How to make investors fall in love with your team

Door Paul Musters op

A guide on how to construct a winning Startup Team Slide.

Get funded by displaying an A-player startup team.

A direct email, an intro through Linkedin or the contact form on their website. There’s a high probability your interaction with an investor will happen online. Everyone has done it, but how do you find out if this investor is the potential unicorn match for you and your startup team?

A good way to do this, is through storytelling. And what works best for storytelling online?

You probably guessed it, a pitch deck.

I can hear you thinking: “I already have a good quality pitch deck, what do I need your help for?” and I understand. But did you know that your ‘Team’ slide is the second longest viewed slide in the entire deck?

This metric about the attention of investors shows us that the ‘Team’ slide is one of the most important factors when it comes to getting that first meeting with an investor.

So now that we know your team information is critical when it comes to grabbing attention, how can you make this slide sparkle?

The Do’s

(1) A picture is worth a thousand words

Always use your team’s photo on the Team slide. Some team slides don’t show any pictures at all, which lowers your chances of getting attention exponentially.

My suggestion: use a great group photo instead of individual profile pictures. It says a lot about what kind of team you are, and if done correctly (get some humor involved), it will bring a smile to the face of an investor.

(2) The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else

A good way for investors to predict potential success is by looking at the speed of progress the startup has made as a team. Obviously, showing your progress and learnings should be a central thing throughout your entire deck. But on the Team slide, it’s important to highlight those personal achievements and learnings.

Adding in a short description of each founder’s most significant accomplishments and current responsibilities can do the trick. Again, your uniqueness and creativity play a major role here.

(3) In Team we trust

In a great team, members should trust each other enough to place the ‘we’ above the ‘me’. Knowing each other well is the foundation of trust. You can use your Team slide to showcase that comfort with each other by showcasing different personalities in your team.

I have seen startups add in funny taglines for each founding team member: Peter Jacobs, aka the grumpy cat, David King, the wise old man, Dan Harley, the wizard of Hadoop etc. As corny as it may sound, it displays a strong bond and trust amongst team members, and it gives the investor the possibility to get to know you better before you meet in person.

(4) Use LinkedIn to dive deeper

Since you’ll probably be sending a pdf document, add in the links to every founding team member. This will make it easy for investors to dive a bit deeper into you guys on an individual level. Remember to have your LinkedIn profile in-check and up to date.

(5) Know what you don’t know

Many early stage startup teams are not perfect from the get go. When your team consists of only two students and a dog, it’s obvious you may lack some of the necessary skills to build a billion dollar business. Be honest about this and do not hide this by bloating your own experience. It will make investors cringe big time. Not being honest about certain skill gaps in your team will raise red flags. Instead, show that you know your business by disclosing any team knowledge gaps — and your plan for bridging them.

The Don’ts

(1) What’s in a name?

Name dropping never really works, so I would suggest not to add in advisors or current investors in your Team slide. But if you do, add in how much blood, sweat, and tears they are putting into your startup.

You don’t want to be that startup where the investor made a reference call to their advisor and got to hear: “I haven’t been in contact with these guys for three months.” So if you choose to add in your advisors and investors, tell them about it. Let them know they are on the slide so they know what to expect.

(2) Life stories… boring

Long stories about how you as a team met and what you’ve been up to since your teens will make the investor fall asleep. Try to keep the text on the slide to a minimum. Name the crucial bits and pieces and leave all the fluff out. So if you want to build credibility by naming the places you worked at before starting your company, make clear what you did and display the logos of those companies: Ex-head of corporate sales (Linkedin logo) Ex-VP of Business Development … (Palantir logo) etc.

(3) Serial entrepreneur? So why do you need the money?

I would advise you not to use the word “serial entrepreneur” as a description of yourself for a single reason: It begs the question of how your previous ventures have gone. If you haven’t had such a great track record, keep the word serial entrepreneur for yourself. If you did fairly well, be discrete about it.

Some examples

The bad

How not to make a startup team pitch slide.

Right from the first look, you can see why this is bad. It shows a few things that investors pick up instantly. It shows that you’ve taken zero time and preparation into your team slide… Which is a bad situation to be in and a red flag for potential investors.

The “okayish”

This image dispays a standard team slide taken from an investor deck.

This is an overview of the team slide you see a lot. It is Plain Jane standard and that is what I do not like about it.

With this slide you will not: 1) Stick out; 2) Be remembered; 3) Show your creative powers.

The Great

This image dispays a very creative and fun startup team pitch deck slide.

Why this slide is great: 1) It’s funny as hell; 2) It displays some very personal information on all the founders; 3) They’ve used a well know figure and image as inspiration (photo of Steve Jobs); 4) They talk about their unique strengths (24K stars on Github for Gilfoyle); 5) The positioning of the photo displays alignment, hierarchy and team focus.

This is a slide that will be remembered.

Caveat: Not all investors will have a great sense of humor. So taking it to much over the top is never a good thing. These tips are for inspirational purposes only.

What now?

Now that you know what it takes, ask yourself the following question: “Is my team slide on par?” If you’ve read the points above and see any value in the issues above – great. Work on your slide and make it visual, unique, credible, and above all fun.

How can I help?

In my experience as a VC and the founder of Fortify, I worked with many founding teams throughout the years. I have seen what makes them crash and what makes them win. If you would like to get in contact with me about startup team mechanics or just to get some pointers on your Team slide, contact me here. I’d be happy to have a chat.

Contributed by

Paul Musters

Contact Paul

About the author

Paul Musters is the founder of Fortify.team. He is on a mission to make better matches between founders and investors to innovate faster and more effective.