I’ve reviewed hundreds of pitch decks and executive summaries over the years. I just finished judging nine applications for the MIT Clean Energy Prize. One issue that is pervasive in startups coming out of academia is the tendency to list only the academic qualifications of the team members. How should they be presented?
Photos are always good and virtually everyone includes them. But more important than academic degrees and photos are roles: finance, sales, marketing, administration, operations, HR, and product or service development. Who will do what in the new venture needs to be clearly thought out and clearly presented. It’s fine if you don’t have a full team yet, but you should show what positions you will be hiring for.
Titles in startups tend to be exaggerated – the C-suite is very crowded in startup pitch decks! Not everyone on the team is a CXX, some may be “directors” or “senior managers.” While an org chart isn’t a necessity, it would be a good backup slide, especially in ventures that are further along in their development – where organizational design becomes important as the company grows. The one title investors and others need to know is CEO. CTO and director of sales and marketing are the other important titles.
More important than titles, like CFO, are accomplishments, like “helped take NewCo public” for your director of finance. List one singular accomplishment per team member.
The team slide often gets presented last or next to last and doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Yet team is usually the most important factor for investors (the others being the size of the market opportunity and your “secret sauce” or “magic”). You need to be able to articulate to your audience why your team has what it takes to make this venture a huge success. If members of the team have worked together, gone to school together or known each other for years, this should be noted, as studies have shown teams with members who are known to each other tend to be more successful in new ventures than teams of total strangers.