Constructing a Winning Pitch – Tips from Sequoia Capital

Knowing how to pitch an idea succinctly is important for founders, especially early founders with no traction. A pitch can be built in many ways. I came across an approach Sequoia Capital created that was used by the Airbnb founders to create their early pitch deck. Given Sequoia’s track record of investing in amazing companies (Apple, Airbnb, Cisco, Google, Figma, Instacart, Stripe, Yahoo, Zoom, etc.) over many decades, this approach has been battle tested and has benefited from compounding experience. A few takeaways:

  • Origin – Sequoia doesn’t include this, but it’s important to articulate how you discovered the problem and why you want to solve it. If you’ve lived the problem, even better. That makes the pitch more personal. I suggest starting with this and then following Sequoia's outline.
  • Simplicity – The approach is simple and straight to the point, and it flows well.
  • Problem – Describing the pain is part of describing the problem, but understanding current solutions and their shortcomings is also important. This approach, if followed, can make explaining a complex problem easier (not easy).
  • Why now – Timing is important. It’s very important to communicate why now is the right time and why it hasn’t been done before.
  • Market – This is critical. You must understand your current market and have an opinion about where it’s going. Creating a new market is a big deal. If that’s your situation, don’t leave that out.
  • Mission/vision – The outline begins with the mission (what you plan to do in the next few years) and ends with the vision (how you’ll transform the world if you achieve your mission). It’s important to communicate both, and I think this approach makes a lot of sense. When you formulate your vision, dream big!

If you want to see the details of Sequoia’s approach to pitching, look here. I think it’s a great guide for founders to follow when they’re constructing their own pitches.