Neil Patel

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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What are the deadly signs of a bad pitch deck?

Fundraising can be challenging at the best of times. It’s going to be a lot harder if your pitch deck isn’t up to the job. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad pitch decks that get floated out there every day. How do you know if yours has a chance?

If it is displaying any of these critical red flags you need to go back to the drawing board before you try sharing and presenting it. Learn to recognize the deadly signs of a bad pitch deck.

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Asking For A NDA First

If you are asking potential investors, advisors, and hires to sign NDAs before they even see your deck you aren’t going to get far. At least, not with anyone serious and who is good.

NDAs at this stage are a big red flag that you are a complete novice, don’t have the right priorities, and your startup probably isn’t going anywhere. You’ll immediately be dismissed by those you really need to see it and get input from. If there is any real trade secret and secret recipe involved, then just leave those sensitive details out of the deck.

The Pitch Deck Is Ugly

Simple and basic is one thing. That might just say you are a little lazy or didn’t feel it was worth investing in a good pitch deck and presentation. You might get away with it. Then, there is outright ugly.

If your deck is an eyesore, and others are gently trying to tell you that you could improve on it, take a step back and put some time and money into the design. Lack of attention to this detail is one of the deadly signs of a bad pitch deck.

You might be bootstrapping and running lean, but it is worth every penny and minute. Consider how much your pitch deck is worth if you successfully raise this round and your business takes off. If you really believe in your startup idea, then you have to show it, and that you respect the time and attention of prospective investors.

Your Pitch Deck‘s Cover Slide Lacks Key Info

First impressions count. Experienced investors are looking for an interesting cover slide that includes the core basics, like your company name and contact information.

There Are Too Many Slides

Having too many slides is another of the deadly signs of a bad pitch deck. Know that you aren’t going to get funded. There is enough information out there telling you that shorter and sweeter is better when it comes to slide count in a pitch deck, and that there is really no good excuse for a lengthy deck.

If you’ve got more than 16 or 20 slides, it is an instant sign that you haven’t bothered to do the most basic homework, can’t listen and take advice, and are incapable of focusing and keeping it simple. If you can’t boil it down by a couple of slides, then investors can’t expect you’ll be able to make anything more complicated work or will make the effort. 8-12 slides are plenty.

The Pitch Deck Is Too Complicated & Detailed

Simple, clean, and clear is the key to a successful pitch deck and getting funded. If they start swiping slides and they are cluttered, packed with text, and busy, it is an immediate turnoff. Investors will immediately know that you really don’t understand how startups, fundraising, and they work.

If you can’t get this simple thing right, they know it is probably not worth looking any further or reading all that tiny messy text or trying to make sense of your schematics.

Even if they do give you a chance, they are highly likely to quickly gloss over and either get bored, run out of time before reviewing the next deck in their inbox, or miss the good stuff. Not being able to hold the attention of your viewers is another of the deadly signs of a bad pitch deck.

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Keep in mind that in fundraising storytelling is everything. In this regard for a winning pitch deck to help you here, take a look at the template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Not Being Crystal Clear & Simple About The Problem

For startups to be successful in business and efficient enough to make it, they have to be solving a strong problem, and they must have an incredible level of clarity about the problem they are solving. Not being able to communicate this clarity is a deadly sign of a bad pitch deck.

It’s true that your product or solution and company may be able to simultaneously solve many problems, bring many improvements to efficiency, and the features can have many side benefits. The bottom line is that 99% of that is irrelevant in this context. You need to prove you are laser-focused on solving one specific problem and doing it incredibly well.

Overstating Big Claims

Be optimistic, sell it, and show the big upside potential by all means. Investors want to be inspired and buy into big visions too. Just don’t get carried away. Be sure your claims and stats are based on real facts, and that you can back them up with credible references.

Missing Key Data

Before you even choose a pitch deck template or hit a single key to fill it in, you should know what investors are looking for and expect in a deck. You should know the questions they are asking and the most important data points for them to be able to make a decision. Those things should be your guide to research and formulating the deck in the first place, nothing else.

Not Acknowledging The Competition

Knowing the right things to do to build a great product and business of your own is only half of the game here. Maybe less. At least half of it is knowing and respecting the risks, threats, and competition.
In the video below I cover ind detail how to create a pitch deck which you may find interesting.

Like a legendary boxing match, it often isn’t the athlete that jumps in the ring and throws the most blows the fastest that wins the belt. It is the one that can take all that is thrown at them the longest, until the competition burns out and the perfect shot lines up.

You do have competition. Show it. There are threats. Show that you know them in your SWOT analysis. Not having this information is another of the deadly signs of a bad pitch deck.


If you have no clear USP, you have no clear business. You need to pause the deck until you’ve really got something with a unique value proposition, or can find someone to help draw yours out and tell the right story around it.

You may find interesting as well our free library of business templates. There you will find every single template you will need when building and scaling your business completely for free. See it here.

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Neil Patel

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want help with your fundraising or acquisition, just book a call

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