Fundraising 101: Key metrics to include in your startup pitch deck

Understanding the metrics investors care about is critical. Learn from 100+ real life examples including Uber, Airbnb, Opendoor and more

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You need capital to scale your business, and more often than not, scaling quickly requires raising from investors. A pretty pitch deck is great, but investors see dozens of pitch decks a day. With venture funding starting to tighten, your pitch deck needs to give investors clear insight into your startup’s financials before making an investment decision.

Whether you’re looking to raise for the first time, preparing for a larger round of funding, or just starting to think through growth metrics, we’ve got you covered. Let’s look at 7 key metrics VC and angel investors care about, what they mean, when they matter, how to calculate them, and how real companies incorporated them into their actual pitch decks. You can even view or download pitch decks from Shopify, LinkedIn, Coinbase, Pendo and many more using our free database.

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Total Addressable Market (TAM)

  • What it is: The total potential revenue or number of customers in your target market 
  • Why it matters: Few metrics matter more to investors than TAM, as it tells investors just how big your startup can be. Ultimately investors will filter beyond Total Addressable Market (TAM) to focus on Serviceable Addressable Market (SAM) and Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM), but illustrating the total size of market is at the foundation of any pitch deck 
  • When it matters: All stages (Pre-revenue, Early-stage, Growth-stage) 
  • How to calculate it: TAM can be calculated ‘top-down’, or ‘bottom-up’.
    • Top-down TAM is typically calculated by aggregating existing market research for a given industry from firms such as Gartner or Forrester, and overlaying assumptions most relevant to your business
    • Bottom-up sizing is often viewed by investors as a more reliable and accurate metric, calculated as TAM = (Total # of Accounts * ACV)
    • Bottom-up TAM is typically preferred since it 1) uses actual data from your business to inform calculations, and 2) can take customer segmentation into account
  • Pitch deck example:

Crunchbase’s 2019 Series C pitch deck illustrated total TAM alongside actual market share. Access the full deck here, along with 100+ others.

Recurring Revenue

  • What it is: Recurring revenue is the amount of “guaranteed” revenue your business brings in over a defined period of time; this is typically contractual / subscription-based
  • Why it matters: Revenue is the most critical of all startup financials. With no revenue, there’s no business. Investors typically like to see ‘recurring’ revenue, often used in subscription-based businesses. In the early stages you’ll likely focus on Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), or even Weekly Recurring Revenue, rather than Annual (ARR).
  • When it matters: Early-stage, Growth-stage
  • How to calculate it:
    • MRR = (Total # of Active Customers x Average Billing Amount/month)
    • MRR Growth Rate = (Month 2 MRR / Month 1 MRR) - 1
  • Pitch deck example:

Mattermark’s 2014 Series A pitch deck demonstrated strong MRR growth over 12 months. Access the full deck here, along with 100+ others.

Unit Economics

  • What it is: Unit economics answer a simple question: are we making money selling X unit toY customer? Think of it as the profit-and-loss statement for a single unit sold, or a single customer sold to, before accounting for more general company-wide expenses. Components of unit economics are broken down below. Learn more, and feel free to explore our free unit economics calculator, powered by Causal.
    • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), is the cost of attracting and acquiring a customer. This can include marketing, discounts, or any spend to help close a sale.
    • Customer lifetime value (LTV) represents the total expected gross profit for any given customer over their lifetime. More precisely, LTV is the (net) total dollar amount a company receives from a customer before they churn (i.e., stop being a customer)
    • CAC Payback Period is the amount of time it takes to recoup the customer acquisition cost from a customer or customer cohort.
  • Why it matters: Unit economics are the lifeblood of your business, and strong unit economics let investors know you are able to scale efficiently. Keeping a pulse on your unit economics tells you what levers to focus on to become a long-term viable business, and how to continue growing during a downturn.
  • When it matters: All stages (Pre-revenue, Early-stage, Growth-stage)
  • How to calculate it:
    • CAC = Total Sales & Marketing Costs in Period / Number Customers Acquired in Period
    • LTV = Average Purchase Value x Gross Margin × Purchase Frequency in Period × Customer Lifespan per Period
    • CAC Payback (in Months) = CAC / (Monthly Revenue x Gross Margin)
  • Pitch deck example:

Opendoor’s 2014 Series A pitch deck included a clear waterfall illustrating their unit economics. Access the full deck here, along with 100+ others.

Churn rate

  • What it is: At its simplest, churn is the percentage of existing customers that leave, or unsubscribe from your service, over a period of time. Defining churn accurately could become complicated (e.g., what if a customer leaves for a year and comes back?) To remedy this, choose a methodology and stay consistent with it throughout your deck. Typically, churn is calculated over the same period as recurring revenue.
  • Why it matters: There are several reasons that investors care about churn, but two stand out. Tactically, churn is a key metric in revenue forecasting, and if churn is higher than revenue growth, you won’t have a viable business until this is remedied. More broadly, churn rates can be used as proxies for customer satisfaction and product stickiness.
  • When it matters: Early-stage, Growth-stage
  • How to calculate it:
    • Churn = # of customers who unsubscribe in a period / Total # of customers at the beginning of the period
  • Pitch deck example:

Front’s 2016 Series A pitch deck illustrates churn trends across users, MRR, and net MRR. Access the full deck here, along with 100+ others.

