What’s missing from Guy Kawasaki’s 10-slide deck

For as long as I’ve been active as an entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki has been a loud voice of influence in the world of startups. His 10/20/30 rule (a pitch should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font smaller than 30 points) is a great place to start. He’s been talking about that format for a decade (here’s a video from about 11 years ago). The 10-slide rule made sense in the context where some founders were still using MBA-style business plans that run 50 to 60 pages and still fail to get to the meat of things.

A year ago, the average successful slide deck contained 19 slides. Today, the average deck contains 16 slides. So, should founders still be striving to shorten their deck to 10 slides? I took a closer look at the template, where it shines, and what founders are missing if they use it.

Kawasaki’s template contains 10 slides:

  • Title slide, including address, email and cell number.
  • Problem/opportunity: What pain are you alleviating?
  • Value proposition: The value of solving the problem.
  • Underlying magic or product demo.
  • Business model: How are you going to make money?
  • Go-to-market plan: How are you going to reach your customers?
  • Competitive analysis.
  • Team.
  • Financial projections and key metrics with bottoms-up analysis.
  • Accomplishments to date, timeline and use of funds.

What works great about this framework

Kawasaki’s 10-slide deck gets a few things extremely right. Thinking about the value of the solution (i.e., the value proposition) was pretty ahead of its time. It’s a great way to illustrate the market demand for a product.

The demo flow from product to value prop to underlying magic/product demo works really well. I often describe it as problem/solution/product, and it’s worth knowing why there’s a difference between the solution and the product slide. In short: The solution is the strategy and vision for how to solve a problem, and the product is the tactics for the same.

Founders often misunderstand the “underlying magic” part of this template. These days it’s more commonly described as the “moat.” What is it about your team or market or product that gives you an unfair advantage? That’s the magic.

Kawasaki’s go-to-market outline is great, and his note that “going viral” isn’t a go-to-market plan is shrewd: Don’t plan to go viral; it’s rare, can’t be planned for, and makes you seem out of touch.

The other note Kawasaki makes is to leave out the exit strategy slide. I agree, and his phrasing is perfect: “If investors ask about your exit strategy, it means they are clueless. If you answer, you have a lot in common.” ChefsKiss.gif.

What doesn’t work as well

Combining financial projections, key metrics and a bottoms-up market size analysis into a single slide is a fool’s errand; market sizing isn’t a precise science, but there are often a lot of different approaches, and you’re almost certainly going to need a whole slide just for that. Financial projections are often best presented as an operating plan, which combines financial and operational metrics, such as headcount, product milestones, etc.

The most confusing part of Kawasaki’s model is splitting “key metrics” and “accomplishments to date” to two different slides. For some startups, telling this part of the story as milestones and KPIs works well; for others, a timeline might better illustrate the point. If the startup doesn’t have revenue yet, the milestones can be about how it’s de-risked the startup so far.

A bottoms-up market size analysis can work really well, especially for companies that are creating brand-new markets. If you’re entering an existing market, a top-down analysis (often expressed as a TAM/SAM/SOM analysis) can work, as long as you’re measuring the right thing.

Something else from Kawasaki’s template that didn’t age well is the note that it’s okay to have a team that’s less than perfect. By and large, that’s no longer true. Founders are getting better, smarter and more experienced, and I would argue it’s the most important slide in the deck these days.

Kawasaki also mentions putting an address and phone number on the cover slide. That’s outdated, of course, but it’s a nice touch mentioning whether you have a headquarters (and if so, in which country, state and city), or if you’re a distributed company in some capacity.

What’s missing?

Overlaying my 21-point pitch deck checklist on Kawasaki’s deck is rather interesting.

The most interesting omission from his template is the mission slide; I rarely see a deck that doesn’t to some degree explain the raison d’être for a startup. Often, this is a one-liner on the cover slide, or as a “why we exist” statement on Slide 2.

I would also encourage startups to include some thoughts on “Why now?” Startups don’t exist in a vacuum, and considering why this is the right moment in time can be a powerful part of the story. Being too late is painful, as is being too early.

Kawasaki does include a “business model” slide, which discusses “who has your money, and how will it go from their pocket to yours,” but I think most modern slide decks go into a fair bit more detail. Now decks often include customer personas or target customer groups, expanding on the SOM part of the market. Who are the target customers? This then spills into a go-to-market slide, which outlines how these target customers become actual customers.

The template includes a whole bunch of information in addition to “use of funds,” and I’d strongly argue for splitting it out as a separate slide. You’re raising money for a reason; making it clear what you’re going to do with it is a crucial point to get across and shouldn’t be muddled by a ton of other info.

Going into the pricing and unit economics of your startup may be a little deep in the weeds, and most companies can leave it out of their slide deck, but I’d pause and think whether it’s something that might be helpful for possible investors to know.