Pitch Deck Teardown: Equivalent to $16M Series A Deck


It’s a rare startup that demolishes its own pitch deck, but this is exactly what is equal done after it raised a $16 million Series A round. Equals’ mission is not to replace the spreadsheet, but to ensure that a spreadsheet can do anything its users ask it to do. As a die-hard spreadsheet user, this is an approach I can get behind: I’ve created entire software solutions with extremely complex spreadsheets as the backend.

Additionally, as a pitch deck connoisseur, I can also support the bright and bold design of the Equals deck.

I particularly liked an approach I haven’t often seen in deck design, which divides the deck into two different sections: a pitch deck and a data deck. The latter provides a breakdown of the company’s financials across seven slides, showing ARR, lead-to-customer conversion rates, churn rate, and other numbers. This is a good idea: I often advise startups to tell the story with words, then tell the same story with numbers.

Let’s see what else there is to like about this deck.

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Slides in this deck

The numbers from both pull slides have been redacted and there is extensive (redacted) data in a separate data set. There are also no slides on market size and go-to-market, but we’ll get to that later.

  1. Cover slide
  2. Opening statement
  3. Mission Slide
  4. Problem Slide
  5. Solution/mission slide
  6. Product (“Meet Equals”)
  7. Product Demo Slide
  8. Product validation slide
  9. Traction slide
  10. Slide Traction 2
  11. Product Highlights Slide
  12. Product Roadmap Slide
  13. Team Slide
  14. Application and use of funds slide
  15. Closing slide

Three things to love

I’ve praised Equals for the design before, but this deck is striking enough that it’s worth mentioning again: it’s a beautiful deck. Here are a few other things that stood out to me:

Make it real

For a while, it seemed like the easiest way to build a successful software startup was to find something people use Excel for, and then create a better, more focused, easier-to-use tool. This has worked well for countless businesses, so it’s a bold undertaking to tackle Excel on its own turf, replacing a spreadsheet with . . . a spreadsheet. Airtable has had some success in this space, so one of the first things that comes to mind is whether there is room for another company in this space.

Equals makes a comprehensive and compelling argument for a resounding yes to this question by listing a number of use cases for its software:

[Slide 4] Here is a problem slide for you. . . Image credits: Equals

The problem seems real enough, but it seems largely to do with where the data comes from and its analysis/algorithms. And of course, Excel files can be difficult, but Excel itself also now has a relatively robust online solution (so the statement “Excel didn’t do it” seems slightly hyperbolic). We also have Google Sheets, Airtable, and a ton of other potential competitors in the space.

Yet in the dry, boring world of spreadsheets, it’s probably the most fun way to describe the problem you’re trying to solve. I like this!

So it’s Excel, but no longer online

[Slide 6] This is where the magic happens. Image credits: Equals

Founders, especially technical founders, often face a huge challenge when trying to explain what their startup does in simple terms. I’m really impressed that the Equals team was able to boil down the product to something so simple: spreadsheets, but with database connections and collaboration. This very simple statement hides a lot of technical complexity and what must have been a nightmare of an integration challenge.

But hiding complexity is a great idea: end users don’t want to know why their spreadsheet isn’t connecting to the Stripe data source. They just need it to function.

Quite elegant. Very well done.

This is how you chart the path to the future!

[Slide 12] A great way to map your near future. Image credits: Equals

Investors rarely care about this level of granularity in your product roadmap, but they don’t. not very curious, You know? This is a great rough overview of what you’re interested in and doesn’t get into the nuts and bolts of what the engineering team is going to build.

Although this plan is quite technical, I’m impressed by the team’s ability to resist the temptation to do too much. I have no idea what they’re going to bind Command+K to, but that doesn’t really matter: it’s a great high-level view that will allow you to have a conversation at level of the board of directors on product priorities for the next year.

I have no idea what they’re going to bind Command+K to, but it doesn’t really matter.

