation has nothing to do with the number of slides. There is nothing worse than a slide that covers the page with type trying to jam in information. Lou

  28. ErikSchwartz

    I’ve been working on lean decks for presentations. It’s a work in progress.I like to use slides to evoke an emotional reaction rather than convey the information. They’re illustrations to the story I am telling. The narrative of the story is not contained in the slides. The slides alone won’t allow you to know what I am working on. But by looking at the slides (they’re mostly pictures) one follows the emotional trajectory I want the pitch to follow.Then I have a ton of more traditional slides in an appendix for questions.

    1. Fred T

      One reason why we converted our video demos from technical, step-by-step screenshots; to simple yet engaging cartoon animations.

    2. ErikSchwartz

      Probably my ideal would be something like this.A single slide with an image that encapsulates the the pain behind the problem I want to solve.A demo.A white board for discussion.

  29. Aviah Laor

    Great post. To me the most important thing here is not the number of slides but “let them imagine”. This could well be the post title.I had a friend who looked for the “click” on the other side, where what you say suddenly fits to the other person point of view and he/she takes it from there. And you can’t get there by shoving 100 slides. It’s the poetry idea, again.

    1. fredwilson

      it is poetrygreat analogy

  30. thewalrus

    nice an entrepreneur…..i have become very wary of people who’s most important first step is to ask for slides. the smartest folks want to play with the proto/service and discuss (or say, come back when you have one). and when it comes time for slideware, the smartest folks want less slides.i think (internet & sw) entrepreneurs should be very wary of those who are immediately hungry for extensive slides, business plans, etc. use it as a warning signal. not that they aren’t important, but it shouldn’t come first.

    1. fredwilson

      very truei am happy to take a meeting with no slides, just a demobut not everyone is

  31. mattb2518

    How about zero slides?

    1. fredwilson

      that works tooour board meetings are a case in point Matt!

    2. Dayna Gant

      Hi Matt,Midway through fund raising with Fred and Brad, they didn’t even open the deck.Dayna

  32. Rex

    Can someone post a link to a well done six to ten slide presentation?

  33. chrisduncan

    As an entrepreneur you are supposed to know everything you can about your business and have probably been studying it for months. The investor doesn’t need to be shown that in large slide deck.

  34. Michael Laine

    I have been working on the “Space Elevator” project for years. Mine is a complex program, and I’m not pitching investors, but educating/enrolling folks into the idea and vision. I have a lot of slides, and have interactive youtube and flickr images incorporated. My presentation typically is 1-1.5 hours and the audience is usually enthralled…That said, I freely encourage questions throughout my talk – even saying that “my slides are not near as interesting as your questions…” This engages them and transforms them from an ‘audience’ to a ‘community’. That is an essential transformation.So this this other stuff is preamble, my comment about your post is this – have a killer screensaver that runs (quickly) in the background, while you are talking and answering questions. One that sparks the imagination, inspires and creates a vision of what is possible. That will hook them, more than any slide deck you can create.Take care. mjl

    1. paramendra

      At 1.5 hours, if your audience is enthralled, it is possible they are being polite, or you are “seeing” things.

      1. Michael Laine

        Paramendra -If you type “Space Elevator” into Bing, you will get 18,300,000 results. (…It is a safe bet that SOME people are VERY interested in my project. That you are not one of them, is perfectly fine. You may not be part of the very small demographic that find what I do “enthralling”. And really, that is alright. Heck, you might be in the much larger demographic that thinks what I do is borderline crazy. And that is alright too. I’ve been working on this for 9 years, and I know that some people will never, ever, be convinced…And yet, when I give a presentation on the project, my audience is in fact, enthralled.My Q & A sessions have been known to go on for 2-3 hours… And the full audience in participating. Sure, I lose some along the way, but the majority stick. Actually, it’s pretty fun!I’m sorry that you don’t believe me.Besides, the point of my original comment was not whether or not my audience/community was enthralled. The point was that having a screensaver running in the background is helpful. Period. That’s all I was trying to say. I felt the preamble was worthwhile. If that confused the point, or lessened my credibility, then please forgive me. I was trying to post some useful information from hundreds of experiences I’ve had.And who knows – maybe I’ve used some sort of hypnotic/mind controlling screensaver to ‘enthrall’ my audience/victims….Have a nice day. Michael

