I Analyzed 5 Pitch Decks From Unicorn Startups

What Airbnb, YouTube, and Dropbox did right in their deck

It's January, which means investors are back in the office and founders are thinking about fundraising.

But even if you aren't raising right now, it can always help to learn what works best in a pitch deck.

This week, I analyzed early pitch decks from 5 startups that ended up becoming unicorns.

Below I shared some points on what stands out about each one, along with the decks themselves.

Hope it's helpful and happy new year!

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⚡️ Analyzing 5 Early Pitch Decks from Unicorns

Dropbox | Deck

This is Dropbox's first deck. They used it to raise $1.2M after joining Y Combinator. It's one of my favorites because it uses simple, concise statements throughout and puts the problem they're solving in your face right away.

When you look at the picture they included on the second slide, you almost instinctually cringe due to the clutter. You feel the messiness that existed around storing information in 2007.

Then they double down on the next slide by calling out specific cases where storage is a common problem, and the things people are doing to solve the problem now.

As an investor, by this point you're hooked and excited to see how they plan to solve the problem. After these few early slides, the rest of the deck is just gravy — you're already either in or out mentally.

Normally I'd recommend that they use fewer slides than 17, but because of how simple and straightforward each slide is, it actually works. A common problem I see is that founders who make their deck 17 slides also put a ton of information on each slide. But, regardless, the big takeaway here is to get to the problem right away, and explain things as simply as possible.

YouTube | Deck

YouTube's first deck, from 2005, is similarly straightforward but there are a few additional callouts worth making.

They start off with their "company purpose" (which reads like a mission statement), rather than the problem they're solving. This lets investors know that, even though it's early, they a focused team that has a clear north star they're working towards.

They also shill the credibility of their founding team. Not only were they all from PayPal, but two of them were personally "recruited by Max Levchin" to join PayPal as early engineers. This is a clever way of communicating that they have the trust of someone whom the investors looking at the deck will definitely know and respect. Even if being a great engineer doesn't necessarily mean someone will be a great founder too, the investor now knows that they don't need to worry about the team being able to build product.

However, the most interesting part of the YouTube deck is the last slide. They call it the "Metrics" slide but don't list any metrics on it. Instead, they simple say that they've been able to become the dominant player in the space after just a few months of launching. This is a flex, plain and simple. Founders are likely only able to pull this off if they're confident they're going to get a meeting with the investors regardless.

Typically, on a metrics slide for an early stage deck investors are interested to see what metric matters most to the team (more than what the actual value is at this stage). YouTube's was apparently market dominance, rather than an actual product metric.

Intercom | Deck

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