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We will begin the dirty work of building a deck with the simplest pitch, the one-pager. One-pagers are single-page documents aimed at giving a high-level view of your product. Some VCs prefer them to pitch decks so we will show you how to make one. In fact, many VCs will ask for a one-pager first and follow up with a deck request.
A one-pager is a compressed pitch deck and by making one you can gather your thoughts and attempt to describe them precisely in a more compact document. Further, you could feasibly take much of your one-pager and expand it into your pitch deck just as you will use your OSPTR document to build this one-pager. Creating a one-pager is a great exercise for the creation of your longer deck. The one-pager will help crystalize your thinking and reduce the complexity associated with deck building in general.
You will give one-pagers to interested investors. Never send your 10-slide deck prematurely. Instead, send the one-pager and ask them if they’d like to see more. As with every “rule” we offer in this book your results may vary but keep in mind that we have seen the pitching experience from both the investor’s side and the startup’s side. These rules of thumb we offer will help you and your potential investors communicate clearly and quickly without confusion.
The Parts of a One Pager
A one-pager is a one-page presentation document or memo. It usually consists of a structured document of about 500 words. It is not a narrative, memo, or story. Instead, it is a prospectus - it tells your reader exactly what they need to know about a particular product.
What follows is a very simple one-pager. If you’ve been thinking about your startup for any length of time, you should be able to produce your own one-pager in a single sitting. It assumes very little in the way of design savvy or even writing skills and instead distills everything you need to share in a complete and compact package.
Not all founders feel comfortable writing, especially in English. We recommend having your one-pager - and your pitch deck - proofread by a native speaker before sending it anywhere. A minor grammatical mistake can mean the difference between an enthusiastic investor and a cold shoulder.
This is a one-pager we made for a small startup that did video delivery. It was actually very successful in engaging investor interest.
The Logo and Contact Information
The first part of your one-pager is your logo and contact information. Your logo should be fairly stable at this point and you should add a high-resolution copy of it to the top of your one-pager. Don’t have a logo? Get one. Fiverr or Upwork have plenty of folks who can make a simple logo for a few dollars. Get a few alternatives and pick your favorite.
Next to the logo, we can place your website and email address. Make sure you have a domain to go with your company. Do not add a Gmail or Yahoo address although for some security companies a service like Proton Mail could be considered the safety-conscious route. That said, if your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org then you should probably head over to the registrar ASAP.
The Team Section
The team section describes the major figures in your company. It is not a complete company directory. We recommend focusing on C-level employees including the CEO, the Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Technical Officer. Essentially you want to prove that you have the team to do the job.
Your goal in this section is to show off your skills. Even though you might not even have a product at this point your mission is to convince a cynical audience that you and your team have the skills and experience to build your product. This isn’t your resume. Instead, it is a bulleted list of relevant skills that will make someone sit up and take notice of your potential.
These are smaller screenshots of your product aimed at showing, in an instant, how your product works. Don’t have screenshots? Mock some up or have some photos taken of your prototype. This section is a “nice-to-have” but if you can’t provide any screenshots at all then you should probably reconsider fundraising and pitching. Investors and interested parties need to know you have something even if it is ultimately vaporware.
This is a very short description of your product. This would count as a minute-long pitch and can be used as such in conversations. Our advice? We use this simple formula to generate our one-line pitch:
[Your Product] is a [what it does/what it is] that focuses on the [size of market] [target market]. We intend to use our [secret weapon] to access this [monetary size of market] dollar market by offering [what your product solves].
See the OSPTR Model for more examples.
This is answers the question “Why is this product needed?” The goal of this section is to describe how the product works succinctly and clearly as well as describe some of the “secret sauce” that makes your product superior. Don’t give away too much - this is a teaser for investors who might want to request your pitch deck later.
This explains why you and your team are the best for the job. How much experience do you have? Why did you decide to take on this project? What are your goals? In short, explain why people should trust to you win in this space.
