A classical story about a biotech startup goes like this:
Such stories crowd biotech pitch decks. At first glance, it may look like a great plan to revolutionize healthcare and get solid returns in a few years. For an investor, however, it’s just another business that doesn’t generate revenue and has no clear perspectives in terms of final product efficacy and market approval.
A unique solution and successful first clinical trials can’t guarantee that your product will eventually get into the market — let alone ensure you’ll win the competition and deliver impressive growth and profitability.
No matter how promising your technology may seem, for investors, it’s just one of thousands of similar stories promising to cure the world and change the lives of millions — but with no guarantee whatsoever.
The thing is, biotech companies are capital-intensive. The earlier your stage, the riskier the potential investment and the longer the time to return. Yet, among all of the market fads that come and go, biotech remains one of the top VC hot spots.
Why? Because these companies solve real problems, have various potential market applications, and can offer substantial returns. Even during the market slowdown, it is still one of the most sought-after industries by investors.
However, as the global economy dives deeper into uncertainty, venture capitalists become more hesitant when considering their next investment opportunities, even in the most attractive verticals.
Now, VCs are much more cautious when parting with their capital in favor of preclinical or early-clinical companies that are far from market approval or revenue generation stages. This scrupulousness manifests itself in valuations, too, with investors being more thorough in their due diligence and when reviewing funding terms.
To avoid this ‘no-term-sheet’ fate, you must know how to pitch your biotech startup in this environment. In this guide, you’ll learn how to create a biotech startup pitch deck that will spark investors’ interest and how to answer all their potential questions to win them over. We’ll also explore biotech pitch deck examples to draw inspiration from.
Let’s plunge into the key biotech pitch deck tips and tricks the Waveup team uncovered when working with our biotech clients.
But first, let’s zoom in on the current VC landscape.
Market trends and VC perspectives in the biotech space
2020 and 2021 have set a skyrocketing trajectory for the biotech sector. Fueled by the pandemic and increased attention to scientific advancements, the industry has raised a record-breaking $41B in 2021 – 110% of 2020’s funding total — and produced more unicorns than any of the previous years. Venture capital and private equity soared, and IPOs surged.
The fairytale ended with a slowdown in 2022. After peaking in 2021, VC investment dwindled by a third. Global venture funding reached its highest point in 2022 in November and started to pull back. The stories about businesses raising huge rounds or going public even before having conducted initial human testing became less and less common.
Simultaneously, securing capital has turned into this tricky hunting game with a dubious prize, where you either don’t get funding at all or get it with a lower valuation and very underwhelming terms.
Biotech VC firms are deprioritizing the worst-performing and mediocre portfolio companies, focusing on the top performers and preserving enough funding for their next 12-24-month runway.
Nevertheless, some VCs remain bullish on biotech startups, taking advantage of “fairer valuations after correction,” as they put it. Many investors switch their focus to more “recession-proof” startups — the ones that already generate revenue or are close to their top line. Now, a thorough go-to-market strategy and a clear path to revenue trump bold promises and vague ideas built on hype.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, some biotech startups we worked with can boast impressive VC raises. What helped them? Among the key things that allowed them to catch investors’ attention was highlighting successfully reached KPIs and milestones that were set in the previous fundraising rounds. There’s more, but we’ll get back to it in a minute.
Some businesses turned to alternative funding sources or bridge rounds to save time and accumulate resources to cover the future cash burn. Many also resorted to budget cuts and consolidation.
All in all, we can see that raising new VC rounds in biotech is totally possible, even in these turbulent times. But to get luck on your side, you must be creative and fully prepared, starting with your pitch deck.
Key pitfalls that ruin biotech pitch decks for investors
It’s always better to learn from the mistakes others make than from your own. Having reviewed dozens of various biotech decks, our team has come up with a list of the most typical missteps usually spotted in biotech decks. Spoiler: language, content, and storytelling mistakes make up a popular combo we come across in every other deck.
Obscure, jargon-ridden language
You always can tell a biotech pitch deck from the rest by the language founders use: the amount of scientific jargon and acronyms is overwhelming. Even VCs specializing in biotech can wreck their brains trying to decode the meaning of some terms.
In addition, founders (although this is common in every vertical) tend to be so obsessed with their solution they end up burying investors in the information they don’t really need.
As a result, a compelling story with a VC angle turns into a lengthy scientific manual doomed to fail. Why? The key reason is time. On average, investors spend up to 3 minutes scrolling through a deck. Slides overloaded with information they don’t understand or don’t know the value of will always get skipped. Even if you present in real-time, investors probably won’t be able to follow and will quickly lose interest.
Remember: language is your primary tool in engaging investors, so it must be sharp. Even though AI is taking over the world, most pitch decks are still reviewed and analyzed by humans. And humans get bored quickly, especially those with hundreds of decks in line after yours. So you better ensure your solution gets presented in the most engaging, easy-to-follow way possible to get the attention it deserves.
