Laoshi’s $570K deck • TechCrunch

Most of them The pitch deck takedowns to date (here’s a handy list of the 30+ we’ve published so far) have been for institutional funding rounds, typically on the order of millions or tens or even hundreds of million dollars raised.

These are interesting to watch, sure, but I also know that many of you will be much earlier in your journey. I was looking for a good example of an angel game to share with you, and that’s exactly what I found in Laoshi’s angel game. The company tells me it raised $570,000 with a $5 million cap for its early-stage language learning app, explicitly aimed at Chinese tutors and their students.

The platform isn’t fancy and isn’t perfect, but the company says it succeeded, so let’s take a look at what went well – and what could have been improved.

We’re looking for more unique pitch decks to take down, so if you’d like to submit yours, here’s how you can do so.

Slides in this deck

Laoshi’s deck consists of 11 main slides and four side slides.

  1. cover slide
  2. problem slide
  3. Market slide
  4. Solutions Slide
  5. Competition slide
  6. Roadmap Slide
  7. Team slide
  8. Teacher Growth Slide
  9. Teacher retention slide
  10. Summary slide
  11. “Contact Us” Slide
  12. Appendices cover slide
  13. Appendix I: Viral effect slide
  14. Appendix II: Business Model Slide
  15. Annex III: Slide “The request”

three things to love

The deck is sparse and simple, which is kind of refreshing – a lot of early stage decks don’t seem to have much story woven into them and try to cram way too much information (which isn’t really relevant) onto the slides .

The most important thing you need to remember for a game of angels is that your investors know they are in the business of high risk investing. So make it clear why your business is a good bet, that you have a path to solving a real problem and gaining a huge market, and that you have the team to make it happen.

The team slide is A+

[Slide 7] A team slide should convince investors that you are the right person to build this business. Picture credits: Laoshi

In a young company, it is often said that it takes a hacker, a scammer and a hipster (H3) to build a good founding team. The hacker is the person who has the technical know-how to build the first two versions of the product. The scammer is the person who carries sales and investments and understands how the market works for that business. And the hipster is a person who can put together designs to make the product look fresh and cool and easy to use.

I don’t know if I agree 100% with the H3 the ethics of building a founding team – it’s far more important that you have the right deep domain knowledge and drive (often expressed as “founder-market fit”), but you also need a wide range of skills to build a good startup. I confess H3 is often a good model for quickly checking a team’s skills and determining if there are any major gaps in the team.

This team slide does two things: it shows that the team is international and distributed. He is diverse and experienced. And he manages – in the box at the bottom – to show that the team has relevant experience in the market. Now, I would still need a voiceover to know:

  • How did the team meet?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each team member?
  • What is the team missing?
  • Why can this team deliver in a way no one else can?
  • What is the hiring plan for the current fundraiser?

But as a basic team slide, it ticks a lot of boxes. What it doesn’t show, however, is the past successes of startups, and I’d also like to dig into that a bit more. It’s definitely a much better slide than most of the previous slides we’ve covered in these teardowns — you know, the ones that basically stick a Stanford and Tesla logo under an image and call it a day.

The thing you can learn from this slide as a startup is that your team slide is up there with the most important slides, and you need to make it count. Use it to tell your story and to convince us that your team is one of the reasons to bet on you.

Good summary slide

[Slide 10] A good summary slide can be a great way to remind investors why they should be excited. Picture credits: Laoshi

A summary slide is a great way to engage investors, and I probably would have placed this slide somewhere near the start of the game rather than the end – it really helps lay down the progress and stage of the business in time. It goes to show that yes, this company is small and finding its feet, but it’s also making real, measurable progress.

Almost as important as the numbers themselves which numbers that the company measures. It shows monthly and daily active users (MAU/DAU), which are crucial metrics to see how sticky an app is. It indicates the number of teachers and how long they stay on the platform, which again speaks to the company’s grip and reach. It talks about active user engagement, which shows that people are actively using the app.

For perfect grades, I would have liked to see these numbers as graphs rather than just put together numbers. I would also have liked to see dollar figures here. It’s great that there are over 200 paying subscribers, and that’s impressive for a prefunding company. But while the revenue numbers are probably very low, it’s also important to see a graph of those. If you don’t put it on the slide, the investor will be suspicious of the reason and ask for it anyway – you might as well just ignore that conversation and give them what they need right off the bat.

The thing you can learn from this slide as a startup is to be deeply aware of the metrics that are going to help you build and grow your business.

The business model in the foreground

[Slide 14] It’s always a good idea to show that you understand the levers of your business. Picture credits: Laoshi

I have to say that I don’t like the dark gray on light gray design, and find it curious that it’s in the appendix rather than the base game. As an investor, I think that would be one of the most important slides. I would also like to see where the business is now. For example, when the company says its TAC (cost to acquire a tutor) is $50, what does it actually consider its TAC right now? If he assumes that each tutor has five students, how does this translate into practice?

That said, these numbers are extremely important in your conversations with your investors; essentially, you show how you view your business and your market and that you understand the levers of your business. In other words: What if each tutor had 10 students instead of five? What if each tutor cost $100 to acquire instead of $50? By plugging all of this into a model and running experiments to increase your confidence in the model, you can go a long way toward building a great picture of your business in numbers.

In the rest of this teardown, we’ll look at three things Laoshi could have done better or done differently, as well as the company’s full pitch deck!