Valuations differ across the country and around the world. If you haven’t yet decided on a valuation, assume something like $4 to $8 million dollars for early investors.
There are many reasons people invest in early-stage startups. But in most cases, it will not be altruism. It will be because they see an opportunity to make money. Or it will be out of fear that if they don’t invest in your company or service, they will lose out on a future opportunity to make money.
This also sets your valuation – the amount you are “pricing” your company at in the beginning. For example, you can say “We are looking at a $2 million investment at an $8 million pre-money valuation” which simply means you want to sell a fourth of the company. You can then explain how you’d like to raise it. In most cases, you will say “We will raise on notes,” which means you will use the SAFE note, a “loan” document popularized by 500 Startups. Raising is beyond the scope of this book - you can check out my book Get Funded! for more information on this or read any of the myriad books focused on VC fundraising.
Our advice? Ask a startup mentor to help you with the valuation. Even at an early stage, it is important to know what you are worth.
The “Deal Sheet” Format
A deal sheet is a one-pager that investors send to each other to describe your product. In most cases you will not be producing this kind of document but if you are asked it helps to know the format. Further, building a deal sheet for yourself allows you to crystalize your pitch even further by reducing all of the important aspects of your company into one or two lines.
We do not recommend sending a deal sheet instead of a one-pager. A deal sheet is a very specific tool used by investors. That said, you should be ready to fill out a deal sheet if asked.
If you must send a “deal sheet” instead of a traditional one-pager, what follows is a simple deal sheet used by investors to trade deals. These deal sheets are as simple as the one-pager but offer an assessment based on various startup categories. In all honesty, you will probably be creating this kind of memo for an investor to share with other investors, and the various ratings - as shown behind each headline - are defined by the investors themselves. That said, there is nothing stopping you from formatting your one-pager in this way.
This deal sheet follows the one-pager design but includes a number of additional headings.
Company: This heading describes the URL and adds a link to the longer deck.
CEO: This section gives the name of the CEO and their email address. There are no other employees mentioned in this section because, at its core, a startup hunting for funding is solely represented by the CEO.
Description: This is a short description of the startup similar to the mad lib described above. Make it as succinct and simple as possible.
Status: This section describes the company’s current status in the market. Are you shipping products? In Beta? How many users do you have? Offer a very simple, very concise description of this information.
Market: Where are you selling? Where is your primary market? What is your primary company focus? This is often a few simple words. For example, a B2B company with a founder in the US and a team in Ukraine would write US-based customer focus. US and Ukraine-based developers. Primary vertical: B2B sales.
Funding: What is your current funding? This includes angel rounds and sweat equity. Your goal here is to describe what money you have in the bank and what you are looking for from an investor.
Top 3 Needs: What do you need from an investor? What is missing in your project? Do you need customers? Help with sales? Assistance in marketing? What can an investor do to ensure that the investment becomes a 10X or 100X return?
Founder: The founder section describes the founder’s skills and experience. Why is this person the best person to solve the problem associated with the startup? The goal is to convince the investor that the founder is the only person who can solve this problem.
Team: This allows founders to describe the rest of the team. Focus primarily on founders that are clearly important to the company’s mission. This is not a laundry list of employees but a short list of the most skilled members of the team.
Velocity: How fast is your startup moving? What is the “FOMO” associated with your company? What can investors expect in terms of forward motion when it comes to company growth?
Market: What is the total addressable market for your solution? How many people need your product? Will you build other markets because of your product?
Traction: What is your current company status? This is similar to the Status section above but should include specific numbers including customer numbers, email list size, and anything that shows a dedication to growth.
Competition: Who is your primary competition? How far along are they? Don’t include an exhaustive list, just the companies that you and your team have in your rearview mirror and that could gain on you over time.
Why Now: Finally, why is this company important? How vital is this company to the marketplace? To the founders? To the stakeholders? Use this section to describe what happens if this company doesn’t work: what will change? What won’t happen? This is probably the most important section because it describes your roadmap in clear, concise language.
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