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YC Seed Deck Template (ycombinator.com)
422 points by craigcannon on March 12, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 83 comments

This made me snark loudly

> No money raised means companies are forced to surive on revenue

Other references for pitchdecks:

The statistically recommended pitch deck breakdown: https://docsend.com/view/p8jxsqr

The original FaceBook pitch deck, including a keg stand: https://slidebean.com/blog/startups/facebook-pitch-deck

I've seen a lot of seed decks and quite frankly while they may have many similar slides (summary, problem, solution, team, etc) I've noticed that the ones that get funded have one of the following:

1) Social proof

2) Significant Traction

That's it. In fact I'd go as far to say that without either of those, you won't get funded period, except through lucky angel connections. In fact I can't think of a case of something getting funded without one of these.

Social proof is typically something of the form of the founders being 3 PhDs in something hot from insert-top-school, or there's a co-founder with a previous successful exit, or there's a top notch advisory board of semi-famous or at least provably successful people. So when Mr. VC throws his money at this startup, hey it's in the hands of the best.

Traction is the other option, and is the typical desired hockey stick graph of users, revenue, deals, whatever. The traction metric often maps really well onto software startups specifically, because very limited labor and capital can lead to real results. Meanwhile for larger enterprises that require legitimate development and manpower to get traction - it's going to be tough to show traction before you have the resources to deliver something. So something like a "nuclear power startup" (which YC has funded for instance) would probably rely more on social proof.

It's a tad disheartening because it makes something like non-consumer hardware a very difficult spot to be in if you're a younger entrepreneur. Maybe an incubator/accelerator (plus personal savings) can get you on the order of $100K, but that's often not enough to prove real traction. And unless you have significant social proof (often not the case for a younger first time founder), then it seems you're going to be stuck in a vast fundraising chasm between $100K and $1M, e.g. between accelerator and seed financing.

In particular I'd be interested to hear people's take on hardware startups in this respect. Consumer hardware has the recently developed option of crowdfunding to bridge this gap. But what about industrial hardware, like a piece of smart machinery, or something in robotics that isn't a sub-$1K developer kit? Maybe then traction looks like a big deal or two that the crafty entrepreneurs are able to hustle.

Anyways, good overall deck template but I don't think people should be under the impression that a good deck is a huge piece of the puzzle. It's social proof and/or traction, plain and simple.

"Forced to survive on revenue"

that's a bad thing?

No, it's great. However, if you're building a seed deck with which to pitch investors, it probably isn't what you're going for.

The basis of venture capital is the simple statement:

"For every buck you give us, we will give at least two bucks back next year."

You take this extortion because the benefits are ludicrous. "If we get EBay into every country before anyone else, we make silly money" or "We need want <mumble> million to make <mumble> billion in the next few years." The hardest part to get investors to understand that exiting in two years with only a 3x return is still a win.

>"exiting in two years with only a 3x return is still a win"

Not for traditional VCs it isn't.

As a rule of thumb, 90% of the startups they bet on will fail outright, and simply burn through the investment. If you're looking to raise, you need to convince them not only that you are in that remaining 10% (ie, those that will generate any revenue at all, let alone profits), but that you're going to generate massive returns to way more than subsidize and justify all the other losses. Pitching VCs with "3x in 2 yrs" is saying you are not what they're looking for.

(That said, it'd be a huge success from a business mgmt perspective.)

Philly VCs want 3x, I pressed this q on a panel in Philly, they literally spelled out that they want founders to show them a validated formula where they insert $10mm into adwords or something, press Scale button, wait a couple years, $100mm IPO of which they get 30%. It just didn't really jive with what I know about tech and hypergrowth startups.

> As a rule of thumb, 90% of the startups they bet on will fail outright, and simply burn through the investment.

I recently heard a VC say that this was true back in the 90s but not so much today — that they're looking for singles, doubles, and triples as much as they are for grand-slam home runs.

Close, but it's impossible to say whether "3x in 2 yrs" is a win, because portfolios win, not single investments.