Here are the common language problems in biotech pitch decks:
- Unclear abbreviations and acronyms. Many people might understand what popular acronyms like FDA or WHO stand for. But anything less common knowledge must be spelled out and clarified because investors won’t spend a second trying to google and understand them.
- Too much jargon. Regarding biotech or other life science solutions, jargon is a part of the package. But you must find a balance and make sure the text is clear without additional comments or voice-overs. You might not be able to replace or remove the names of some notions, but you can add explanations and descriptions that are easy to digest for someone without a scientific background.
- Text-heavy slides. Yes, trying to describe a complex biotech solution in a concise and clear manner is hardly a cakewalk. You must break down the technology and its application, especially when dealing with different health indications. But you shouldn’t do that in a wall of text that investors will skip. Instead, when you add a new piece of information to slides, apply Occam’s razor principle and, if it doesn’t add value, delete it mercilessly.
Flimzy, confusing content
If the language is how the content is what. The language might be flawless, but what’s the point of it if your content is off?
Let’s see where biotech startup pitch decks’ content usually goes sour:
- Abstruse visualizations. Founders often forget that investors, not scientists, will review their decks. Images or charts that are too complicated will only confuse them. You don’t need to remove all the graphs and pictures; just make sure an unprepared mind can understand them.
- Groundless statements or statistics. Be careful with vague statements or metrics — everything that may look subjective or difficult to prove will be a huge red flag in a biotech deck. Your internal tests can’t show “60% better health,” but they can show “a 20% decrease in a hormonal level”. Any detail that looks made up will raise suspicions and provoke additional questions.
- Intricate problem slides. A problem slide is a key part of the deck opening that must pull investors in. While the science behind the issues you are solving is super important, it shouldn’t stand in the way of engagement. Diving too deep into science and overloading this slide with statistics is definitely a no-go.
What investors expect to see here is a quick and clear overview of the problem you solve and its scope. Of course, a biotech deck requires some stats and scientific notions, but don’t go overboard. Focus on proving that the problem really exists and that its solution can create a substantial market opportunity.
The example below illustrates how not to approach this slide:
- Focus on the product’s features instead of its value. Founders can talk about their solutions for hours. But here are two problems: investors don’t have hours, and they don’t want to hear about your features. What they want to understand (as quickly as possible) is your value proposition.
Most biotech startup pitch decks we come across contain several product-focused slides: solution / value / proposition / technology / how it works. Yet they all are focused on the features and mechanics. It makes it tough for an unprepared person to distill your unique value proposition.
- Convoluted explanation of the technology. When an investor struggles to understand how your solution works, it’s a mini-disaster. That’s what happens when founders fail to translate the complexities of the inner workings of their product into layman’s terms. Nobody will scroll through your presentation with a Google tab opened, so make sure to provide a high-level understanding of your technology.
- A lack of a strategic angle. It’s crucial to demonstrate to investors your vision for the future and show how you plan to get there. Most of the decks we review usually lack this strategic element. Those that have it typically lack depth and only show when they are going to commercialize their product. What you need to do is to demonstrate your pre-commercialization roadmap and explain how you plan to get there. Include your channels, whether you will have partners, and what geographies will be involved.
Another crucial point that gets overlooked is your exit strategy. You need to demonstrate your long-term plans regarding the company: whether you are targeting commercialization or just want to get sold and are considering potential M&A deals.
- Issues with the market size. Either it’s absent at all, too technical, or it’s unclear how it was calculated – all this is a no-go. It’s not enough just to take a ready number for a particular vertical from the Internet: you don’t even know the logic behind it. In addition, these market report numbers are often lowered, which doesn’t look attractive for VCs looking for large markets with solid ROI potential. No VC will invest in a $30 million serviceable obtainable market. You need to do some homework to understand whether you can get at least $1 billion in your SOM. At the same time, don’t forget to remain grounded: $500B SOM looks much-promising but unrealistic.
- Half-baked financials. We get it, it’s hard to build solid financial projections when your product is several years away from its launch. The thing is, investors don’t expect perfect precision, but they do expect you to be able to justify your funding ask. That includes providing the investment breakdown, the key milestones you plan to achieve after this round, and the number of fundraising rounds before the product finally goes to market.
- Overly technical competitive moat. When building your competitive moat, think about more than just the technical part of the story. For most biotech startups, their competitive advantage lies in differences in indicators of the clinical trial results. Yet, they fail to visualize it in a compelling and clear way. To make sure investors understand your competitive edge, support all the visualizations and numbers with comments. Also, make sure that your competitive advantage isn’t limited to your product or technology but also extends to your market positioning, value proposition, etc.
- Weak traction / journey-to-date slide. It’s not enough to show strong future milestones. To impress investors, your biotech pitch deck must prove your ability to execute your plans by highlighting your journey-to-date in the most compelling and reassuring way.
