Why You Don’t Need a Pitch Deck to Raise Money — Just a Story

Darrell Swain
CEO at Tiled
January 13, 2022

Ditch the Deck

If you’re raising money for your startup company, you might think that you need to create a pitch deck — slide after slide about what you’re trying to accomplish. That’s the way everybody does it, right? Not so fast. There’s no reason that some of the most creative people on the planet should all have to raise money using the exact same method. 

To stand out from the crowd, many founders are turning to more exciting ways to raise capital. Take this former Googler who raised $73 million without one. Or ask Argyle co-founder Shmulik Fishman, who said, “When we started this [company], I was of the mindset of ‘I never want to open up Keynote again.’” And don’t get us started about how much we love the viral fwd: fwd: lucky pitch deck email.

If you’re going to ditch the deck, it’s worth thinking about what you should do instead. Here are some ideas.

Tell Your Story

We’re not saying you don’t need a buttoned-up business plan, but it’s not the only thing you need. Far from it. Even the most quantitatively minded people make their decisions on more than just dollars and cents. As finance professor Aswath Damodaran argues, stories drive corporate value. Your startup needs the right quantitative measurements, but it also needs to tell a story too — and that story could be more important than anything else your startup offers.

Think about the narrative you would like to tell: What quest are you on? What obstacles are in your way? What secret powers do you have? If you get clear about the story you’re telling first, the data will fall into place — and you might find you don’t even need to write a pitch deck to capture it.

That was one of the secrets of the celebrity video app Cameo, which is now worth more than a billion dollars. Their founders never worried about a pitch deck, instead focusing on their story. “We’ve never really made a pitch deck, which is something that blows people’s minds,” said Cameo co-founder Steven Galanis. “Ultimately, we’re a storytelling company. We have a product that people can feel. If you go to Cameo and get a video for your wife and watch her reaction, you get it. You don’t need to see anything else.”

Build Relationships

What’s a story without an audience? 

As a startup founder, you should be getting to know the investors in your space long before you ask them for money. The better a relationship you have built, the more likely they will be to consider you as an investment. 

That doesn’t mean you can only access startup capital if you have social capital, but it does mean you need to invest in your investors. When this startup was getting off the ground, its founders first approached investors as sources of expertise before they asked for money. And to do that, you don’t need a deck — just the ability to ask them questions and listen to their answers.

Because as important as they are as sources of money, they are just as valuable as sources of advice. Practice proactively seeking them out for their thoughts, and sharing your triumphs and setbacks with them. As Entrepreneur magazine notes, don’t be afraid to go beyond the business talk: “A solid relationship is rooted in authenticity and respect. Don’t be afraid to break out of the business rhetoric and interact with your investor on a personal level.” 

Show Beats Tell

Another way to break out of business rhetoric is to have a product ready to show.

When this event management company was starting up, its founder was determined to rethink how to do it. And so instead of building a pitch deck, the company simply launched. Instead of telling people about what it planned to do, it can now show them exactly what it already is doing. Its founder said, “When we put something out there, it’s going to be real. We want to see how the market embraces the things we’ve built.”

That’s true across scales of different sizes. When Cameo made its Series A round, it had already done hundreds of thousands of videos. 

What would you rather do — watch a boring presentation about what a company might plan to do in the future sometime? Or get your hands on the product that they already have in the market?

Think Outside the Pitch

There are many ways to creatively tell your company’s story when you’re looking for investment. Tiled’s no-code, interactive document platform for innovative storytellers offers a way to create personalized content precisely tailored to your audience. 

Interactive Content
Darrell Swain
CEO at Tiled
Darrell Swain’s passion for innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship inspired him to launch Tiled in 2016 with some founding partners. As CEO, he oversees every aspect of the company's strategy and success. Darrell has a history of successful startups. As co-founder of Lucid Chart, he led its growth from beta to hundreds of thousands of active users, securing the financing and developing the product along the way. His vision of Tiled has pushed our product and our company to new heights and new successes.