Would you take a risk-free 70%/yr return? Of course you would. Every damn time. But you can't know if the investment is risk-free.

Taking the YC Seed Deck as advice means you are building a startup which is "a company designed to grow fast."

AKA that is likely to be highly unprofitable, insanely stressful, and only more capital intensive for potentially years to come.

I think that PG does an outstanding job outlining this model for growth in his "Startup = Growth" essay:


I understand the sentiment behind it, but that also stuck out as a strange way to frame it to me =P

I'd like to add two more points - unit economics, and bottoms up market analysis. And these are helpful to founders, these 2 give an important insight into viability of business before you start the multi year grind in to make your business work -

Unit economics - what it'll take to make this work with healthy profit margins? This is crucial in case of online-offline startups, infra heavy products, or hardware products. May not be critical in consumer startups until they start monetizing.

Bottoms-up analysis of market - what will be your CAC (cost to acquire customers), ARPU/LTV (avg. rev per user/lifetime value) etc.

Both of these things are quantifiable and it'll answer an important Q - how much money will it take for the biz to reach whatever milestones that are decided.

Those are important, but very difficult to know with any certainty at the seed stage. They've never really come up for me until later rounds.

I agree that it's difficult to know exact numbers at the seeds stage, but it's good to do some sort of exercise on user/customer acquisition costs, expected margins (particularly important in case of h/w products or online-offline work startups) etc.. It will help - 1. to know how long will this money last 2. can you build good business (even though it may not be profitable) before next round of financing.

And founders who do this exercise really set themselves apart as they know their business and gives strong signal to investors. Moreover, investors that I've spoken to often talk that they fund startups not only based on growth, or existing business but also ability to raise next round.

Anecdotally, I believe the act of going through the exercise is important, even if the the precision is off. Perhaps not a deal breaker, but IMO shows that you're at least thinking about these things. As with everything fundraising however, context is key and when you're raising your seed relative to company maturity/development matters very much whether such things will come up.

My perspective is that unit economics guesses are important because you want to estimate the scaling factor. You might not know where they are now, but it's important for runway goals to know where the unit economics will breakeven.

Directionality rather than absolute value.

Seed deck notes that complement the YC info: https://github.com/joelparkerhenderson/pitch_deck

I took the liberty of making it more presentable by remixing the 'wire-frame' template with some minimal color, typography, and images.

enjoy: https://goo.gl/u3gZuE

updated ::

Dark Theme: https://goo.gl/tcLkWY

White+Orange: https://goo.gl/i4e724

I think it's great that you wanted to help others and posted this here for all to use. Thanks!

Personally though, I found the original version to be more presentable.

Perhaps that's just me.

I can't tell whether it's a joke or if the person truly believes his version is better.

Please stop.

> minimal color

Bright yellow background.

What were you thinking?

>The color yellow can affects us mentally and physically which includes stimulating our mental and nervous system, activates our memory, and encourages communication. Golden yellow carries the promise of a positive future, and spreads its cheer. Especially since yellow shines its optimism, enlightenment, and happiness upon us.

Yellow stands out from other colors, and with the support of other lively colors, it can spark one’s creativity while invigorating one’s spirit. In fact, people who suffer from mild cases of color blindness can usually see the color yellow more easily than other colors.



Here's a yellow that doesn't make you wan't to jump out the nearest window. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1lHZj0R5xkgEZ1Mk6uG3a...

> No money raised means companies are forced to surive on revenue

The opposite seems more true: insufficient revenue means companies are forced to fundraise.

I like how simple that deck is. Why do people go overboard making it look fancy?

Are there any investors that will take a look at the plain deck and think it is highly unprofessional, turning them down?

I like that YC don't care about the fluff. But I do wonder how "other" investors feel about it.

How do you define "fluff"? If you think design (how the story is told) or quality (how easy it is to understand) doesn't matter, then I strongly disagree.

Clarity in explanation always wins.

If there's a (little) design touch it doesn't hurt either.

