Dear Advisor: What metrics should I include in my pitch deck?
Almost every time I share advice on how to use data to benchmark and improve your product market fit or – when I’m mentoring start-ups, there’s one question that (understandably) comes up in the Q&A: "what metrics should I include in my pitch deck?"
While I first start out by saying that “it depends…”, it depends on what:
stage of your product development you’re at, and
stage you’re fundraising at,
type of product/service you have, and
many more conditions…
Here are some general guidelines.
Disclaimer: Depending on how “uncomfortable” your product/offering is, your mileage from the advice shared may vary. I’m not affiliated with any of the resources shared here.
Preliminaries – Why do you need metrics in your pitch deck, in the first place?
In short, metrics can help your audience have a 10K-foot summary view of what is and isn’t going on at your company. Ideally, these metrics will build rapport and credibility with your audience, supporting your thesis that:
your product is solving a much-needed pain point in the market,
your customers are excited to be a part of it and
there’s profit to be made (at scale).
General Guidelines – What Metrics to Include
Here’s some advice on what metrics to consider including – that may be applicable no matter what your business is – or what its characteristics are:
Metrics other founders talk about, especially founders that are in your niche and stage
Review pitch decks of successful companies in your product niche and fundraising stage, to see what’s worked for them. Some resources:
If you’re fundraising in early stages, watch any of the Demo Days by Techstars, FoundersBoost (on YouTube), to compare and learn from pitch decks and founder pitches
Google successful company’s pitch decks by stage they were fundraising for
Review YC Founder Directory, which includes demo day pitches and their advice on "How to build your seed round pitch deck" and "How to Build a Great Series A Pitch and Deck"
Ask your founder network for examples
Attend (in-person or virtual) pitch events (as an audience member) for your product niche and fundraising stage – and see what metrics founders talk about – and what metrics investors ask about
Metrics that showcase any traction you have, such as:
Cohort retention, which Lenny shows you how to calculate this by company type here
Any efficiency metric(s), e.g. time to X, where X can be revenue or a characteristic of "aha" moment of your product/service. For examples of "aha" moments:, I recommend this NFX newsletter.
What your unit economics (if applicable) and/or margins are. For a discussion on this, check out this podcast episode by 20VC.
(Any) Metrics that help you tell the story of:
Why now, and
Why you have product-market-fit.
Metrics by Stage
Two resources that I recommend, not just for recommendations by stage, but for more general advice for start-ups (in addition to my blog, of course :), are the (free) NFX and Lenny’s newsletters.
In this edition, NFX shares advice for when to focus on growth and when to focus on profitability, by stage of your company. I’d recommend including 1 (most) relevant metric relating to the discussion in this article, to build credibility with investors
This edition of Lenny’s Newsletter shares the rules-of-thumb for growth rates by company stage, to help you evaluate what you may need to improve. It's a good idea to humbly brag about how your growth rate is better than the benchmark – and your competition, in the pitch deck :)
Metrics by Company Type
There are also a number of great resources of metrics to help you evaluate where you are on your product market fit journey, based on the type of company you have:
If you have a SaaS product, here are some metrics to consider evaluating and sharing (a select 1 or handful from), to tell your story about your product market fit:
Lenny’s Newsletters’ advice on "The most important bottom-up SaaS metrics to track (and how to best visualize them)"
"SaaS Metrics 2.0 – A Guide to Measuring and Improving what Matters", by David Skok
Priyanka Somrah shares metrics to consider for financial planning and analysis: "FP&A: Helping You Interpret the Past and Model a Vision for the Future"
If you have a self-serve and sales-assisted SaaS product tiers, considering evaluating these Sales Metrics shared by Emilie Schario – and consider humbly bragging about your “aha” moment(s) in the pitch deck
I’d be remiss if I didn't mention advice on how to talk about SaaS metrics during COVID. Amélie Faure shares tips for what to focus on and how to talk about it.
Read Sarah Tavel’s must-read advice on "how to build enduring marketplaces" and touch on how successful your marketplace is to date, especially how you "dominate" now, to build your credibility with your audience.
Marketplace efficiency metrics, following Julia Morrongiello’s advice on how to find it, to help you evaluate how efficient is the match between supply and demand (what she calls "liquidity"), for each of the 3 types of marketplaces out there.
If your product is a marketplace, don’t forget that you have 2 sets of customers: the supply- and demand- sides; don’t forget to include metrics (e.g. a summary for us) for both sides, to help us get a better feel for needs and opportunities in the market and your success there.
Metrics for physical products and goods:
If you’re selling a physical product, including hardware or CPG, don’t forget to share a summary of its supply chain.
You may also want to consider adapting Sarah Tavel’s advice on "how to build enduring marketplaces" to optimizing the supply chain for your good, especially if you’re not developing it in-house.
Metrics shouldn't be the targets to hit at the expense of everything else. Otherwise you can end up in the shoes of Wells Fargo, United Airlines Flight 3411, ScaleFactor, or arbitraging your pizza.
I also don’t expect you to – or recommend – sharing and covering more than a (small) handful of metrics that tell your story in your pitch deck. (And I’m the one that loves data!)
There is such a thing as too many metrics/numbers/details in your deck. Focus on a handful – the ones that really help you tell your story of "why you, why now and why your product/service (already) fills a big need" and manage expectations while inspiring confidence (which is no easy feat!).
You got this! Good luck!
If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your pitch deck, please schedule this flat-fee session.
You may also like
Dear Advisor: How long will Fundraising take? (or) 8 Steps you Need to Know to Fundraise Successfully
Aligning Product, Technology and AI: Advice from Pitch Deck Due Diligence
Dear Advisor: What metrics should I be thinking about?
What are the most common pre-seed and seed-stage pitch deck mistakes?
"Why Crossing the Chasm Doesn't Work for Workplace Products", by Brianne Kimmel
More advice on designing good metrics (by Gibson Biddle) and OKRs (by Christina Wodtke)
Metrics for PMs, by Shubhi Saxena