Adventures in VC land: Our 2013 pitch deck

Dozens of VC firms reached out to us in 2013, so we sent our pitch deck around the world quite frequently. After a while we started sharing our deck with job applicants as well: We’re such a small startup, and many applicants had doubts about joining us. Access to our deck and our key metrics definitely helped with recruiting.

But we still insisted on confidentiality. Only when I was interviewed by Gruenderszene recently, it finally dawned on me that being secretive is actually quite stupid. There’s no real downside in sharing our numbers more broadly, except maybe for the additional recruiter calls we’ll get. But if just one additional good applicant throws her hat in the ring, that’s worth it. So here we go!

Our Pitch Deck

Highlights

Our revenue and customer growth

revenue2

As you can see, it has taken us a looong time to get to reasonable revenues. But ultimately our persistence paid off. Sure, we’re nowhere close to superstars like Atlassian who made a million in their very first year already – but we are very proud of what we achieved.

Monthly recurring revenue breakdown:

mrr2

MRR looks a lot more consistent than revenue because annual upfront payments are divided by 12, and then evenly distributed across the next 12 months.

Not suitable for every pitch

I found it hard to get started writing the first version of the deck, and there weren’t many pitch decks out there (at least not of comparable SaaS companies at our stage). So if you’re a founder reading this, hopefully you can find some inspiration in here.

Keep in mind though that we’ve not used the deck  for “cold pitching”, only to present our company when an investor already had expressed interest. A cold pitch deck would probably have to focus more on market size and metrics. We’re pretty bad at metrics, so when we got to “what’s your CAC” or “what’s your churn exactly” during a call, we simply admitted that we don’t know. Good pointers for a better deck would be Christoph Janz’ startup KPI advice and Eric Ries’ general hints about the “stage” of your pitch.

The good news is that our simplistic design was very well-received. We could easily have spent days polishing the slides – but quite a few VCs actually complimented us on our no-frills approach.

A late realization: We’re just too small…

So what happened next? We had a lot of calls, lot of coffees, but after even more soul-searching in 2013 and early 2014, we eventually decided to not raise money yet.

We received some very good offers, but going through the process I realized that we’re just not scaleable enough for a major investment. It may look obvious from the outside, but as a first timer it only occurred to me very late that it’s actually hard to spend $4m-$5m wisely, especially if your dev team is just 6 people and you have no sales team at all.

And due to the strings attached to any potential deal, it didn’t feel attractive to raise a smaller amount either. We’re profitable already, so giving up a board seat, setting up reverse vesting, or moving the HQ to the US just to make a “medium-sized splash” just doesn’t feel right.  So we’ll continue to grow organically as we always have, stay lean, and then reconsider in a year or so.

… but it was a great exercise!

The whole process did consume quite some time, but most initial meetings were over Skype, and quite a few investors came travelling through Berlin at some point or another, so I rarely had to travel myself. And it was an amazing experience to talk to all these bright people at firms that seemed so far beyond reach even a year ago.

Many VCs had excellent questions that forced me to leave my comfort zone. Predicting revenues, calculating MRRs and thinking about 3 year budgets isn’t exactly fun, but having to iterate on the deck helped me understand my company a lot better.

In fact I can only recommend building a simple pitch deck very early on, and updating it every quarter or so. Even if you have no plans to raise money yet or ever, and even if you’re just starting out, it’s a great exercise. Unlike writing a proper business plan, you can jot down notes within a few minutes, and as you can see above it’s entirely fine to keep the deck basic for quite a long time.

So, we’re back to normal business (not that we ever stopped that), and we also have a huge pile of homework to do. The new 2014 goal is to make our company scaleable for real.

Interested in keeping up with our journey? Follow me on Twitter.

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