How to stick the landing

Chris Neumann - early-stage investor at Panache Ventures
One of the hardest parts of aerial sports — whether gymnastics, skiing or snowboarding — is sticking the landing. Yet it’s arguably the most important part of the routine. You can have 60 seconds of perfection, but if you don’t stick the landing none of it matters.

In fundraising, the “landing” is the final slide in your deck – the “ask” slide.

It acts as the climax of your pitch, highlighting how much you’re raising, why you’re raising and what you’re going to do with the money.

The “ask” slide is simple in concept, yet 90% of founders get it wrong.

Here are 5 “do’s” and “don’ts” of the “ask” slide to help you stick the landing:

1. DO Ask for Money
This seems obvious, but a surprising number of pitch decks don’t include it.

I’m always caught off guard when a founder sends me a pitch deck that doesn’t include an explicit ask for funding. In most cases, it leaves me with a negative impression: has this founder actually thought about what they need?

If you’re trying to raise money, you absolutely must include an "ask” — and be specific in the amount of money you’re trying to raise. You might have a range in your head, but you need to present investors with a single number and a plan that backs it up. This is a financial transaction, after all.

2. DON’T Present a Detailed Spending Breakdown
More than half of the “ask” slides I see use the majority of the slide real estate to present a spending plan.

Guess what? I already know what you’re going to spend the money on. If you’re a SaaS business, it’s developers, marketing and sales. If you’re hardware, we can throw in some inventory. Deep tech? Probably some researchers and other R&D costs.

Yes, I’m going to eventually want to see a budget. But that’s primarily to facilitate a discussion on how you’re going to get there. It’s something that belongs squarely in an appendix slide.

When reading an “ask” slide I don’t care how you’re going to spend the money. I want to understand what you’re going to achieve with it…

3. DO Tell Me What You’re Going to Achieve
The minute that money lands in your bank account, the clock starts ticking.

For VC-backed companies, you’ll almost certainly need to raise more capital in your quest to win the world. The most important question I’m asking when I read the “ask” slide is: what are they trying to achieve with this chunk of money?

The corollary is even more important to investors: if they achieve their short-term goals, will they be able to raise the next round? Will they have de-risked the business enough that the investor who comes after me will get excited?

An effective “ask” slide is concrete:

Increase sales —> Achieve $2M in ARR

Add new users —> Add 250K new users in H2 2022 and 1M more by the end of 2023

Sign new enterprise customers —> Sign 10 new F500 companies worth at least $1M in revenue
This allows us to have a discussion on whether the goals you’re setting are the “right” ones and provides context for us to dive into your plan to achieve them.

4. DON’T Include Sales Projections
Too many “ask” slides include sales projection graphs and other business details from elsewhere in the deck. This usually happens when founders treat the “ask” slide as a conclusion and try to cram a full recap of the pitch deck into it.

It’s great if you want to have a recap slide, but it shouldn’t be combined with the “ask.”

Just like the stillness of a gymnast after sticking the perfect landing, allow the “ask” to stand on its own.
5. DO Tell Me How Much Runway this Gives You
A small but crucial detail that’s missing in a lot of “ask” slides: how long will this funding give you to achieve your goals?

As a VC, I’m working backwards and assuming you’ll need 12-18 months to reach your objectives, 6 months to do your subsequent fundraising and a quarter or two of the buffer. That means you should be looking at 24 months or more of the runway. (In years flush with cash, founders would often plan for 18 - 24 months of the runway — but even then, the response from investors would often be: “perhaps you should raise a little more?”)

This is another one of those small bits of information that can lead to incredibly insightful conversations between founders and investors, so don’t be afraid to include it. I’m guaranteed to ask you!

Corona Corner