How to share a pitch deck without an NDA?
The debate about asking for NDAs is an old one. Yet, many first-time entrepreneurs and founders still struggle with this.
They want to demand NDAs are signed before sharing anything about their startup idea with anyone.
Yet, most of the best startups don’t require them. It’s not even on their minds.
So, if you really do have intellectual property that you want kept secret, how do you get your pitch deck in front of investors?
How do you protect what’s valuable and you fear will be stolen and still raise the funding your company needs?
Are NDAs a complete waste of time, or worse? What other options for controlling your pitch deck and data may work instead?
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
The Purpose Of A Pitch Deck
To get clarity on the value or detriment the concept of NDAs have when it comes to fundraising, it pays to first get clear on the foundational question of what’s a pitch deck for anyway?
Of course, one of the main reasons to create a pitch deck in the first place is to get investors to put in their capital. Though it is certainly no longer the only reason to build one.
A pitch deck is all about getting your company and product idea in front of people.
Considering that it can often take dozens or hundreds of noes to get to a yes, the more people that can see your deck the better, right?
If viewers can share that with others, and come back and view it again if they are interested and ready to make a funding decision that should be great.
Making it too difficult, time-consuming, and not streamlined may be problematic.
Often, secondary purposes of creating pitch decks are simultaneously, to boost branding, product visibility, to get people engaged, and even to make sales.
To accomplish these things, it needs the maximum possible visibility and needs to be brief, exciting, and actionable.
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So, if you want to secure your ideas, how to share a pitch deck without an NDA?
Is Stealth Mode Counterproductive?
Occasionally you will hear a startup founder talking about how they just came out of stealth mode. A handful may do very well after this.
Stealth mode is supposed to refer to working in secret for a while. There may occasionally be advantages to this.
You may want a head start, or to ink exclusive deals and prove certain things before going big and having everyone in your business.
However, while it sounds cool, it is normally the opposite of what most startups really need.
Stealth may be important if you are in the military or you are escaping captors in a foreign country.
Yet, the biggest challenge businesses of all sizes and ages have is visibility. That’s why the biggest and oldest brands still spend billions on advertising and branding campaigns.
If McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Nike, IBM, and Apple still need to advertise to get visibility and pay enormous sums to get noticed, that should tell you something.
You are far more likely to have your company die and an idea fail because not enough people heard of it and saw it enough than someone stealing your ideas.
So, all too often ‘stealth mode’ might just be code for we were too scared to launch, weren’t sure if we could actually build it, took way too long trying to make a pitch deck, or didn’t know how to get visibility.
Those are not positives for a startup trying to raise money. In fact, having your ideal stolen, copied, and taken viral might just be the best thing that can happen to you.
If you’re wondering how to share a pitch deck without an NDA, think about whether you really need to get one.
Working out getting an NDA is just one of the many ideas of how to write a pitch deck. If you need more information, check out this video I have put together explaining how it’s done.
What Is A NDA?
An NDA stands for Non-Disclosure Agreement. Also known as a confidentiality agreement.
Businesses and government organizations have often historically required employees and contractors to sign NDAs to try and keep their sensitive and valuable secrets secret.
NDAs are typically a pretty standard legal form. Usually just a few pages.
An NDA form may include:
- Who the parties are involved
- What information is covered and expected not to be disclosed
- When disclosure may be required i.e. under law enforcement or court order
- The legal jurisdiction of the agreement will be governed by
- How long the agreement will remain in effect for
In a nutshell, an NDA is usually signed by the recipient of information, in an attempt to prevent them from sharing information about your company with anyone else, under penalty of financial pain.
The Problem With NDAs
So, what’s wrong with demanding an NDA?
Attempting to require that someone, especially an investor sign an NDA before viewing your pitch deck is hugely problematic.
For a start, it immediately blocks you from many different types of fundraising, campaigns, venues, and financing options.
It immediately closes the doors to things like:
- Pitching to rooms of potential investors, like angel groups
- Applying to startup accelerators and participating in accelerator demo days
- Public online crowdfunding campaigns
- Applying for loans from banks and other lenders
- Participating in startup competitions where money can be awarded
- Appearing on TV to pitch your startup and investment opportunity
You will immediately wipe out 90% of your options for raising money for your startup.
Secondly, investors are just too busy for it. Well-known celebrity investors and VC firms might receive 1,000 pitch decks each week.
They already have enough of a problem trying to filter out the one or two they may be interested in.