Use visual aids — charts, graphs, or infographics — to illustrate your progress. Present data and key metrics related to your R&D progress, clinical trial results, and scientific validation. Emphasize significant milestones or recognition received, such as partnerships, awards, grants, or industry acknowledgments.
Craft an attractive narrative around your journey, focusing on the problem you are solving, the impact of your solution, and the progress you have made so far. We always recommend adding some real-life patient stories or testimonials to show the credibility of your solution and connect emotionally with investors.
Weak, incoherent, or unengaging story
When you know what message you want to convey and what data to show, the last thing to work on is the storyline that brings it all together. This part is one of the hardest ones, regardless of the vertical — that’s why it is often the one that requires the most changes.
It’s pretty easy to improve text, numbers, and images. But weaving a consistent, intuitive, and investor-attractive story is much more difficult. One of the key pillars of a deck’s success is the presence of that red thread that transforms the set of slides into a powerful, compelling, and impactful story. Here are the key storyline killers we see in presentations:
- Broken flow. This is the most common issue we fix in biotech startup pitch decks we receive. The flow jumps all over the place — from strategy to product, back to the strategy, then to market, and again to the strategy. Trying to follow these stories is extremely frustrating, and investors, most likely, won’t. That’s why your slides and sections must follow a logical order.
Cohesive stories pull investors in and don’t let them go until the very end, so make sure your story is logical. Also, don’t leave the strongest message for the end — this way, you risk losing investors before they even get to them. Instead, open your pitch with the juiciest parts to hook investors immediately.
- Obscure slides. We see this problem in many presentations: the deck doesn’t function as standalone material and requires a voice-over for additional context. Unfortunately, instead of asking for additional comments, investors will just close your deck. So if you send the pitch via email, your job is to make it easy to understand without extra comments or context. Don’t make investors google new words — they won’t.
- Lack of balance between science and inspiration. When you craft a story, it’s easy to zoom in on your message so much that you start losing perspective and balance. Some teams fixate on their technology, some obsess over their product, and some are too focused on the problem that inspired them to create their solution. All those parts are important for investors, so it’s essential to keep your story well-balanced.
11 must-have slides in your biotech pitch deck – and how they should look to entice investors
Any investor presentation must include a set of standard slides like problem, solution, market, team slide, and so on. On top of that, a high-quality investor presentation must always be tailored to a specific industry.
To incorporate a biotech touch, include some industry-specific sections and adjust the standard ones to the nuances of the vertical. Let’s explore the essential slide options that can help you create a compelling and coherent story for a biotech business.
Let’s look at different slides from real-life biotech pitch deck examples to help you draw some inspiration for your biotech deck.
- a clear problem statement supported by science / statistics
- a well-outlined problem size / scope and potential market opportunity
- a strong, compelling message
- a simple and clear slides not overloaded with information
2. Solution / Technology / Mechanism of action
- easy to understand without biotech background
- focus on the key use cases / features / steps involved
- the language and pictures aren’t overly scientific / technical
3. Value proposition
- focus on the benefits your solution brings to patients
- can be compared with traditional / existing treatment methods
- supported by numbers/metrics
4. Clinical pipeline
- key therapeutic areas & indications involved
- status of clinical trials
- partnerships involved (if any)
- first results and KPIs
- estimated timelines in terms of market approval
5. Potential application / expansion opportunities
- short-term and long-term focus in terms of indications
- expansion opportunities in terms of therapeutic areas
- can be presented as a part of potential market opportunity
6. Market size
- existing & potential opportunity
- can be presented in terms of indications / therapeutic areas / regions
- the logic behind the numbers and sources for assumptions are a must
7. Strategic part
- go-to-market strategy & commercialization plan
- existing / potential partnerships
- exit opportunities: commercialization / M&A / strategic alliances
8. Traction / Journey to date
- achieved milestones
- clinical / scientific validation
- intellectual property / patents
9. Proof of efficacy
- proves value and/or competitive advantage
- set against the standard in a particular therapeutic area & region
- supported by real clinical trials/testings but remains clear and straightforward
- founding team and their key achievements, background
- board of advisors
11. Use of funds and key future milestones
- the funding ask and runway
- investment breakdown
- key milestones
Take your pitch deck seriously, and investors will, too
In today’s overcrowded investment environment, catching investors’ attention is very, very hard. This is especially pronounced in biotech projects with their various industry nuances you must consider before pitching to potential investors.
At Waveup, we understand the intricacies of VC fundraising in the biotech industry — after all, we’ve created numerous investment materials in this sector that successfully raised venture capital. In 2022 alone, our materials helped our clients raise over $350M.
Whether you’re a startup or a well-established company, we’re ready to help you build a killer story and prepare all the supporting investor materials. Feel free to contact us to learn how we can help you achieve your investment goals.