Revisiting my seed round deck (Oversubscribed Weekly #38)

September 12, 2019 by Max

Max here. I’m writing this from Detroit, my former home, where I’m in town to speak to the current class of Techstars Detroit about seed fundraising and keeping their companies alive.

As such, I thought it’d be fitting to use today’s newsletter to revisit my company’s seed round deck from 2016 and talk about what I think I did well and what I’d do differently in retrospect.

Even in hindsight, I still think this is a strong deck—after all, I did raise $2.5mm with it 😉. But there are still a few changes I’d make if I was doing it over. After I critique the deck, I’ll outline how I’d construct this if I was creating it today.

Let’s dive in.

Slide 1: Market

This is a good slide, and I’d mostly keep it the same.

Slide 2: Problem

This sentence presents the problem well, but the slide itself is a little sparse. When I was making this, I searched endlessly for supporting data I could put on this slide—something like the average customer satisfaction score for the property management industry, or the annual amount lost to management mistakes—but couldn’t find anything. Still, this problem statement would be stronger with some hard data to back it up.

Slide 3: Competition/Problem

This slide isn’t bad on its own, but we’re now three slides in and we’re still defining the problem and competition space. It would be better to get to the core of the pitch sooner.

Slides 4 & 5: Product/Solution

Here we took two slides to say what we could have said in one.

Slide 6: Benefits

In emphasizing both customer benefits and internal operational efficiency, this slide becomes a little confusing. If I were redoing this, I would try to incorporate these benefits throughout the deck rather than have a single dedicated “benefits” slide.

Slides 7 & 8: Growth

Another instance of taking two slides to say what we could have said in one. Also, our 25% month-over-month growth was one of our most impressive stats, so we shouldn’t have taken this long to get to it.

This deck is also missing information about our revenue model. We should have put that in here somewhere.

Slide 9: Network Effects

The ideas in this slide aren’t bad, but the presentation is: it’s a lot of text all crammed onto one slide. If I were remaking this slide, I would try to illustrate some of our flywheel effects visually. For example, for the strength of our tenant network, I might try something like:

↗
More properties on Castle
↘
Owners see better performance
More tenants prefer us
↖
We place better tenants faster
↙

Slide 10: Ask

This slide is good (though our growth estimates turned out to be wildly over-ambitious).

Here’s how I’d redo this deck if I was making it today.

To start, I’d condense the first five slides into three—one for the problem and two for the solution. Something like:

Slide 1: 1 in 15 Americans owns rental property, but property management is stuck in the stone age.

  • 43mm rental units in the U.S.
  • $35bn residential property management market
  • 95% of management companies have <5 employees

Slide 2: Castle is building the full-service property management platform of the future.

  • We manage rental properties using automation and on-demand labor,
  • reduce stress and boost investment returns,
  • and provide owners with transparency and real-time data.

Slide 3: [Product screenshots and core features]

  • Property performance metrics & ROI tracking
  • Repairs dispatched to on-demand contractor network
  • Timeline provides real-time portfolio updates

Then I’d add Slide 4 about our revenue model and Slide 5 about our growth (merging the two growth slides in this deck into one). I’d keep our network effects slide for Slide 6, but I’d display the information more visually.

For Slide 7, I’d include something about our team—Castle grew out of our experience renovating and renting out a Detroit mansion, which became Castle’s first property. I’d phrase it something like “We’re solving our own problem, and we are our own customers.”

For Slide 8, I’d include something about how we’re teed up for success to launch in new markets—an important consideration for any market-by-market company. Finally, for Slide 9, I’d use our existing Ask slide.

There you go: a concise, nine-slide seed deck that I think pitches our company well. It’s almost enough to make me forget we didn’t actually make it!

Have you seen any decks you’ve especially liked? We’d love to hear about them!

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