Your fundraising pitch deck needs appendices. Here’s why

From the sample pitch decks in my pitch deck teardown series, you’d conclude that appendices in pitch decks are rare. That would be inaccurate; I’d estimate that more than 70% of decks used actively in pitching startups to investors include one or more appendices. Moreover, whenever I coach clients on building their pitch decks, we end up with an appendices section almost every time.

So today, let’s break down why you might need an appendix — and detail which slides get relegated to the after-party.

A pitch deck exists to help support a story, and for your initial pitch, you probably only have about 20 minutes to construct that story.

The problem is that your company is a beautiful, complex entity with a lot of aspects to it, and you’ll never be able to describe every detail in that little time. The other problem is that investors care about different things: Some care passionately about your product road map, while others couldn’t care less if they tried. Others want to see financials or an operating plan, while some are happy to leave that to a later meeting.

If you’re telling a complex story, you’ll often find that there’s a temptation to go deep into a particular part of your company’s story. Perhaps you have a complex patent portfolio, a breakthrough technology innovation, or an especially innovative machine learning algorithm that you’re super proud of. All of that is magnificent, but remember that some of your investors will have different experiences and interest levels for each of these things, and going too deep on something that an investor doesn’t care as much about is a waste of your time with them.

You don’t have to foresee every eventuality and create slides for every possible question you face.

The body of your pitch deck is focused on the main aspects of your company, probably covering the standard story arc of a fundraising narrative: What is the problem? What is the solution? How big is the market? Who is building the company? What is the competitive landscape and the market size for what you’re working on? What’s the business model and go-to-market strategy? How much are you raising? What are you going to do with the money? If you make it to the end of your pitch meeting covering all of those points, well done, you get a cookie, and, hopefully, another meeting with the VC firm and the first layer of due diligence following shortly after.

Let’s break down what type of information I typically see in the appendices of slide decks and why this information should go in appendices rather than in the main body of the pitch deck.

Each part of the narrative should have pretty simple slides. If you have a lot of text or very complicated graphics, your audience is going to be reading or analyzing the slides, rather than listening to you, which means you lose control of what your would-be investors are actually remembering from your pitch.

If you are building a company in particularly heavily regulated industries (biotech, healthcare, nuclear physics energy, etc.), you’ll probably need a number of appendix slides breaking down exactly what you’ve done so far and what the plan is to receive approval from the FDA/FCC/DEA or other three-letter agencies. If you’re building a hardware company, details of manufacturing and supply chains might make sense.

In a nutshell, it’s possible to build slides that explain every aspect of the business in further detail, broken down by what will eventually be the various business units in your company. That might include sales, marketing, engineering, DevOps, financials, legal, regulatory approvals, customer service, logistics and much more. You only need to include these slides if there’s a meaningful impact on your chances of raising investment.

My recent pitch deck teardown for Enduring Planet showcases a company that is particularly good at using appendices well. It adds a lot of additional context and information about how it thinks about its strategy — all information that would have been too complex to go into in the course of a regular pitch meeting but good to have handy in case they are needed. The full teardown is worth a look, of course, but the full deck is embedded below for reference. It is worth taking a look at slides 19 and beyond to get a good taste for the type of information I’m talking about:

Think about it this way: Is it likely that this business unit comes up as a topic in a board meeting? If yes for your particular market and company, then you might consider adding it as an appendix slide. You wouldn’t typically talk about your customer service teams at a strategic level for most fundraising stories, for example, but if you were Zappos, and you were building a company that is selling commodity goods with customer service and logistics as your only meaningful differentiator, that changes things.

The appendix is where everything else goes. Looking at the hundreds of decks I have in my own library, I’ve seen a few trends, with appendix slides covering some of the following topics:

  • Slides with particularly complex graphics.
  • Very text-heavy slides.
  • In-depth product road maps.
  • Heavily technical slides.
  • Patent and intellectual property strategies.
  • Detailed marketing strategies breaking down per-channel customer acquisition costs.
  • Detailed business model strategy.
  • Go-to-market strategies broken down per vertical or geographic region.
  • Important decision-making charts for investment criteria.
  • Risk management strategies for high-risk markets or customer segments.
  • Detailed competitor analysis, perhaps including SWOT analysis for your most formidable competitors.

Remember also that you don’t have to be clairvoyant here; it’s impossible to foresee every eventuality and create slides for every possible question you face. However, if you start to see patterns in questions you’re getting in pitch meetings, that might be a hint that some additional information would be helpful to the investors.

If a slide with graphs, images or additional data would aid in telling a better story, you know what to do and where to stick it.