Runway

  • What it is: Runway is how long your company has before running out of capital, and it’s a function of cash flow, or revenue coming in, and burn rate, or capital flowing out. To learn more about runway, feel free to access our free burn rate calculator, powered by Causal.
  • Why it matters: Runway shows investors how efficient you are with cash on hand. Especially in SaaS, you need to invest to scale, but if your balance sheet shows investors you burn through venture dollars senselessly, you’ll be hard pressed to raise capital. Conversely, demonstrating thoughtful capital allocation and deployment and keeping a steady pulse on your runway is a strong signal to investors.
  • When it matters: Pre-revenue, Early-stage
  • How to calculate it:
    • Runway = Cash balance / Net Burn rate
  • Pitch deck example:

Front’s 2016 Series A pitch deck highlights low burn and path to profitability. Access the full deck here, along with 100+ others.

Average Revenue per User (ARPU)

  • What it is: ARPU quantifies the average amount of revenue generated per user (or customer)
  • Why it matters: ARPU illustrates the value of your product by customer segment. It is used to determine how to allocate additional resources (e.g., talent, capital), and tells investors how you look at your customer base, how much your customers value your product, and where their capital may be best allocated.
  • When it matters: Growth-stage
  • How to calculate it:
    • ARPU = Revenue from customer cohort / Number of customers in cohort
  • Pitch deck example: 

Pendo’s 2016 Series B pitch deck illustrates how average revenue per customer drives pricing strategy. Access the full deck here, along with 100+ others.

Revenue per employee

  • What it is: This one is as straightforward as it sounds - the ratio between revenue and employee headcount.
  • Why it matters: Revenue per employee may not be included in every pitch deck, but it’s essential information for investors as it illustrates business productivity. It paints a picture of the average dollar value brought in by each employee, and thus incremental revenue from headcount growth. Looking at revenue per employee, alongside employee cost and tenure, will help illustrate the LTV of an employee to the company.
  • When it matters: Growth-stage
  • How to calculate it:
    • Like churn, revenue/employee can get nuanced depending on the time period you’re looking at. In your pitch deck you’ll want to keep it simple, and show revenue/employee over whatever time period makes sense for your business. In most cases, you’ll want to look at annual revenue/employee, but you can look at quarterly or monthly revenue/employee as well, all following the same calculation:
    • Revenue per Employee = Total revenue in a fiscal period / total # of employees at end of fiscal period
  • Pitch deck example:

Linkedin’s 2004 Series B provides a snapshot of actual and projected financials, including revenue vs headcount growth. Access the full deck here, along with 100+ others.

The metrics listed are intended to be broad and applicable across a variety of businesses, but are particularly relevant to SaaS startups. Keep in mind that the comprehensive list of metrics investors want to see in your pitch deck vary by industry and type of business. A few (non-comprehensive) examples that you’ll find in our pitch deck database from companies like Facebook, Vettery, Finix, and more include:

  • Social media platforms typically disclose Daily, Monthly Active Users (DAUs/MAUs)
  • Online marketplaces typically disclose Gross Merchandise Value (GMV)
  • Fintech businesses typically disclose Total Payment Volume (TPV)

In summary, the health and potential of your business is based on more than just revenue and cost. Especially in a market downturn, investors will do their due diligence across all your core metrics before writing a check. Make sure your pitch deck paints a clear picture of your startup’s financial health and growth potential. Don’t forget to look through our free database of pitch decks for inspiration! 

To view or download all the pitch decks included in this article, along with 100+ others for free, click here.

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FAQ

What else should be included in a pitch deck?

Your financials are a critical part of your pitch deck, but strong market and traction metrics alone do not make a complete pitch deck. Be sure to include information on what problem you’re solving, how your solution works, what the competitive landscape looks like, what the team looks like, your long-term vision, and how fundraising will be used.

How do I find VCs that may be interested in my startup?

You can access our free VC database tool, which contains the contact information of hundreds of venture capitalists and startup investors, as well as tips on conducting investor outreach.

Why do certain metrics matter more than others at various stages?

Venture funds will typically focus on startups in specific stages of a company lifecycle, and depending on the size and stage of a business, certain metrics are more important than others. Metrics such as churn, unit economics, and margin don’t matter much before Product-Market Fit (PMF), but they’re essential metrics once a business starts to scale. ARPU and Revenue/Employee aren’t always applicable until growth mode, but when new headcount is being added quickly and your customer base is large enough to begin cohorting, they provide crucial insight into the health of a business.

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