AirBnb Preseed Deck Breakdown
This is a short 14-slide deck. A few things to pay attention to:
How they pitch a two-sided marketplace in a simple, easy-to-understand way. Many founders who pitch marketplaces end up with really complex pitches as they try to show the value for the buyer and seller simultaneously.
The final slide. The way they present their offer instead of asking for money is exactly what I’ve been teaching you. I’m confident their script would have used some form of trend stacking to accompany the slide.
Let’s get into it.
Slide 1: Introduction
Note: I pitched to VCs that Brian Chesky pitched to with this deck. So, I have a few insights from them into their reactions, and what did/didn’t work, and I’ll be mixing that into my own commentary.
One of the things that investors loved about this deck was that the first slide told them exactly what AirBnB did. I’d still recommend that your first slide use something that helps communicate your vision so if I was rewriting this I’d recommend, “Allowing travellers to book a room with locals instead of being isolated in hotels”. This change would bring an emotional aspect to it; if they were writing a deck today, this would also need to change to something more general as AirBnB has a much grander vision.
Slide 2: Problem
AirBnb uses as close to the traditional YC/Sequoia deck as any startup you’ll see. They were one of the early pioneers of the current startup culture so keep in mind that what was “new and innovative” for them is now “old and repetitive”.
That being said, you can learn a great deal from this slide. They communicate very clearly three things:
Price - this is their #1 differentiator
Emotion - I would have liked this earlier, but they hit it here.
Market advantage - They have the first mover.
They do all of this while framing it as a problem for their audience.
Slide 3: Solution
Two things to note here:
They say what they are: A web platform. Too many founders forget this key part, say that you are a platform, app, course, etc. it may seem basic, but it really helps avoid doubts in an investor’s mind.
They follow the rule of threes and have three clear statements that can be easily shared with others. When an investor leaves this pitch, they will remember that this company allows travelers to save money, hosts to make money and everyone to share culture.
Slide 4: Market Validations
Using competitors to show that there is demand for your product is a highly underrated strategy. Remember if you do this then you NEED to show how you are better than those competitors.
Slide 5: Market
I personally love the way they did their market slide. It allows them to tell three stories:
How they are going to grow their market share.
How more trips will be booked online moving forward.
How more trips will be booked in future.
Investors love when companies can grow in multiple ways. This slide is structured to allow them to demonstrate those types of growth.
Slide 6: Product
Like Dropbox, there is no rush to get to the product. Stop making your pitch all about the product; as I do more of these you’ll see the product isn’t a core part of any strong startup pitch.
Rule of threes: sticking with this strategy to leverage psychological biases and make it seem very simple to use their platform.
Slide 7: Business Model
This is very simple and to the point. You don’t need to overcomplicate how you make money, often, it’s a monthly fee or commission. Just say that and move on.
Slide 8: Growth Strategy
This isn’t a slide that you need, but if you have a plan to go from A to B and are able to clearly and quickly communicate it, then this can be a great slide to add to your narrative.
If you can’t communicate it quickly and clearly then leave this out and answer it as a question where you can dedicate more time to the answer and allow them to ask questions. (Just remember to prep that answer well).
Slide 9: Competition
They validated their market with the competition’s users, so now they need to differentiate themselves. We can see that the competitors they used had offline transactions, so it’s easy for them to explain how they will “beat” those companies clearly.
Slide 10: Competition
A second competition slide further allows them to further differentiate themselves. You can see that they actually call out the two companies they used to validate their market in this slide, giving a specific advantage for users over those alternatives.
Slide 11: Team
One of the reasons many VCs turned down AirBnb was that the team was primarily a group of designers. We can see here that they leaned into their strengths. While many companies I see try to cover any perceived “flaws” in the founding team. AirBnb promoted their backgrounds and argued that great design and user experience was the key to success. (I’d argue they were correct.)
Slide 12: Recapture Attention
I’ve explained many times how social status drops when your story ends. Here, we can see that the way Airbnb overcame this lull that kills many pitches was to use the Press as third-party validation for their company. (Dropbox used a demo).
Slide 13: Recapture Attention
They continue to raise their social status without pitching themselves with this slide of user testimonials.
Slide 14: Offer
After they raise their social status with Press and User testimonials, they move onto their ask. With a high social status, now they don’t ask for the $500k. They pitch it as a way of hitting a milestone in the next 12 months.
“With $500k, we will reach 80,000 transactions in 12 months'“ is much stronger than “We need $500k to spend on engineers, designers, overheard, legal, etc.”
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