Most of the pitch deck teardowns to date (here’s a handy list of the 30+ we’ve published so far) have been for institutional funding rounds, usually in the millions or tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars raised.
Those are interesting to look at, of course, but I also know that many of you will be much earlier in your journey. I was looking for a good example of an angel deck to share with you, and I found just that in laoshithe angel deck. The company tells me it raised $570,000 with a cap of $5 million for its very early stage language learning app, explicitly targeting Chinese teachers and their students.
The deck isn’t fancy and it’s not perfect, but the company claims it was successful, so let’s see what it got right – and what could have been improved.
We’re looking for more unique pitch decks to break down, so if you’d like to submit your own pitch decks here’s how to do it.
Slides into this deck
Laoshi’s deck consists of 11 main slides and four appendix slides.
- Cover slide
- Problem slide
- Market slide
- Solution slide
- Competition slide
- Road map slide
- Team slide
- Teacher growth slide
- Teacher retention slide
- Summary slide
- “Contact Us” slide
- Appendices cover slide
- Appendix I: Viral effect slide
- Appendix II: Business Model Slide
- Appendix III: “The Question” slide
Three things to love
The deck is sparse and simple, which is quite refreshing – many early stage decks don’t seem to have much of a story to them and try to cram way too much information (which isn’t really relevant) onto the card. slides.
The most important thing to remember for an angel deck is that your investors know they are investing risky. So make it clear why your company is a good bet, that you have a path to solving a real problem and acquiring a huge market and that you have the team to make it happen.
Team Slide is A+
In a startup company it is often said that you need a hacker, a hustler and a hipster (H3) to build a good founding team. The hacker is the person with the technical knowledge to build the first few versions of the product. The hustler is the person who brings in sales and investment and understands how the market works for this company. And the hipster is someone who can put designs together so that the product looks fresh and cool and is easy to use.
I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with the H3 team-building ethos — it’s much more important that you have the right, in-depth domain knowledge and drive (often expressed as “founder-market fit”), but you Also need a wide range of skills to build a good startup. I admit H3 is often a good template to quickly review a team’s skills and determine if there are significant gaps in the team.
This team slide does two things: It shows that the team is international and divided. It is diverse and experienced. And it manages to demonstrate – in the box below – that the team has market-relevant experience. Now I’d still need a voiceover to figure it out:
- How did the team meet?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of each team member?
- What is missing in the team?
- Why can this team perform in a way no one else can?
- What is the fundraising plan for the current fundraiser?
But as a base level team slide, this ticks a lot of boxes. However, what it doesn’t show is past successes in startups, and I’d like to dig into that a bit more as well. It’s certainly a much better slide than many of the previous ones we’ve covered in these teardowns – you know, the ones that basically stick a Stanford and Tesla logo under a photo and call it a day.
What you can learn from this slide as a startup is that your team slide is at the top of the most important slides, and you need to make it count. Use it to tell your story and convince us that your team is one of the reasons to bet on you.
Good overview slide
A summary slide is a great way to engage investors, and I probably would have placed this slide somewhere near the beginning of the deck rather than at the very end – it really helps to pinpoint the progress and stage of the business in time lay. It shows that while this company is small and finding its feet, it is also making real, measurable progress.
Almost as important as the numbers themselves which numbers measured by the company. It shows monthly and daily active users (MAU/DAU), which are crucial metrics to see how sticky an app is. It shows the number of teachers And how long they stay on the platform, which again speaks to stickiness and the reach the company has. It talks about active user engagement, which shows that people are actively using the app.
For perfect numbers, I would have liked to see these numbers as graphs rather than just aggregated numbers. I would have liked to see dollar figures here too. It’s great that there are over 200 paying subscribers, and that’s impressive for a pre-financing company. But even though the sales numbers are probably very small, it’s also important to see a graph of that. If you don’t put it on the slide, the investor will be suspicious of why and ask for it anyway – you might as well skip that conversation and give them what they need right away.
As a startup, what you can learn from this slide is that you are well aware of the metrics that will help you build and deliver your business.
Business model front and center
Have to say, I don’t like the dark gray-on-light gray design, and it’s curious to me that this is in the appendix rather than the core deck. As an investor, I think this would be one of the key slides. I would also like to see where the company is now. For example, if the company says its TAC (tutor acquisition cost) is $50, what does it actually see as its TAC right now? If it is assumed that each tutor has five students, how does this turn out in practice?
That said, these numbers are super important in your conversations with your investors; essentially you show how you feel about your business and your market and that you understand the levers in your business. In other words, what if each tutor has 10 students instead of five? What if each tutor costs $100 to acquire instead of $50? Plugging all that into a model and running experiments to increase your confidence in the model can go a long way toward understanding your business in numbers.
In the rest of this teardown, we take a look at three things Laoshi could have improved or done differently, along with the company’s full pitch deck!