Learn the 10/20/30 Rule.

KITSAP/BUSINESS—Do you have Méniere’s disease? The medical term used for the combination of tinnitus, hearing loss, and vertigo. There is no cure, but there are many theories about its cause, side effects, medication, and treatment. Some people believe that Méniére’s is the outcome of listening to numerous crappy pitches.

Pareto’s Principle is that 80 percent of the effects come from 20 Percent of the causes. Metcalfe’s Law is that a network’s value is proportional to the number of users’ squares. The 10/20/30 Rule of Presentations should use ten slides in twenty minutes with a minimum of thirty-point text. It’s the essential Rule you can learn about pitching, and it will help prevent a Méniére’s epidemic.

Ten Slides

The purpose of a pitch is to stimulate interest, not to cover every aspect of your startup and bludgeon your audience into submission. Your main motive is to produce enough interest to get a second meeting.

Remember, the proposed number of slides for a pitch is ten. This impossibly low number forces you to concentrate on the absolute essentials. You can add some more, but know this you should never exceed fifteen slides—the more slides you need, the less compelling your idea would be. The ten drops are:


Organization name; your name and title; address, e-mail, and cell phone number. When this slide shows, you ask the three questions that set the stage and then explain what your startup does. Cut to the chase!


Describe the pain that you’re alleviating. The goal is to get everyone buying into the utility of your product. Avoid looking like a solution searching for a problem. Minimize or eliminate citations of consulting studies about the future size of your market.

If you’re not alleviating pain but enabling people to do things that they could never do before, this is the time to paint a picture of the brave new world that you’re offering.



Explain how you alleviate pain and the meaning that you make. Ensure that the audience understands what you sell and your value proposition.

This is not the place for an in-depth technical explanation. Provide the gist of your startup—for example, “We are a discount travel website. We have written software that searches all other travel sites and collates their price quotes into one report.”


Describe the technology, secret sauce, or magic behind your product. The less text and the more diagrams, schematics, and flowcharts, the better. With this one slide, you must convince people that you have a technically viable idea.

If you have an MVVVP, working prototype, or demo, this is the time to transition to it. If you’re lucky, you’ll never get to the rest of your slides. As Glen Shires of Google said, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth ten thousand slides.”


Explain how you make money: who pays you, your distribution channels, and your gross margins. Generally, a unique, untested business model is a scary proposition. If you have a revolutionary business model, explain it in terms of familiar ones. This is your opportunity to drop the names of the organizations that are already using your product.


Explain how you are going to reach your customer and summarize your marketing leverage points. Convince the audience that you have an effective go-to-market strategy that won’t break the bank. (Resist the temptation to use “go viral” because that’s wishful thinking, not an approach.)


Provide a complete view of the competitive landscape. Too much is better than too little. Never dismiss your competition. Everyone—customers, investors, and partners—wants to hear why you’re good, not why the match is terrible.


Describe the key players of your management team, board of directors, and board of advisers, as well as your major investors. It’s okay if you have less than a perfect team—if you were the cofounder of Cisco or YouTube, you would not need to raise money.

You only have to show that your education and work experience are relevant to the market you’re going after. All startups have holes—what’s important is whether you understand that there are holes and are willing to fix them.



Provide a three-to-five-year forecast containing dollars and critical metrics, such as several customers and conversion rate. Do a bottom-up forecast. Take into account long sales cycles and seasonality. Making people understand the underlying assumptions of your prediction is as essential as the numbers you’ve fabricated.


Explain your product’s current status, what the near future looks like, and how you’ll use the money you’re trying to raise. Share the details of your positive momentum and traction. Then use this slide to close with a bias toward action.

A word about liquidity: no entrepreneur knows when, how, or if she will achieve liquidity, and yet many insist on including a slide that says, “There are two liquidity options: an IPO or an acquisition.” If an investor asks about your exit strategy, it usually indicates he’s clueless. If you answer with these two options, you have a lot in common.

The only time you should include a slide about liquidity is when you can list at least three acquirers whom the investor has never heard of—this shows that you know the industry. By contrast, saying that Google, or the Google of your industry, will buy you will make all but the dumbest investors laugh at you.

In addition to your ten slides, you can have more that go into greater detail about your technology, marketing, former or current clients, and other key strategies and points. It’s good to have these done in advance if you’re asked for a more in-depth explanation. However, please don’t use them unless you’re asked about their subject matter.

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