How do you protect your pitch deck? Particularly, how can you protect your startup’s pitch deck when you are sharing it with others?
Aspiring startup entrepreneurs often worry about protecting their information. Especially when it comes to sharing their pitch decks. Some even work away in secret for years, in what they call ‘stealth mode.’
So, what is the big concern about protecting pitch deck content? What are the real threats versus the perceived risks? How do you optimize your fundraising process, and protect yourself, your company, and its other stakeholders at the same time?
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Where & When You Will Use Your Pitch Deck
The first use of a pitch deck that comes to mind for most startup entrepreneurs is for pitching investors in the fundraising process.
This may include pitching on stage to a room full of investors. It may be in an investor meeting. Or it could be sending out your pitch deck to potential investors, investment firms, TV shows, or startup accelerator programs.
However, a pitch deck has many other roles as well.
One of the first is often to recruit highly desirable advisors to help hone your pitch deck and business plan and to guide you as you move through fundraising to scaling your company.
Most early hires you want to make, including freelance marketers to help with your fundraising campaigns, will only have your pitch deck to base their decision to work with you or not.
See How I Can Help You With Your Fundraising Efforts
See How I Can Help You With Your Fundraising Efforts
In many cases, a pitch deck can also be used to pre-sell customers and potential corporate partners, as well as for securing talented and experienced cofounders.
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.
What Are The Threats To Your Pitch Deck?
Aside from just getting the pitch deck right, there may be a variety of fears that entrepreneurs have about putting their pitch decks out there. Some may be more warranted than others. This is why you should know how to protect your pitch deck
Let’s take a look at some of the most frequent fears, as well as the risks that should perhaps be top of mind.
These are some of the top concerns entrepreneurs have in this area include the following.
Stealing Your Idea
Many new entrepreneurs think it is all about their novel idea. They think their business success and the ability to raise capital relies on their idea.
The reality is that while you need a good idea and plan, investors care a lot more about your ability to execute and get results. Can you make consistent, fast progress, and build a big company out of this? That’s far more important.
Sooner or later, your idea is going to be put out there. At least if you ever hope to have customers. Don’t be surprised if that unique idea you think you have has already been pitched to the same investors by others a dozen times in the past week already.
Copying Your Technology
Technical entrepreneurs can be especially afraid that someone else will steal their technology and copy it for themselves. It has happened in the past. Even with major inventions like the telephone.
While there is a lot more to building a successful business than any one specific technology, if it is truly genius and unique, then it is smart to protect it.
Poaching Your Team
The team is one of the most important assets. Especially for early-stage startups. At this point, the team is really what you are raising on. In some cases, investors have backed entrepreneurs to go run other startup ideas in their portfolios.
You don’t want to lose any of your top talent or cofounders. Especially in the early stages, and if you haven’t protected your business with carefully crafted shareholder agreements.
Poaching Your Customers
Who your customers are, and their value definitely comes into play as an important factor for fundraising.
Venture capitalists like to see strong customers and corporate partners. Even better if they are big, well known, and you have multi-year contracts with them. Which can also be a path to an eventual exit and liquidity event.
As you move into the due diligence phase, you can expect investors to want to speak with your customers and review your contracts and agreements with them.
At the same time, your customers are prized commodities that you really can’t afford to lose. You’ve worked hard for them. They are what keep your business alive and running. Securing information about your clients is a critical aspect when working on how to protect your pitch deck.
Tying You Up For Your Competition
Most people are not going to try and swipe your idea, technology, team, or customers. However, there may be some bad actors who will do anything to take out the competition.
If they can’t win and retain their market share fairly, they will stoop to doing anything to make money and crush attempts to compete with them. That can mean suing you out of business, trying you up in court, lobbying for new regulations, corporate espionage, and more.
In this scenario, there may be some actors who just want to peek inside your business, tie you up, and distract you. While extracting information about what’s working in your company, and stalling you. All so their business can get ahead, and grow stronger while you are weakened.
This makes it important to know the players in the industry, have contacts you trust, and have good representation.
Revealing Your Weaknesses
Great founders and business leaders know themselves and their companies intimately well. Including their weaknesses, and risks, as well as their strengths.
