The appendix slides are not part of your core pitch deck. It’s hugely beneficial to prepare them as it allows the founder (or presenter) to have clarity while answering questions. Also, investors like founders who came ready to answer the questions. We work with every one of our client through the appendix just like how we work the core slides. Note: You can have unlimited number of appendix slides. What goes inside your appendix section depends heavily on your startup and your business modal.
When do you need a milestone slide?
Based on my experience, there are few cases where you will absolutely need a milestone or timeline slide in your appendix.
- If your last raise was more than 3 years ago. Investors would like to see how have you been spending the money, how much runway you have left, client growth, etc. This is to ensure you are not going bankrupt and trying to save yourself with their money (from the new round) with no clear product growth trajectory.
- If you have bootstrapped for more than 18 months, and it’s your first time fundraising. In this case, your timeline slide is a very valuable slide if it’s presented right. It’s your chance to explain to investors why you have decided to (finally) fundraise – raising to scale to different countries, different sectors cause you have found your product market fit with your initial group of customers. Investors love it when you have bootstrapped your way to finding product market fit. Deliver your story and your timeline right and you might land on a huge valuation.
- If it’s a down-round, you certainly need explain your mistakes or what happened. Milestone is one of the ways to do it. There’s a 50-50 chance that your investor might see the logic and still believe in your future projection. Sometimes in the case of a down-round, we will move the milestone slide from appendix to the core slide deck as it’s important to address the drop in the valuation.
There are two types of timelines:
- Timeline with your past till now.
- Timeline with the past to now and also projection/plans for the future.
Examples of Milestone Slide from Startups
Let’s look at some examples of timelines used by real startups who have successfully raised VC funds.
Buffer has a simple list type milestone. Of course it can be designed better, but they have done a good job to show their growth as it shows that they have gone 2x of user growth in the second year and 10x in the 3rd year. That’s impressive (humble brag moment).
Moz is one of the companies that will absolutely need to use a milestone/timeline to explain why are they finally fundraising after almost 4 years of the last raise. They are also a company who has been in business for 15 years, which makes it even more important to have this slide within their deck. It’s great to use a milestone slide if you are company that have been alive for more than 10 years. It’s an awesome way to tell your startup’s story.
This is the second type of milestone slide where you explain your growth till now and then use it to talk about your future milestones.
Our Suggestion For Milestone Slide
Simple Milestone Slide
It’s one of the easiest design to produce. The key here is to pick the best milestones to show. Normally, we tend to have 15 highlight events and pick the 5 – 7 that tells a story – either a story about growth or a story about product iterations or market expansion.
We like to use icons to indicate the milestone. So, a launch of iOS app will have a app store logo as the icon. We use numbers before and after to explain the milestone. For example,
- Jan 2018: Launched iOS app (100,000+ downloads within the first 24 hours)
- Oct 2018: Reduced the cost of production of product X from $28 to $17 (through better supplier management).
Graphical/Visual representation of your milestone
This is normally very effective with any investor with quant or statistic background. Avoid any overly complicated graphs or charts. It’s hard to see properly outside of excel and you don’t want your investors reaching out to their reading glass while you are presenting.
Some point to remember if you go with a design like this:
- Avoid using any cumulative metrics, it is often misleading. For example, use monthly active users instead of total user (includes both active and inactive).
- Make sure you use a linear scale in your slides ( I have seen startups who have used a logarithmic scale before – again it’s misleading).
- Double check with your financial model before you present the slide. Investors who are into details tend to remember some numbers that impressed them or made them doubt. So, when they check the financial model later with their analyst, if it’s not congruent, you might lose your investor’s trust.
- Try to tell a story with your numbers. Don’t just read the numbers from the slide – the investors can read too. eg. We started off with 100 users during our public beta phase. After 2 months of working closely with our initial users to fix the bugs and introduce new features on a weekly basis, we reached 1,000 user organically in March 2018. Most of initial users loved the product and told their friends and work mates about our product.
History Slide Design
If you have a startup that have been around for a long time, it’s awesome to have a simple timeline with the important events and numbers. I like to divide the qualitative and quantitive milestone as above. It allows the investors to get a clear idea on what has been happening.
Events or qualitative milestones will be like opening of your second office, hiring a CEO, or anything else that you can’t use a number to explain.
Numbers or quantitative milestones are user growth, revenues, funding, number of hires, etc.