The Rule of Seven Slides: How to Structure Your Pitch Deck and Get an Investment

Jake Dluhy-Smith
CEO, Co-Founder

As an entrepreneur early in your business journey, getting the first investment is one of the largest challenges you can face.

January 20, 2020

One of our entrepreneurs at OAK’S LAB successfully closed a Series B investment round in the tens of millions and it only took a thirty-minute meeting, however, on the other hand, that same entrepreneur spent almost a year pitching to hundreds of investors before he got his first check.

Getting that first investor on board is extremely difficult. The three key factors that influence whether you will be able to successfully raise venture capital are:

  1. Your idea
  2. Your network
  3. Your pitch

Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of pitch decks, some of them helped raise millions of dollars and some of them were thrown in the bin. I still find myself quite surprised to see entrepreneurs underestimate how important it is to create a bulletproof and attractive pitch deck. In this article, I will share the seven recurring key slides that the successful pitch decks I’ve seen had in common, as well as some tips on how to make your pitch stand out from the rest.

The Rule of Seven Slides

  1. Captivating Problem
  2. Business Opportunity
  3. Product Value Proposition
  4. Business Model
  5. Competitive Landscape
  6. Team and Story
  7. The Ask

Slide 1 — Captivating Problem

Open your pitch with a captivating problem your business aims to solve on the market. The intro needs to be exciting, start off with a bang and grab the investor’s attention. Remind the investors why the problem is so incredibly annoying and painful. Everyone in the room needs to relate to the problem, or at least understand the problem — a great way to do this is by telling a real customer story. Emphasize how many people the problem affects — this number needs to be big, as you want the investors to see your business has the potential to become a unicorn. Share only one problem — investors will see red flags if the entrepreneur is scattered.

Slide 2 — Business Opportunity

Answer the “What if?” rhetorical question with a clear solution to the problem outlined above. Tie in your story and help the investor realize the opportunity exactly as you did. Make the investor feel as excited as you were when you found the solution for the first time. Explain why now is the best timing for your solution. Hit it home with how the solution is scalable — any market that looks small may not be that attractive to an investor who is looking for the “next Airbnb”. Keep the solution concise and very clear.

Slide 3 — Product Value Proposition

Describe your product in a few sentences and list three to four quick hits about what makes your product unique. Outline who is using your product. Solicit testimonials from current users or investors about how much they love your product. Add mockups of your product in action — investors need to visualize what they are investing in. Keep in mind that by the end of this slide the investor needs to be able to easily describe what your product does.

Slide 4 — Business Model

In this slide you need to answer the following three questions:

  1. What do you sell?
  2. To whom do you sell?
  3. How much do they pay and how do you profit from it?

This is a great slide to demonstrate that your business is scalable. Make sure to list the numbers behind the numbers — don’t list total projected revenue by making a simple percentage calculation of the market share. I’ve seen investors get very irritated when the slide has a simple and obvious calculation. On the other hand, I’ve been in pitches where entrepreneurs shared numbers (eg. CAC and ARPU) that had the investors pull out their calculators. When the calculators come out the checkbook usually follows.

Slide 5 — Competitive Landscape

Here you have the opportunity to highlight to the investors why you are better than your competition, or that your competition has validated the market — making your startup a safe bet. The easiest way to visualize this is through a graph or matrix. Never say you don’t have competition — an ignorant entrepreneur turns off investors. If you have no direct competition, you can at least highlight your indirect competitors. Some helpful criteria (other than the classic price or quality — which are also fine) to benchmark yourself against your competitors are:

  • Revenue model
  • Funding path
  • Users
  • Features and unique selling point
Competitor Graph Example from The Rule of Seven Slides
Competitor Matrix Example from The Rule of Seven Slides

Slide 6 — Team and Story

Team and Story from The Rule of Seven Slides

Tell the story of how your team got together and why you are the right people to lead this venture. Make sure to only list the most important people in your business and what their roles are. Highlight achievements from each team member that are relevant to your new business. Remember, investors are investing in you and your founding team, as much, if not more than in your business idea. In this slide you also have the opportunity to mention investors, board members and partners that are already in — this adds legitimacy.

Slide 7 — The Ask

Showcase what has been achieved so far and how much you are looking to raise in order to achieve the next phase of success. List out month over month growth of the business (e.g. revenue, metrics, etc). Find “fundable moments” by sharing the successes and traction your team has had since the inception of your company. Clearly state the amount you are looking to raise and how you aim to spend it.

Additional Materials

Presenting the pitch deck is just the beginning. Depending on the phase you are in, the type of the investor and how methodical they are with due diligence, it is always good to prepare polished documentation for the following topics:

  • In-depth competitor research
  • Marketing and sales plans
  • Organization chart
  • Technical documentation
  • Financial projections


Securing the first investment is the toughest challenge for early-stage entrepreneurs. Having a well designed and structured pitch deck is one of the keys to raising capital. Practice The Rule of Seven Slides and nail your next pitch-deck!

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EspressOOO Martini by Francesco:  1x vodka shot (50ml), 1x espresso shot (40ml), 2g of sugar, no coffee liqueur, mix well in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice for 30 sec to create foam, pour in martini glass and garnish with 3 coffee beans. See you at Groove.