        1. paramendra

          Mike, sorry, I meant no disrespect. You are obviously passionate about what you do. An ethnic group I belong to in Nepal is hosting a picnic in New Jersey tomorrow that is supposed to be 7 AM to 4 PM. I am skipping. I don’t know what space elevators are. But not knowing about a topic, I would say a 1.5 hour presentation is on the long side. That is all. But I can see some topics and some audiences going on for longer.

  35. Tom B.

    6-slides today; 1-slide in 2-years, let’s simplify, simplify, simplify — because we are incapable of sustained thought and evaluation of any level of complexity.All I see here is (a) use your Powerpoint elements like a :01 minute video/ad. Get some emotional hook, an illusion of story and depth, but, end of the day, it’s just to attract attention; therefore, (b) do not use Powerpoint to convey anything that requires your audience to understand and evaluate any detail level, nuances or gray zones (all of which exist, but, 6 slides will gloss over).Just as television news only works if it’s entertaining, pitches to VCs only work if they are entertaining. We live in the Days of Entertainment engagement; and, now every Entrepreneur needs to be an entertainer (with an entertaining Deck in hand)? This is sad.One reason the rest of the World will create new businesses and products that have some substance, value and perhaps improve Life As We Know It, is because you can actually engage in layered discussions and presentations with Banks, VCs and partner companies who WANT to grasp details.Of course, if the Olde USA is only going to crank out more Twitters, Farmvilles and 4Squares, yup, let’s keep that Deck to 6 slides only (really, get it down to 1, please). Vacant amusement may be a good investment…but, if you’re doing something of substance, don’t get involved with VCs who limit their prospective interests to only those who amuse them.We are becoming a bunch of illiterate entertainers. It’s sad.

    1. fredwilson

      you seem to be angry and i think you may be misdirecting your anger at me and our investmentstwitter is not “vacant amusement”nor is foursquarethey are both important pieces of internet infrastructureand we do want details about the investments we makeif you talk to any of the people who run our portfolio companies, you’ll find that i am a stickler for details and remember the tiniest of them for yearsbut in the first meeting, details are not what you want to conveyyou want to walk the investor up the mountain and get them hooked

      1. ShanaC

        I still have questions how you would do that with a database company or some other part of the basic parts of the stack that need to be changed per say. Many moons ago you said that there would be no need for databases to be changed. That turned out not to be true.How do you walk someone through such large technical changes to the landscape (i mean looking back it’s obvious, six years ago, it might not have been)

    2. paramendra

      You are missing out on Twitter, Zynga and FourSquare, all of which are paradigm shift companies. And, by extension, you are missing the point on Six Slides. Could be the name of a company, if you think about it. Who wants to start a consulting company with me that will help people boil down their presentations to six slides?

    3. Scott Barnett

      Not so Tom – this is a fairly broad generalization to a specific idea. And it goes well beyond pitching a VC – this blog post could be for any type of pitch. The fact of the matter is that people want to be emotionally connected to the people/idea they are dealing with. When you’re slicing through your 25 page deck of everything that is important to YOU, are you really thinking about what’s important to the person on the other side of the table? If you aren’t, then you won’t get what you want, no matter how smart/brilliant/world changing YOU think it is.I do not take from Fred’s comments that your VC pitch should be 6 slides – that is an arbitrary number. Your VC pitch (or whatever pitch you are making) should resonate with the person on the other side of the table. If you can do it in one slide (or none!) then good for you. If you can’t, go with the 25 page deck. If you’re doing all the talking and not getting the results you are looking for, I’d suggest coming back to this blog post and read it again, eyes (and ears) open.