Investors like to see that you understand these things well. That you are transparent enough to recognize and speak about them. In many cases, this is the only way that you will get help in these areas.
Investors can certainly be instrumental in bringing value to some of these areas. Including new capital, advice, and connections to many resources, distribution channels, and more.
The Real Risks When Pitching Investors
While the above can be factors to keep in mind and to act to defend against, the following are much more pressing real risks when it comes to protecting and circulating your startup’s pitch deck.
Not Getting Your Deck In Front Of Investors
Even the best startups that have gone on to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from the best investors, and have sold their companies for huge sums have often had to pitch hundreds of investors in each round to get the funding they so desperately needed.
Demanding people sign an NDA before viewing your pitch deck is not the way to go. It is not the way to try and protect your pitch deck and its contents. It will only limit you and sabotage your startup.
The biggest real risk to your startup and fundraising efforts is not having enough visibility. This is one of the hardest and most expensive things to get and earn. Don’t work against yourself here.
You want to get your deck into the hands of as many people as you can and encourage them to share it as widely as they can. At the same time, you should know how to protect your pitch deck.
Using Your Information To Negotiate Against You
While you may need to just take whatever money you can get on any terms available in order to survive, it’s always nice to have more options and negotiating power.
Your data will reveal the status of your financial health. Whether you still have plenty of runway and cash flow to keep operating without any extra outside investment, or if you have a high burn rate, and are going to start failing to meet payroll without a fast cash injection.
Not Getting Funded
Protecting your deck and things that you think are important is absolutely meaningless if you don’t bring in the funding you need.
If you go bankrupt, then your idea, tech, team, etc., will be completely irrelevant.
Don’t get lost in trying to defend something or get distracted going down the wrong rabbit holes at the cost of your entire venture.
The most crucial time to protect your pitch deck is during your fundraising efforts. If you need more information on how to send a pitch deck to investors securely, check out this video I have created.
Ways To Protect Your Pitch Deck
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to protect your pitch deck, its contents, and all of the other things which you see as valuable, and critical parts of the DNA of your venture.
Establishing the copyrights to your work can be one of the easiest ways to ensure that your thesis and your pitch deck itself aren’t just ripped off.
It can be an extra step and expense, but if you are that paranoid about it, and have the free time and capital, you may file to protect your work with the US Copyright Office. Which can be done online.
A trademark and trademark protection is specifically for things like product and company names, slogans, and logos. All of which can eventually be worth money, and be important to protect.
Of course, if you are just starting out, and everything is riding on being able to bring in capital to make it possible, these things may have zero value right now.
Still, you can file and register trademarks.
In contrast to copyrights and trademarks, patents apply to new inventions, processes, and compositions of matter.
If you are serious about your work and have something of real value, it is worth patenting it.
Having filed for patents shows investors that you are serious. Having patents approved for truly valuable intellectual property (IP) can provide investors with tangible assets to invest in.
Share With Those You Trust
While you may end up in a situation where you just need to bring in any money you can from any source available, a targeted fundraising process is more efficient, and will greatly reduce all of these risks.
This includes not only focusing on the best-fitting investors in your space, but looking for those with shared values, and good reputations they don’t want to burn.
Separate Your Most Sensitive Information
You can avoid almost all of the problems above, and protect your pitch deck by simply removing the most sensitive information that you don’t want to be stolen, copied, or otherwise compromised.
Save your financial details, customer information, amount of cash in the bank, technical specs, and proprietary processes. Separate them, and put them in your virtual data room. Only to be accessed by the most serious investors that you have already vetted and are providing term sheets.
This will also ensure that your pitch deck stays lean, clean, and the most effective possible.
Host Your Pitch Deck Online
Never send out your pitch deck as an attachment.
Instead, host your pitch deck online. Somewhere that you can monitor and control access to at all times. This way, you can see who has viewed it, is viewing it, or has shared it with others. Google Slides offers a lot of these features, and it’s free.
This also provides a seamless transition to your virtual data room stored online. As well as enabling you to update and tweak your pitch deck in real-time.
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.