They certainly don’t have time to sign and return NDAs before viewing a deck, even if they wanted to.
Of course, with a lot of capital and being juicy victims for malicious lawsuits already, they aren’t about to take on that risk.
Especially, when they’ve probably already seen several similar ideas this week alone. It just doesn’t make sense for them.
They also know that your biggest challenge is visibility, and how demanding an NDA is going to hold you back in many ways.
So, they won’t take you seriously. It would present a whole lot more risk for them if they did invest with you.
Finally, it won’t get shared. If they can’t disclose, then they can’t share it with the rest of their firm or network or with other investors for who it may be a better fit.
This doesn’t just apply to investors either. Demanding NDAs at this stage will yield similar issues when seeking advisors and quality talent too.
If you’re working out how to share a pitch deck without an NDA, that might just work in your favor.
NDAs Don’t Work
Of course, there is a lawyer somewhere or an online legal platform cringing and getting red in the face right now.
They make money from producing things like NDAs. Especially for their less experienced clients.
They sound like wonderful ideas for new entrepreneurs who think they have just come up with the best ideas since Einstein and Bell.
Yet, in reality, they aren’t going to work as you think. Not the majority of the time.
Even if someone breaks your NDA and you find out, you have to prove it. You have to prove there is no explanation for it.
Then you have to catch them and take a massive detour and pledge the resources of time, money, and capital to pursue them.
Even then, if you win in court after a few years, and thousands of dollars later, the information was already out and spreading for years.
It may make sense for Google and Apple who have billion-dollar legal teams who have nothing else to do all day.
For the average early-stage startup, it is just going to self-sabotage your business. So, you might just want to consider the positives of how to share a pitch deck without an NDA.
Fundraising & The Myths Of First Mover Advantage
One of the top reasons entrepreneurs may give for wanting an NDA is to retain the first-mover advantage in a market.
That can be an advantage. Yet, more commonly today the real advantage goes to the company that is able to raise more money, and go bigger, faster, and be more visible.
In fact, in the startup space having competition is often better for you. From an investor perspective, it means the risk has been removed that this is really a thing.
The demand has been proven. Other investors have researched and bet on it. There may be more demand for your company to be acquired.
You can bet a lot more money was raised by new rideshare services and social networks after uber and Facebook became known, then when Mark Zuckerberg got his first thousand dollars in seed money.
Competition can also force you to become better and recruit more great talent.
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 About All Of Your Top Secret Ideas?
The reality is that investors don’t really believe most ideas are original anyway. Ideas are cheap.
People come up with thousands of them every day. Obviously, there has to be some overlap there.
For investors, there are far more important things in a startup than the idea, business model, or product.
For example the team, and the ability to execute well. The ability to move fast, go big, and win the space.
If you are really worried about investors stealing your ideas then perhaps it is best to focus on identifying, connecting with, and pitching to investors you really trust in the first place.
If you do truly have valuable intellectual property and real business secrets that no one else can think of or create on their own without copying, like proprietary technology or formulas, then they definitely do not belong in your pitch deck anyway.
Your pitch deck is not the place to be breaking down the deep tech or magic formulas. It is a sales tool.
An advertisement that quickly gets people excited about having a conversation about giving you money and getting involved in helping you.
As an early-stage startup, you are probably only running with 10 slides in your pitch deck. That is barely enough room to get in the major key points, and some very basic data and one-liners.
How To Share Your Pitch Deck Without An NDA
Yes, you do still want some control over your pitch deck. You want to make sure whoever is seeing it is seeing the current version you have updated.
Also, you want to be able to measure engagement and success. You want to know when it has actually been seen.
As well as to perhaps even work on split testing versions of your pitch deck.
In some cases, you may want to revoke access to your pitch deck or see who has viewed it or shared it.
So, instead of emailing or handing out paper copies of your pitch deck, host it online instead.
Use a tool that enables you to track as much as possible, and to control who has access to view and edit it at any time.
This will give you the best of all worlds when it comes to your pitch deck and information control.
What About When Investors Want More Details?
There will be scenarios in which more technical investors with domain experience want to know more details.
Or when investors want to be sure that there is really some valuable IP behind the sales pitch.
There are options here, including:
- Having a second longer and more in-depth deck for qualified investors
- Having them provide a real term sheet and starting their due diligence to invest
- Listing your trademarks and patents
- Inviting you to an investor meeting for a Q&A session
- Investing their capital with you and joining your team
So, work out how to share a pitch deck without an NDA. you might have a better shot at getting the funding you need.
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.