  36. William Mougayar

    Great advice. Actually, there’s typically this ONE slide that nails it, and creates the “Aha” moment which equates to “SOLD”. I would argue that ONE slide might be enough, but it has to be truly original in all aspects. The other 5 are gravy/supporting to it.

  37. Korf

    Check the mint pitch deck on slideshare for a solid example of keeping the slides to a minimum. Another nice on by these the TinyPayMe fellas:

  38. deepeshbanerji

    completely agree. not only in raising money conversations but also internal conversations about why to do x or y project.i love ending it with opportunity = A and investment needed = B

  39. Daniel Andreş

    Wow. 6. I was counting always on making audience curios, but the mystery was enveloped each time in the very next slide(s).

  40. Right Insurance

    What do you think of Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule? 10 slides max. 6 seems hard…

    1. fredwilson

      well we raised $125mm in 2004 with six slidesand one of our companies just raised tens of millions on six slidesso it can’t be that hard

      1. Tereza

        Hey Fred I’d be as if not more interested in ‘sales funnel’ dynamics even more than # of slides.If you pick the right people to be meeting with and they’re pre- qualified and predisposed to hearing what you’re about, then you’ve created the necessary environment to plant the seed. And whether it’s 6- or 12- is fun to discuss but less important than are you having a real conversation and is the investor leading the questions in order to get his arms around it and “get it”.Frankly I don’t even know why I’m even commenting bc it’s my first time doing this on my own behalf. But just reflecting on a few presentations, I’d observe that if I’d guess walking into a meeting whether it will convert versus whether it does, I surprise myself at how often that gut feeling is correct (and not in a self-fulfilling prophecy way).No one invests in a first time meeting, do they? At least, it’s rare.And if you’re going to talk to 10 people who are warm intros or existing relationships, that’s way easier than 100 meetings with people you’ve cold-called.

  41. paramendra

    “The best part of six slides is that you will get through them in time to have a real substantive conversation face to face about your business. Imagine that.”I have never been a big fan of PowerPoint presentations. Just between you and me πŸ˜‰ I think PowerPoints are dumb. I think I have done less than five so far. I think you can say so much more in one blog post and in less time (to your readers) than you can in even six slides. But if the six slides were to lead to an actual conversation, then I am cool with that. Then we are talking, pun intended.

  42. shawnkolodny

    Boiling my deck down as we speak,Love routing number, stealing that one! Thanks andyswan

  43. Venkat

    This could definitely use an example or two. I like minimalism a lot, but see too many people ending up with style over substance using the Lessig method, Pecha Kucha or other mind-candy presentations that leave me unsatisfied and deeply suspicious that I’ve been subjected to a smoke and mirrors act.Very timely though. I am working on a pitch deck right now. I like the comments by those who distinguish between the 50-slide ‘ongoing business plan’ deck and the 6-slide high-concept deck that gets a new person from “ignorant” to “curious” in a minute.I am going to challenge myself to produce both versions.

  44. ShanaC

    The question: how do you know when you get to your apex slide, the one that really explains your concept and causes aha moments?

  45. Big Star Content

    Ah, yes! Being succinct in a meeting, the best strategy imaginable for a pitch. Great post!http://www.bigstarcontent.c

  46. Mitchmitchell24

    Six seems to be the magic number but you need to be able to talk to each slide and paint a vivid image in the investor’s mind for it to have its best impact.Josh MitchellWickid Pissa Publicityhttp://www.wickidpissapubli…

  47. cjkaminski

    A wise advisor of mine said the most important goal of your business plan is to think through all aspects of running the business. Like any good plan, it will be rendered obsolete once set into motion. It’s worth building the plan before the deck. It’s worth building a big deck before building a small deck.Even though I am very fond of my “full figured” deck, I’m going to build a six slide version for the learning experience.

