Three Startup Pitch Deck Mistakes That Are Red Flags For Venture Investors

Fortunately They’re Really Simple To Fix!

Hunter Walk


You might think my job is about saying “yes” to founders, but statistically it’s *actually* about saying “no,” given we typically see 3,000+ companies annually in order to make 10–12 investments. Despite the volume, each opportunity to hear or read more about someone’s idea is a privilege and I try to treat it respectfully, despite not being able to spend meaningful time on the majority of inbound we receive. Hopefully every startup finds the right investors!

Some entrepreneurs are born salespeople, others find it more awkward but ultimately realize getting comfortable pitching — to investors, to the team, to potential employees, and so on — is part of the job. And without this talent, the risk unintentionally lowering the probability of building the success they desire.

Photo by Slidebean on Unsplash

The deck you send to an investor is often the first opportunity you have to tell your startup’s story, and there’s lots of great material out there on what a deck should do. But there’s fewer posts on the classic, and repeated, mistakes people make in these summaries. Here are three of them, which I believe will make most VCs lean towards the “PASS” button…

  1. Don’t Put an Exit Slide in a Seed Deck (or any deck before growth round IMO)

I see these most often when entrepreneurs come from regions/cultures where tech startups are still new, or the investors they’ve been pitching are more traditional non-venture groups. But as a venture investor, I hate it. So much so that I wrote an entire post earlier on this topic alone. Here’s the most salient portion from that essay:

Why don’t I like to see “exit” slides in seed decks:

Narrows Thinking: Usually conceived based on what company is today, not what it can be

Speak of the Devil & He Will Won’t Appear: Often talks of different acquirers and market comps. Companies don’t get sold, they get bought so just go and build a big business. By ID’ing potential acquirers too early one may obsess over their market moves, etc.

Tell Me How You’ll Create Value, Not Just Realize It: Build a big profitable business. If you can do that…



Hunter Walk

You’ll find me @homebrew , Seed Stage Venture Fund w @satyap . Previously made products at YouTube, Google & SecondLife. Married to @cbarlerin .