You have 10 seconds to pitch a startup via email

How VCs review an emailed pitch deck

Pete Lead
6 min readFeb 16, 2022


Image of a timer counting down, with 14 seconds remaining indicated in red.
Photo by Ralph Hutter on Unsplash

When you think “startup”, you probably picture a charismatic CEO in a branded t-shirt standing in front of a big screen, pitching their story in five minutes or less. Pitch nights, demo days, showcases. Startup founders pitch a lot.

And when it comes to finding the right investors (if a startup chooses to raise capital), you’ll be pitching a lot more.

But before you can pitch to investors, you have to get them to take the meeting — which means emailing your pitch deck to potential investors, and hoping it’s enough to get them interested.

What do investors look for in an emailed startup pitch deck?

Blackbird’s Nick Crocker sat down with Territory3 and conducted a live pitch deck evaluation — demonstrating his process for reviewing an emailed pitch deck to decide:

“Would I take the meeting?”

Screenshot of presenter Nick Crocker
Nick Crocker from Blackbird

(Full video linked at the bottom of this post.)

Here are my top 5 takeaways from this rare peek behind the curtain:

1. Your Startup pitch

Nick said he might spend 30 seconds skimming the deck and, realistically, you have about 10 to 15 seconds to make an impression.

I used to say you’ve got one minute to make an impression, and I think I was being too generous. I think it’s more like 10 seconds or 15 seconds.

– Nick Crocker, Blackbird

Towards the end of the session, Nick demonstrated just how quickly he goes over the deck.

“No dollar sign. Founder: not sure. No dollar sign. No dollar sign. Market slide. No revenue, 11 pilot customers. Go-to-market. Defensibility. Closing.” In 16 seconds he has gone through everything and decided if he wants to spend more time looking deeper.

Screen recording of viewer scrolling quickly through the pitch deck.



Pete Lead

I work with startups, teach entrepreneurship, and freelance in improv and leadership coaching.