Whenever an investor pores through an early-stage startup pitch deck, you can be sure that they’re going to be looking through the team slide. The skills, experience, and qualifications of your team are going to be just as important as the concept itself, so it’s vital to showcase your team in the best possible light. The success of your pitch will depend on it.
According to DocSend research, which analyzed the behaviour of investors across 300+ pitch decks, investors typically spend 15% of their total reading time looking at the pitch deck’s team slide. That’s notable, considering that the overall time investors spend on a pitch deck review is just 3 minutes 44 seconds.
With this in mind, we decided to give this all-important page some serious attention and dive into what really makes this slide so important.
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Why is the team slide so important?
Investors are always interested in strong teams capable of solving big problems. The team slide is, therefore, your opportunity to show who the key players on your team are and what they’re capable of. You must prove your ability to bring results.
Here at Waveup, we’ve worked on over 500 investment projects with renowned clients around the world, including Bolt, Ecco, Skechers, Oura Ring, Ofo, Air New Zealand, and many more. And we’ve been behind the creation of hundreds of team slides that are proven to grab the attention of investors. Based on that experience, here are our key findings:
Team-market fit. This is the combined experience, skills, and goals of your founders, team members, and advisers that can quickly demonstrate your deep understanding of the market, its dynamics, and the challenges you’re addressing. Investors need to understand at which point you are on the product-market fit continuum. A strong team-market fit generates a lot of investor trust by showing you’re able to execute well in your market, which in turn significantly enhances your ability to raise further funding.
Credibility. Credibility is essential. The younger your startup, the more important it is to emphasize your team’s ability to solve any problem or even respond rapidly to changing market forces. Given that your customer traction will likely be low and product features rather basic at this stage, investors will always scrutinize the founding team more than any other factor at this early juncture.
Solid experience. Your startup may have the most innovative product out there, but without a solid and experienced team to execute, investors just aren’t going to risk their money. After all, what’s the point of owning the fastest car in the world if you have lousy driving skills and you end up crashing it? Don’t assume it’s different in the business world. Without a strong team to execute the idea, even the best business concepts will stay stuck in the concept box.
Strong Leadership. At such an early stage, any idea is worth only 30% of the entire investment proposition for the investor. On the other hand, the team is gold dust – worth 70%. It’s invariably hard to find anybody to invest in a company on the basis of the product alone and it’s evidence of a strong leadership team that can move the concept from worthless idea to successful exit. That’s the type of confidence you need to inspire in your startup.
Diversity of skills combined with deep knowledge. Investors also want to see a team that is diverse in many different ways. Why? Because diversity signifies a broad range of perspectives and an all-encompassing approach to problem solving. That can only be good for your business.
What do investors look for on the team slide?
For early-stage startups:
Your founding team. There’s no need to list everyone on your team. More stakeholders mean more moving parts. And more moving parts mean more risk. Our advice is to keep it between three to five people. And if you must include more than three, then make sure that you explain clearly why you have included them in your pitch deck.
Roles. Of course, there is no strict rule which team members should be on your slide. It really depends on your business model. But make sure you address all the key roles, such as CEO, COO, CTO etc.
Advisers. If you have a complete team, there is no need to include additional advisers. However, if you are the only founder or you’re a team of two, then use advisers to fill your slide. Make sure to highlight advisers’ key strengths such as finance, law, product development, market strategy, etc. The main point here is to show that your advisors can fill in critical gaps where your team is not so competent.
Logos. Your brand’s image will speak faster to your audience. These logos could be companies you work for or companies your partners have contributed to.
Bio. Try to highlight relevant experiences only. Or, if your team member doesn’t have specific knowledge in the industry of your business, just mention the member’s experience in the role they are holding.
For Series A+:
Number of people on the team slide. It’s better to add more than four members and show investors that your team is well-established.
Your proven track record. Think of this slide as your team’s reputation. Be concise and highlight key personal milestones that led you to founding your startup.
Avoid fluffy bios. Avoid long, fluffy bios (3-4 sentences are enough). Focus on critical aspects of the team. Showcase what makes your team particularly well-suited to the problem you’re solving.
Advisory. Adding heavyweight advisors is a great way to add credibility to your team slide. But make sure you explain their concrete role in your startup and what they have already achieved for your company. Above all, highlight their skin in the game. The last thing you want are “wallflowers” – people who just like to dress up their LinkedIn profile but have done nothing for you. Often, the best advisers are investors, because they have skin in the game. But there are other ways of demonstrating this too – introducing other investors, getting their hands dirty in the business, opening doors to new customers, bringing on outstanding team members etc.
