Forethought’s $65 Million Series C Deck – TechCrunch

Thinking ahead has been on our radar for a long time – the company won our Startup Battlefield 2018 at TechCrunch Disrupt, and just a few weeks ago CEO Deon Nicholas joined NEA’s Vanessa Larco on TechCrunch Live to talk about pitching and pitch decks:

Today it’s my pleasure to break down the company’s 23 slide deck that helped it raise a $65 million Series C late last year.

Forethought’s mission is to help people perform better using AI. “One of the things we’ve focused on is a human-centric AI platform. And that’s what really came through… with our mission, and really our mission is to unlock human potential through artificial intelligence,” Nicholas told TechCrunch’s Ron Miller

We’re looking for more unique pitch decks to break down, so if you’d like to submit your own pitch decks, here’s how.

Slides in this deck

In the vast majority of cases, this is a slide that makes my eyes shine; Forethought’s slide made me do a double take because it’s a rare exception to that rule.

Cover slide Founders slide TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield slide – (Yeah, really!) Traction slide (redacted numbers) Customer list slide “Forbes 2021 next billion dollar startups” – mystery slide “Remember the last time you were on hold” – problem slide “The cost of poor customer service” — problem slide “Transform customer experiences with human-centric AI” — solution slide “Complete platform” — product slide “True AI” — product slide “Fast time-to-value” — product slide “Secure and trusted” — “Intelligent Gap Detection” product slide — “Trusted by the Best” product slide — Customer Specs Overview “Metric Summary” (Edited) — Traction Slide Customer Testimonials Slide ARR Expansion by Cohort (Edited) — Customer Development Slide “Forward Thinkers” Slide Consultants Slide and investors “What’s next” (redacted) – roadmap slide “Where we’re going” (edited) – revenue growth slide “Unlock human potential through A I” – slide with mission

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Three things to love

There’s a lot to love about this deck, and it’s hard to pick just three things. In the past few pitch deck teardowns, I’ve often focused on the beginning of the story – the first few slides.

Ending on mission

[Slide 23] Closing slide. Image Credits: Thinking Ahead

I’ve argued before how important it is to have a good ending slide. To understand why, remember that in many pitching situations, the first and last slides stay on screen longer. The first because you’re messing around with getting coffee, waiting for people and situating yourself. The latter because during Q&A at the end of a pitch it’s not uncommon to leave the last slide up – at least until you have to move to another slide in the deck to clarify something. To be fair, this was more the case when pitching in person than when pitching virtually, but it’s good practice to let each slide do some heavy lifting.

Often the last slide is just a repetition of the company slogan or motto and the founder’s contact details; it makes sense to repeat your vision or mission here, but it’s rarely done, and that’s a shame. If you have a clearly articulated mission, why not fly that flag while you do your pitching?

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Ugh, an investor slide

investor slide

[Slide 20] Advisors, investors and client advisory board. Image Credits: Thinking Ahead

Many startups have 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 slide full of people making my eyes glaze over – people who probably won’t do much for your business. Forethought’s slide made me do a double take because it’s a rare exception to that rule. It initially caught my attention when I recognized Ashton Kutcher from the photo. That prompted me to take a closer look. This slide is extraordinary and probably the first of this type of slide I’ve seen that actually deserves to be part of the deck.

Waymo’s CEO and a Stanford AI lab professor as advisors is a flex. The customer advisory board is made up of (presumably busy) decision-making customers for Pinterest, Instacart, and Carta. And the investors? Well…it’s not always clear how much time individual investors put into a startup, and that would be a question I’d ask Forethought, but it sure is a conversation starter: how did the company manage to add a handful of household names to the cap table, and will they add value beyond their money and famous faces?

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Contextualized songs are sexy

Customer testimonials slide

[Slide 17] Customer testimonials. Image Credits: Thinking Ahead (Opens in a new window)

I include Slide 17 as a “thing to love” for a number of reasons. As with the investor slide, it’s rare to see a customer testimonial doing some really hard work. Usually it’s fluff that shows up instead of real traction. In this case, however, the company was able to do something really clever; Forethought brings some impressive customer metrics to the fore – backing it up with real feedback from its customers.

In my previous startups, I’ve done a lot of customer support, and if someone had posted one of those stats for me, I would have bought on the spot: 43% of customer interactions don’t result in a support ticket? 85% routing accuracy? Process tickets 21% faster and get 32% more productivity from all your customer support agents? Either way, that’s extraordinary – but pairing it with customer testimonials makes the story so much more alive. Very well done indeed. It also helps that the slide is well designed, easy to read and the logos show that this is also a solid lineup of customers.

In the rest of this teardown, we’ll take a look at three things Forethought could have improved or done differently, along with the full pitch deck!

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