Equals also did something clever with the previous slide: Slide 11 shows features that have already been built, which then allows the story to flow evenly to that slide (with existing features now highlighted in gray) . This allows you to have a two-step conversation about the product: talk about everything you’ve created, then talk about everything you’re going to create and how that helps the product become more relevant to your target audience – and perhaps to expand its potential. user base as well.

As a startup, you can learn from this slide that you should not spend too much time on your product. These two slides are a great example of how you can get around this problem with finesse.

In the remainder of this teardown, we’ll look at three things Equals could have improved or done differently, as well as its full pitch deck!

Three things that could be improved

There’s more than just rainbows and unicorns in the Equals deck. . .

Pay attention to your audience

A fairly common problem with pitch decks is that it’s sometimes unclear whether the founders understand who they’re pitching to. Check out this testimonial slide:

[Slide 8] Yeah, but do investors care? Image credits: Equals

I have no doubt that this is a powerful slide to use in company sales operations when speaking to new clients. But I’m not sure how effective it is as an investment pitch.

I can see several problems here:

  • I don’t know what these logos are. Okay, I recognized Notion, but I have no idea what Levity is or does, and I don’t recognize the V logo. That means two of the three logos on this slide don’t help me to convince me to invest. So why use them?
  • Two quotes and a bunch of unaccredited statements don’t really make for a particularly strong set of testimony.
  • In the final testimony, the phrase “I don’t think this will come to fruition anytime soon” can easily be misinterpreted. I assume the person meant that their product is here to stay, but that’s not 100% clear in the quote.
  • It’s bad form to have quotes without properly attributing them to someone. Who said these beautiful things? If it was the CTO of a company, you should definitely emphasize that. Think about it this way: if you attribute “This is a great product” to “an Apple employee,” would that be a good thing? If Tim Cook said it, that would be pretty awesome. If some random sales lackey at an Apple Store said so. . . you know where I’m going with this.

Overall, this drop seems neutral at best – at least when it comes to convincing an investor to invest. So it’s probably safe to leave him out of the game completely.

SO . . . what is the size of this market?

Maybe I’m picking on the nits here. Ask any investor, “If I can steal 30% of Excel’s business, is the market big enough?” and you will probably get a resounding yes.

The thing is, this deck is also missing a go-to-market slide. This means Equals is missing two opportunities to tell investors what it thinks about its market. Who are the clients ? How many are there? What is the incidental value? How to reach these customers? How to convince them to stay? You’ll need to answer this set of questions to successfully raise money – and there’s a little bit to this set of questions.

But what are the objectives?!

[Slide 14] Um, sure, but that’s way too vague. Image credits: Equals

Investors aren’t looking for a ballpark figure or vague plan for how your startup will use the funds raised. A well-designed “use of funds” slide does more than just list expenses; it builds confidence. By being transparent about your financial needs and how they align with your business goals, you show potential investors that you’re not just another startup looking to spend money. No, instead you are a serious entrepreneur with a growth plan and a clear vision for the future.

I know many founders come across this critical slide. Glamorous but wasteful spending, a nebulous chasm of “miscellaneous” costs, and vague descriptions of how the funds will be used are just some of the common pitfalls that can turn investors away. Equals falls prey to one such trap: none of these goals are specific enough. The slide should be as clear and detailed as possible, avoid generalizations and focus on specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals.

  • “Marketing at scale”: Of course, but for what?
  • “A success on a large scale”: Yes, but what is the goal? How do you know you’ve succeeded?
  • “Accelerate the pace”: Well, yes, but if you wrote 10 new plays before the fundraiser and managed 11 after, you’ve achieved that goal.

Be specific. Use your “use of funds” slide well. Now is not the time for abstraction but for daring, precise and quantified audacity. This slide is where you lay out your vision in dollars and cents, and if you do it right, it’s where investors will begin to see their future align with yours.

Above all, a well-designed “use of funds” slide helps paint a picture of your situation. following financing cycle. If you achieve all the objectives, will you be able to move up to Series B? Great! Is your project preparing you for success? Fantastic!

This slide is almost useless, it’s a shame. Greater precision here would make fundraising SO much easier.

The complete pitch deck

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