  48. Antonio Tedesco

    Does the number of slides matter if you’re not telling an interesting story?1. What problem do you solve?/How big is it?2. How do you make money?3. How do you defend your position?4. How much is being raised and for what purpose?No slides, 6 slides or 10 slides. Tell a compelling story and leave them wanting more.

  49. Bruce

    Great suggestion!The contingent on this though is to know your audience. If you go up there with an inspirational piece and the panel you are pitching to want nitty gritty details then you won’t have the right materials on hand. On the other hand, if you go up there with details and they want inspiration, you’ve lost them. You’ve got to do your homework and plan for the type & style of panel you are pitching to so your message is best received.

  50. paulcub

    It is an interesting trend! You start with simple and wrong. You improve it, and are complicated and right. You mastered it and finish simple and straight. And then you have six slides. It seems to occur in all disciplines of humanr4i sdhc

  51. eoracleapps

    That’s a great piece of advise . You are awesome ( as usual).

  52. akharris

    I love the advice. I’ve worked on long decks a whole bunch of times as an analyst, and the really frustrating bit was generally the fact that, in meetings, clients rarely got best the first 5-10 slides. At that point, unforseen questions would derail the conversation in such a way that the presenter had to take things off the page, sometimes to a whiteboard, and sometimes just verbally.That, in my mind, is the key to a knockout presentation. If you know your material cold, are passionate about it, and know how to answer a question while making your point, you’ll kill it. The six slides each need to be potential launching points into the story you want to tell, not isolated graphics.Incidentally, this all reminds me of on of my favorite Arthur C. Clarke short stories, which came out of an idea from a fellow SF author to put stories on the backs of post cards as a marketing technique. I’ll paste it below, or you can find some more info on it here:'s flaming debris still filled half the sky when the question filtered up to Central from the Curiosity Generator.”Why was it necessary? Even though they were organic, they had reached Third Order Intelligence.””We had no choice: five earlier units became hopelessly infected, when they made contact.””Infected? How?”The microseconds dragged slowly by, while Central tracked down the few fading memories that had leaked past the Censor Gate, when the heavily-buffered Reconnaissance Circuits had been ordered to self-destruct.”They encountered a – problem – that could not be fully analyzed within the lifetime of the Universe. Though it involved only six operators, they became totally obsessed by it.””How is that possible?””We do not know: we must never know. But if those six operators are ever re-discovered, all rational computing will end.””How can they be recognized?””That also we do not know; only the names leaked through before the Censor Gate closed. Of course, they mean nothing.””Nevertheless, I must have them.”The Censor voltage started to rise; but it did not trigger the Gate.”Here they are: King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, Pawn.”Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, First Issue, Vol 1, No. 1, Spring 1977

  53. Rick Wingender

    Awesome post Fred!There is no one on planet Earth better at putting together PowerPoint presentations than me. That’s a fact.What’s also a fact is that my PP presentations suck because they’re always too long, and we never get through them. My problem is that I never gave my audience credit for having an imagination – never thought to whittle it down so much that they would have to imagine and fill in some blanks, or ask me for more info. This totally changes my approach to presentations going forward.Thanks!!

  54. lucidtyson

    Brilliant, very difficult, but worth the effort.

  55. Himanshu Chanda

    Liked the line “You can explain your business in mind numbing detail or you can inspire an investor and let them imagine”…..We forget numbers at the wink of our eyes and remember our imagination for days to come. Also the important point to make is that Numbers are your’s and imagination is mine…

  56. Ronnie Rendel

    Sure would love to see what these 6 slides looked like…

  57. spencer wendt

    Fred!! Where are the 6 slides? Show us the Monet!!! πŸ™‚

  58. Dayna Gant

    Hi Fred,The advice was 5 slides but you and Brad are such tough negotiators that I let you have six!Dayna

