Develop a Winning Series A Pitch – Advice from a VC

Burkland's Head of Marketing Kate Adams interviewed Amanda Robson, a Principal at Cowboy Ventures, about preparing your Series A pitch.

Q: Is there anything you recommend startups to do before they begin preparing their Series A pitch?

We spend a lot of time with our seed companies on their Series A pitches. Most founders have a good sense of what needs to be in it (competitive matrix, etc.) but many miss the narrative that top investment firms are looking for.  The narrative is how your company will make it to a venture-scale outcome (most firms defining this as >$B valuation company).

The narrative is how your company will make it to a venture-scale outcome (most firms defining this as >$B valuation company).

Lean on your seed investors when preparing the pitch. It’s great to do a brainstorming session before you start working on the slides to nail the narrative.

Q: So it sounds like it is really important to build the pitch deck narrative?

Yes, you have to include a compelling narrative around what the future world looks like and how you fit into it. At seed, we often invest behind a thesis on market size and pain points that there are signs of today but the market size is still unproven. This should be clearly framed in the pitch - what processes are people going about today that will be replaced with technology in the future? What software will become obsolete?

We also see founders make the mistake of assuming Series A investors know more about their business than they do. Keep the messaging simple and assume investors know very little about your business when you’re putting together the pitch.

Q: What are the questions founders should ask themselves when preparing their pitch?

Summarizing some of the key things I've learned:

  1. Proof of the Billion Dollar+ opportunity: By Series A, you should have early data points that support a massive market opportunity (deal sizes, volume of deals, etc.). The picture may not be 100% clear, but there should be market feedback driving you to raise more venture capital.
  2. Clear framing of the “why now”: Seed investors are used to raw pitches. The presentation style is more conversational and we often discover the founder's perspective on "why now" through an open discussion. By Series A, this narrative needs to be clear and in the pitch.
  3. Why you’re the best team to partner with: Big opportunities attract smart people and if you’ve gotten to Series A, you'll likely have competitors. It’s not enough to list them, you need to pitch why your team’s the best one to partner with.
  4. Signs of momentum: Are customers begging for additional features? Are there too many leads for the team to handle? There should be signals that things are starting to work which is why more capital is needed.
  5. Product roadmap alignment with the long-term vision: It's tempting to put together a product roadmap slide that just lists upcoming features. A much better framing is to present how the near-term roadmap aligns with the long-term company vision.
  6. How you’re measuring success: Series A investors want to know how the success of their investment will be tracked. The north star metrics the company is driving towards, and how they align with building a massive company, should be clear.
  7. The ROI from your product: By Series A, the ROI your product provides should be clear. You should know why users are adopting and continuing to use it.

Q: Any final advice on Series A pitch decks?

After your pitch is put together, test it on someone new. Someone who understands the startup ecosystem in general but is not intimately familiar with your business. This can be an investor at your seed firm not actively involved with your company, for example. Ask them to play the narrative back to you and make sure you’re telling the story you intend. This can also help you find holes in the story.

Burkland provides expert CFO services, accounting services, and tax services to startups across the United States. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help your startup or portfolio company.