Team Slide Placement. At this stage of funding, the team slide does not need to play a prominent role in the deck, so it is better to place it before the problem slide.
How to craft the perfect team slide elements
When building your pitch deck, try to answer the following questions on the team slide. Who is on your team? Why are they the right people to do this? What is the team’s relevant experience and prominent accomplishments?
If your team doesn’t have startup or management street cred, then make sure you highlight their relevant experience in your industry or market. Build trust by adding company logos as this will enhance your pitch deck design and highlight your ability to work with impressive businesses with a strong reputation.
We also strongly advise you to showcase your team’s experience or achievements in numbers. For example, if you have managed a team of 20 people or sold your crypto startup for $12 million, then include it on your pitch deck. If a team member actually has this type of impressive experience, this is your opportunity to showcase the traction history of each member on your team slide.
DocSend’s 2015 study confirms that the team slide is the second most important slide in the deck in terms of deck reading time. But, just like everything in the world of pitch decks, there’s no clear answer as to what makes the perfect team slide. These things can often be very personal.
How to present it all
Designing an effective team slide and collating this type of information can be a difficult task for inexperienced entrepreneurs. Team slides actually don’t need a lot of text. It’s more about creating a winning design and properly positioning the information that can often define the success of your pitch deck.
Any investor needs to be intrigued by your team slide from the very first glance. For such intrigue to happen, always mention your team members’ affiliations and results by emphasizing their level of expertise.
This results-based framing of your team slide is especially useful for investors to build their confidence that they’re investing in talent. Let’s look at some practical examples taken from our real cases, illustrating different team slide scenarios – with three, five, six, and even eight members.
Three team members
This illustration is a great example of a team slide representation. It delivers a clear message, supported by measurable achievements, logos, and a punchy bio. The slide is super easy to read for a time-strapped investor and it walks the reader through the page from a clear header to key background information about the core team. It also gives a great impression that there’s well-established cohesiveness among the team members – something that is reinforced on the right side of the page.
Five team members
The following slide is a great example of our earlier discussion about branding. Lots of logos lend the slide credibility. And it’s super easy for the reader to grasp a lot of data without having to read the full bio.
Six team members
This is a great example of the mantra “Less is more,” especially if your team has serious big brand credentials. For more established startups, you might want to highlight your team’s superpowers in the header. Make sure you clarify each team member’s title/role. Then, at the bottom, include the key logos of the companies your team worked with.
Eight team members
A simple structure with no additional details can still make the slide easy to read, even with eight members on it. Use the following simple formula: big header + key management bio in background descriptor box + advisers in the lower section accomplish the team with needed experience = great slide:
Your team slide is your team’s digital DNA. It’s the backbone of any successful pitch deck and is considered the most important slide.
Your team slide is your opportunity to convey your credibility, pre-empt investors’ questions, and it makes your startup stand out as a company with a solid team of highly skilled, accomplished, and visionary leaders at the helm.
There’s no shortage of general advice on how to write the best team slide, but the key thing to remember is your team is your company’s most valuable asset at this early stage. As with everything else, the devil is in the detail when it comes to creating an outstanding team slide impression. Just as copywriting is an art, the way you position team members on the slide is all about your messaging which can make the difference between a slick or clumsy slide. There’s no single rule on how to do it right, but practice and experience count for a lot.
While no one knows how to pick sure fire winners, there is one way to improve the odds with your team deck. Make your team look like a group of Unicorn founders. Remember that you’re not just building the next great product or service, but also the next great company. It’s therefore your job to demonstrate that your team has the skills or experience to execute on a unicorn idea.
Ultimately, people buy people first. The product or service comes after. Without the right team to execute your vision, leverage their market experience in the niche, demonstrate their skills and track record, your chances of investment are slim. Make sure that you back up all your statements with specific, relevant background examples that showcase your team’s ability to execute on your business idea and fill in any knowledge “gaps” with hard-hitting, relevant information.
So, when making the time to create your deck, make sure you focus more on the team slide. There’s a famous Silicon Valley saying that goes like this, “You don’t pick billion-dollar companies. You pick billion-dollar founders.” Make sure your team reflects that mantra.
Want to know how?
- Recruit a strong advisory board and build a strong management team around you.
- Show strong collaboration around product development.
- Do everything to demonstrate an exciting, cohesive company culture.
- Only work with mentors, advisers, and team members you believe in, trust and respect.
- Find your Obi Wan Kenobi. Finding great advisers with skin in the game will take you far.