    1. fredwilson


  59. Zvi

    I was told by my friend, startup founder, that it’s better to come to the intro meeting with VC without powerpoint. “If you come with slides”, he told me, “they will send you to one of their associates, instead of getting a meeting with a partner”.But for our meeting with VC we prepared a presentation with 22 slides (including cover slide and animations). We building a really complex enterprise software product, so 9 slides (including animations and title slides) were technical in nature (describing the problem, charts and diagrams).Surprisingly, investor understood the technical part, so we skipped some of them.As usual he was asking questions not in the order of slides, so this gave us opportunity to skip some more. I think we shown maybe 15 slides out of 22.I see no point to insist on logical order of slides. If investor asks questions, it’s better to answer them right away, instead of asking him/her to write them down.Also, if you presenting to somebody you know well, you can manage without slides. But if it’s somebody you just introduced to, the slides might be less stressful solution. It’s more or less as giving a lecture to the regular audience.P.S. yeah, we didn’t get the investment …

  60. jeffyablon

    Wow. And now Seth Godin of all people weighs in with the opposite approach: TWO HUNDRED SLIDES:…I think they call that a movie. Maybe our attention spans are now so short that we need animation to get the point home, even in bad business presentations?Jeff YablonPresident & CEOAnswer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and Virtual Assistant ServicesAnswer Guy and Virtual VIP on Twitter

    1. Tereza

      I think Seth is using dramatic effect to suggest no slides.Make it a conversation, not a broadcast.

  61. Jose daVeiga

    I raised 1.2M with a 12 slide deck and a 3 page exec sum. Looking back, I don’t think anyone seriously looked at the preso or the exec sum. I did all the work outside the pitch. I busted it and invested a serious amount of time to set the stage right. 6 slides or 1000 what matters is who introed you, who you are, your track record (and their knowledge of it, or how they relate to it), the space you are in, the PR you got, the market trends, the results so far, etc. Truth is, Google founders could have come with a 6 slide deck and people would have told them to go pound sand (as they did anyway). Investors have been known to put up with 40 slides for the opportunity to invest in the company they are drooling to invest in. Less is more but only for the “ad pitch”, that is, the first pitch. They are the same as resumes are really an advertisement (not a clear depiction of the person) so are initial pitches. What’s your brand value/real-estate in an investor’s minds matters more than any 6 slides can ever convey…

  62. Javier rincon

    I believe this is a great post. 6 slides seems a little tight but doable.I have to bring an issue though. I attended a forum where 9 projects presented in this manner. Very clear arguments but very monotonous. The 10th project had about 30 slides, very exciting and fluid presentation focusing on leveraging emotions. He won the competition and got investment.So my question is, shouldn’t we focus on how to best impact the investor through emotion and hard facts instead of number of slides? I’d love your opinion

  63. CampSteve

    This really inspired me. I’m about to start putting together my deck. I’m an illustrator (day job) and my startup’s products are very design oriented. A stellar illustration or three will sum up the vision nicely. Add a couple slides for team and financials and I’m set.A picture is worth a thousand bullet points. πŸ™‚

  64. Fred T

    I agree. I was also hoping to give the decks/summary/website first, then present the demo if given the opportunity.

  65. paramendra

    PayPal button for funding? Do VCs send out money that way? Why give PayPal that 3% cut? Why not get a check instead?

  66. Javier Rincon

    Would love to see it i possible, how do I get to access it?

  67. ShanaC

    Maybe it should be you slides versus them slides (what you think could be asked versus what is presented)

  68. Tereza

    Totally agree Charlie.It bears mentioning that people get so much better with experience. And practice too. There is a direct correlation.I’ve said before that I’m often surprised at how few folks do a dry run before a presentations.Thing is, you really have to get out the kinks.World-class opera singers rehearse and try out the venue. Athletes have practice at the venue. Why would a presenting entrepreneur possibly think s/he wouldn’t benefit?(Incidentally they all have coaches, too)