Color, layout, can all be used for good effect as long as it's not over done or distracting.

ok this is freakier than that FB audio spying system...But I was JUST about to google for "Seed Deck Template"...and boom!

I think YC's stealthy AI is finally on to me..

Or you are a wizard that has mastered the Law of Attraction.

my 2¢ addition: careful with your abstraction.

Our instincts tend to be all wrong. When making general statements about a business, most try to make the most general statement possible. Otherwise we feel like we're selling it short. It's like when people write resumes. All trees, no forest.

That's why "X of Y" is so common, it's a formula to get past your bad instincts to a better, less accurate abstraction.

People are bad at going to abstraction without passing through specifics. If you'd never heard of jobs, it'd be hard to explain without examples. Fireman would be easier. Policeman would be even easier after that. Once we have two, the concept of job gets easier. Starting from the abstract... we'd be talking about, wages, specializations, uniforms, sick days... hard.

Case in point here, can we see this deck for an actual startup or startupses? It'd be easier to grasp the good/bad points in context.

Totally off topic, but this thread shows that sarcasm and irony do not always translate that well over the internet. I had a chuckle at the deck and the comments it generated.

"VP of Eng who doesn't sleep".

Would be really great to remove that description, no one should lionize that behavior.

Given that the CEO is a muppet, you don't think this is meant to be fun?

I do think it was meant to be fun.

My point was that joking about that kind of culture is not a good thing and proliferation of the sleepless founder/employee/programmer that permeates startup culture is a bit ugly.

I thinking worrying about how every little saying could possibly harm the world causes more harm vs leaving the slide as a funny joke.

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

Please don't do this here.

Peppa Pig doesn't sleep. She merely sits in waiting during the nighttime hours.

btw, for those who are design illiterate..you will find that Canva's free pitch-deck creator should solve your needs: https://www.canva.com/learn/pitch-decks/

Another plug for those who are design illiterate: My startup https://www.beautiful.ai/ is working on providing great design for presentations

"$50,000,000 in seed decks per month?" Prove it, said the VC.

I’d like to add one more tip: good design. I’ve seen and designed many decks for startups and some engineers pay zero attention to design. Sure if you have insane traction or other extraordinary data points it becomes less of an issue. But the investors, like yourself, are human beings who want things to look clean, neat and be clear. Nice design doesnt mean add nice colors. It means to make it a joy to go through with visuals of your product, clear font and font color selection, consistent branding etc. don’t waste too much time on the design but do treat your deck as a product of its own.

If you need any advice, feel free to ping me.

Tackling great design for presentations is what I'm working on with my startup, https://www.beautiful.ai/

We focus on exactly the types of things you're mentioning, but we try to automate it for those who don't have the design skills (or time to invest even if you do have design skills)!

What is "AI" about it? assuming AI means artificial intelligence? What is that connotation supposed to represent?

Here is an article we wrote about our thinking: https://blog.beautiful.ai/designai

The shorter answer is that we don't have any ML in production at the moment, but we will as we grow. The core of our product is similar to video game enemy AI.

it's the top-level domain for Anguilla

I fell in love with beautiful.ai.

Thanks, sumang!

Very nice work, however the text contrast is so low I can barely read it. Sad that hard-to-read is still a design fad thing.

I appreciate the feedback. I'll pass it along to our designer.

How contact?

Who would you like to talk to? You can contact me at ben@beautiful.ai and I can route you to whoever you'd like to speak with. Thanks!

The site claims not to work in Safari, but it works fine with a user agent switch. Please don't arbitrarily limit browsers.

You're almost right. We've been doing a lot of work to fix Safari issues. There are only a handful of bugs unique to Safari left, and enabling Safari support is on our immediate roadmap. We actually have benchmarked Safari being quite a bit faster than Chrome, as well, so we're very excited to get everything working. Firefox has many more unique bugs that we haven't had time to tackle yet. Thanks for exploring!

Great! Sorry for the harsh tone, it's good that you're working on it.

