Thought has been on our radar for a long time – the company won our 2018 Startup Battlefield on TechCrunch Disrupt, and just a few weeks ago, CEO Deon Nicholas joined Vanessa Larco from NEA on TechCrunch Live to talk about pitching and pitch-decks:
Today, it’s my pleasure to tear down the company’s 23-slide tire that helped it raise a $ 65 million Series C at the end of last year.
Forethought’s mission is to help people perform better by using AI. “One of the things we’ve focused on is being a human-centered AI platform. And that’s what’s really come through with our mission, and our mission is, in fact, to unleash human potential through artificial intelligence.” said Nicholas to TechCrunch’s Ron Miller.
We are looking for more unique pitch decks to tear down, so if you want to submit your own, here’s how you can do it.
Slides in this deck
In the vast majority of cases, it’s a roller coaster that makes my eyes glow; Forethought’s slide made me take a double take because it’s a rare exception to that rule.
- Cover glass
- Founders are slipping
- TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield slide – (Yes, really!)
- Traction glass (edited figures)
- Customer list slide
- “Forbes 2021 next billion-dollar startups” – mysterious slide
- “Think of the last time you were in a waiting position” – problem slides
- “The cost of poor customer service” – problem slides
- “Transform customer experiences with human-centered artificial intelligence” solution image
- “Complete platform” – product slides
- “True AI” – product slide
- “Fast time-to-value” product slides
- “Safe and reliable” product slideshow
- “Intelligent gap detection” – product glass
- “Trusted by the best” – customer breakdown slides
- “Metrics Summary” (edited) – draw glass
- Customer testimonials slide
- ARR extension per. cohort (edited) – customer development slide
- “Forethinkers” team slide
- Advisors and investors are slipping
- “What’s next” (edited) – driving license window
- “Where are we going” (edited) – revenue growth slips
- “Unlock human potential through AI” mission image
Three things to love
There is a lot to love about this tire and it is hard to choose just three things. In the last couple of pitch deck teardowns, I have often focused on the beginning of the story – the first few slides.
Ends on mission
I have discussed before how important it is to have a good last slide. To understand why, keep in mind that in many pitching situations, the first and last slides are on the screen for a long time. The first is because you’re struggling to get coffee, wait for people and find yourself at ease. The latter because during Q&A at the end of a pitch, it is not uncommon to let the last slide stand up – at least until you have to move to another slide in the pile to clarify something. To be fair, this was more true when pitching in person than when pitching virtually, but it’s good practice to get each slide to do some heavy lifting.
Much of the time, the last slide is just a repetition of the company’s slogan or motto and the founder’s contact information; it is logical to repeat your vision or mission here, but it is rarely done and it is a shame. If you have a clearly worded mission, why not fly with that flag while doing your pitching?
Oh, an investor slip
Many startups include an advisor-and-investor slide. A customer advisory board is less common, but I’ve seen that too. In the vast majority of cases, this is a roller coaster full of people who make my eyes shine – people who will hardly really help your business. Forethought’s slide made me take a double take because it’s a rare exception to that rule. It first caught my attention when I recognized Ashton Kutcher from the picture. It made me take a closer look. This slide is extraordinary and probably the first of this type of slide I have seen that actually deserves to be a part of the tire.
Having the CEO of Waymo and a Stanford AI laboratory professor as advisors is a flex. The customer advisory board includes (presumably busy) decision-making customers for Pinterest, Instacart and Carta. And the investors? Well… it is not always clear how much actual time individual investors put into a startup and it would be a question I would ask Forethought but it is certainly a conversation starter: How did the company manage to add a handful of household names to its cap table, and will they add value beyond their cash and famous faces?
Contextualized figures are sexy
I include Slide 17 as a “thing to love” for a few reasons. Similar to investor slippage, it is rare to see a customer statement that actually makes any heavy lifting. For the most part, it’s fluff that pops up instead of real traction. But in this case, the company was able to do something really smart; Forethought brings some impressive customer statistics to the fore – and supports it with real feedback from its customers.
In my previous startups, I have done a lot of customer support, and if someone had put any of these statistics in front of me, I would have bought on the spot: 43% of customer interactions do not result in a support ticket? Routing accuracy of 85%? Manage tickets 21% faster and get 32% more productivity out of each of your customer support staff? It’s unusual in every way – but attaching it to customer testimonials makes the story so much more vivid. Really well done. It also helps that the slide is well designed, easy to read, and the logos show that these are also a solid number of customers.
For the rest of this demolition, we’ll take a look at three things that Forethought could have improved or done differently, along with its full pitch tires!