Pitch Deck Grading: Harvest Money (1/3)

In 1967 at a hotel bar, a pilot named Rollin
King reportedly pitched an idea to a friend on a cocktail napkin. King drew a triangle with three points: Dallas,
Houston, and San Antonio. The idea was to fly a low-cost airline between
just these cities and beat large airlines with complex routes and bloated costs. The friend, Herb Kelleher, reportedly told
King, “Rollin, you’re crazy. Let’s do it.” This is the origin story of Southwest Airlines,
now one of the largest airlines in the world. A version of the cocktail napkin is enshrined
at Southwest’s headquarters. But King admitted in 2007 that like so many
origin stories, the cocktail napkin was a myth.

Ideas can start on napkins, but real pitches
need details, packaged well for investors. Today, that’s most often in a pitch deck. I’ve seen over a thousand pitch decks but
so many make mistakes. I’ve written a detailed guide to making
a pitch deck but I want to go further with analysis and grading of actual decks. I hope this helps you improve your own. I’m starting with a pitch from Harvest Money,
a startup that published a draft of its deck for feedback. I wanted to cover a startup that wasn’t
well known yet, so we could judge its deck more objectively. I’m grateful to the founders for their transparency. If you’d like to have your pitch deck graded,
email it to me at mark@venturekit.com. Of course, I’ll only publish decks with
permission. Let’s dive into a grading of the pitch deck
from Harvest Money. Ok, here’s the
start of the deck. It has 14 slides and if you want to see it
on SlideShare, you can use this URL.

I’ll be grading each slide from A to F to
give a rough measure of its effectiveness but I want to stress that the Harvest Money
team posted this deck as a draft to get feedback so I mean any criticism to be constructive. I encourage you to read this deck as a potential
investor. What do you think is clear, unclear, exciting,
or worrying? That’s how I’m approaching it. This is the first slide, the title slide. A title slide should briefly say what the
company does and make it easy to learn more or follow-up. I like title slides that show:
The Company name, logo, and slogan The CEO’s name and email address
A link to the company’s website and AngelList page
Any company social media handles, if they’re active
And the current date, which helps me timestamp the company’s progress if they send another
deck in the future What I like about Harvest’s title slide
is the short, descriptive slogan, and the graphic is nice, though it is a bit cliche.

When my last company was fundraising, we used
a very similar graphic on our title slide. I think something more unique to financial
services or a product screenshot would be better. The weaknesses are that there’s no website
URL, no social media handles, no contact information, I don’t know who the CEO is. This makes it harder to learn more upfront
or follow-up. The slide does the bare minimum so I’d grade
it a C. I’d like to see this other information added but the title slide isn’t important
so it’s not a big deal. This is the team slide.

The team slide should convey who the founders
are, some key accomplishments, and why the team is uniquely suited for the opportunity. I like that this slide focuses on the founders,
which is who investors want to know the most about, but there are some problems. There are no actual titles, it just says business,
engineering, and design, which doesn’t say who the CEO is because it may not be the businessperson. There are no accomplishments. I can’t get a sense of their personal strengths,
there are just logos of past employers, which only really says you passed an admission test
into that company.

I’d rather see 1-3 key accomplishments,
ideally related to the startup’s market. Overall, I’d grade this slide a D, which
may sound harsh, but it just doesn’t say much about the strengths of this team. This is the Solution slide, which conveys
what the product does and its benefits. I like this slide, I think it does a lot well. First, it describes what the product is. It aims to be the first automated and intelligent
debt management platform. It says who it’s for, the 8 in 10 Americans
with debt. And it shows a large image of the current
or future product. It also cites its data, which I appreciate,
but for a live pitch, citations should move to an Appendix because the text would be too
small. Overall, I think this slide has no major weaknesses,
it does what it’s supposed to, so I grade it an A. A small edit is that I would split
the two sentences into separate paragraphs just to make them pop..

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