Y Combinator has a blog piece on this very subject: https://blog.ycombinator.com/how-to-design-a-better-pitch-de...

I work at a VC firm and can second this. It's not terribly important for B2B companies, though it rarely hurts. But it's pretty important for B2C/Ecommerce companies. Customers don't grade on a curve and the bar for minimally acceptable design is pretty high these days. If your deck doesn't signal to the investors that you have strong design/branding instincts, be prepared for a tough sale.

> I’ve seen and designed many decks for startups and some engineers pay zero attention to design.

"design" is such a vague term. In 99% of the cases the meat of the pitch is much more important than design, at least because of the thinking process that needs to lead there. Making beautiful decks without substance is going to be the risk if you hammer that kind of message, because there is always going to be more time you should spend on perfecting your pitch that will be taken by trivial design details. By going with very simple decks (little text, spare visuals, very few colors if any), you remove the risk of "bad taste" and this enables you to focus on everything else.

The truth is you need both style and substance. Your deck needs to be better than 99/100 others. Though design is just the icing on the cake to take you from 95/100 to 99/100.

Yes but my point was clear: substance is hard to get right, and it's better time invested working on it than trying to optimize your deck visuals.

My approach is to spend 98% on substance, then use a template (like Beautiful.ai) or contractor to quickly put together something visually appealing. Doesn't have to be a unique design, but for under $100 or a couple hours time, I can get something that's just pleasant to look at.

thats one of the best ways to go about it. delegate that design task to someone or something that is good enough so that you dpnt have to worry about it.

Yes. It’s not only visually pleasing to especially a non technical audience. I’d argue helps build trust subconciously, signals competence, that you care, are looking after the details, and have some at least sense of what looks good (marketing).

ok while we are on the topic, can you show us a sample of what is a good design in a deck?

looks very nice but I have to ask - it says you not live yet but then you have all those logos of known companies in "used by" section... can you elaborate?

Thanks for checking it out! Where does it say we are not live? Maybe we missed updating some copy: we officially launched 6 weeks ago, but were in a private beta for a while before that. Those logos represent people we gave access to in our private beta.

I came to this conclusion after checking price page. Says TBD summer time; so I figured if you have no payment plant, you are still in some pre-beta.

No, we're on a freemium model, but haven't launched any paid features quite yet. We expect to have a very valuable offering available for free forever.

Typically this means the team has convinced someone they know at these companies to try it or give some feedback on an early version and thus voila you'll find "used by Apple" or something impressive like that in slides :)

You're not wrong. We don't have any paying customers, but we've had discussions with people from dozens of companies, and those are the ones we chose to advertise. Only a couple are people we knew beforehand.

Now I'm wondering if there's a viable "seed-deck development" business model that can scale to IPO..

A reinforcement learning based pitch bot would be much better.

Blindly pitch investors random ideas then build whatever they fall for.

Great, now I have to guess if you are a human or a bot that’s both pitching and retelling it’s own inception in the same sentence.

ChillHustle.com (shameless plug for one's own pre-launch business) isn't exactly that but could get you going in the right direction.


If it were a real company, I wouldn't invest in the seed template making company based on the seed template shown. What does that say about the ability of the seed template making company to make templates? It proves they have an inferior product.

Now if a different template making company had a version that was exactly the same in every way but included machine learning, suddenly it's a no-brainer (literally: no thinking required.) The fact that I would invest just shows how effective that template would be.

The above is a very real thought process. If you want a real template, litter it with the buzzwords you need. In 2018 that is AI/machine learning, and for at least a few more months, ICO and blockchain.

Not sure what all the downvotes are about. I tend to respond positively to sarcasm and cynicism. So, one (1) upvote for you.

You all downvoted my comment pretty heavily. If you're right and my point is in error, then out of the current YC batch, only a few startups would have Machine Learning (ML) or AI in their "core DNA" (pitch deck).

Is this the case?

Where can I find an investor that will give me 1.5 million so I can hire my insomniac friend as VP of engineering?

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