What about hardware? Did product managers have as good tools as those offered for software PMS? Well, that world wants to live five flutes. The company raised $1.2 million, which I covered earlier this week. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the pitch surface he used to top the pre-seed round. Five Flute shared the best deck with only minor edits, and I’m excited to share it with you – along with the usual decks of crap. Let’s dive in and find out what works well and what rocks.
We’re looking for more unique pitch floors to break down, so if you’d like to submit your own, here’s how you can do that.
Slides on this floor
Five Flute topped the pre-seed round with a really interesting deck; It includes several slides that I rarely see on pitch floors, but the narrative flows well, and I can see why the company chose to include them.
The company has slightly modified slides for publication: logos removed from slides 5 and 11, small scale product plans removed from slide 15, and some company targets and fundraising details removed from slide 16. .
Here’s an overview:
- Cover slide
- “We have shipped hardware and software products to industries and have a deep understanding of the problem space.” – Group slider
- “Product development is a complex interactive process involving many disciplines and different tools.” – An overview of how hardware products work
- “Collaboration in hardware product development is a nightmare—the tools available are siloed, cross-disciplinary, and don’t play well together.” – Problem slide
- “We have felt this pain personally.” – “Who has this problem?” Slide
- “Five Flute is a cross-disciplinary case tracking platform.” – Solution slide
- “Five Flute’s issue tracking platform lives where real work is done.” – Product slide
- Display slide
- “Integration improves customer experience and accelerates adoption.” – Death slide
- “Integration is key” — Go-to-market strategy slide
- “Our competition is structurally unable to address this position.” – Competition slide
- Target audience slide
- Market size slide
- Go to the market slide
- Product roadmap slide
- “The question” slide
- Slide close/Contact us.
Three things to love
One amazing thing about this deck, when I saw the construction, I could imagine the frustration of the Five Flute founder. “How Hardware Products Work” slide, “Who has had this problem?” There is a saying. slide and a few others that you rarely see on slide decks.
It is reasonable; At a time when software has consumed most of the world, there really aren’t many people in VC who fully and deeply appreciate what it takes to build a hardware product. That’s good, in a way—it means that when someone chooses to build a company in this space, they’re competing against a much smaller set of competitors. It’s also a source of frustration: If your potential investors don’t have a frame of reference, it’s easy to assume that hardware development is as easy as writing and deploying software.
It’s fun to see some of those struggles and challenges come to life in this deck – and I have to say, the team did an extraordinary job.
Before we go through the three big slides, we can pause at the cover slide from this deck:
This cover slide… :chefs-kiss:
It summarizes what the company is doing and sets the stage for the rest of the process. The only thing I would add here is that this is a pre-seed round, just to properly anchor the deck, but it’s still a solid start.
Let’s take a look at some highlights.
How products work
Before I did a lot of hardware development myself, I’ll admit that I didn’t know these things either. Rolling off the production assembly line from prototype (“Is it possible?”) to the final product is incredibly complex. It takes production From a working prototype (the product works but looks hideous) to a mock prototype (the product works and looks better but cannot be mass produced) to a manufactured prototype (the product has gone through a “design for production” production, and the prototype can be mass produced (as close as possible.) Then general processes to ensure engineering, product, and manufacturing workflows, and finally the product life cycle management process, which is usually value engineering (making the same product cheaper, mass-producing products, etc.).
Slide 10 sets up Slide 11 by reminding investors that the merger-first workflow is both a go-to-market strategy and a debatable one. Beautifully done.
It’s complex stuff, often referred to as EVT/DVT/PVT, and each step results in multiple design and production iterations. Now, if the founders were talking to investors who understood this process, this slide would be completely redundant. I can only imagine the frustration I would feel if I added a slide like this to my peach tank. But on the other hand, as a founder, it’s your job to take your investors along for the ride and help them understand the magnitude of the opportunity at play.
Including this slide is a very, very smart idea. Turn to the slide and see if the investor complains along the lines of, “I’ve been doing this since prehistoric times, and you can jump in.” If you lean in and want to know more, you will “waste” some of your time talking in the process. Annoying, yes, but you have to – an investor cannot invest without understanding this piece of the puzzle.
Bonus kudos to the Five Flute team for making one of the best, most concise overviews of this process I’ve ever seen; Usually the whole process takes a few slides. What I love about this slide is that it makes it so easy to ask the question: “Do you understand all of this, or should I just give you a quick overview of how hardware products go from idea to target market paths?”
For your startup, if you’re doing something specific or obscure, don’t be afraid to include a primer on your industry/market/problem area.
A great reptile
I’m a little surprised that this slider doesn’t take off until it’s halfway through the pitch surface. I recommend doing this as the second or third slide. There is a trick to the genius, though – I’ll get to that in a moment.
This slide is a great story. It shows that there are predictions for what the company is trying to do in another industry. Even if the investor is not intimately familiar with the world of video production, it is very easy to use TV to tell the story.
“Hey, you know how a TV show starts with a script, then it’s shot, and then there’s editing, post-production, special effects, and everything else? Frame.io exists to keep the product team on track and to make it easy to capture feedback on the process. We do the same, but to create physical products.
Another important point that Five Flute makes on this slide is integration – a go-to-market strategy that has worked before in other industries, so they don’t have to create a new strategy to ingratiate themselves with their customers.
Now, if you turn to slide 11, you’ll see why this slide makes so much sense. That’s a five-flute race slide, and the company argues that none of its incumbents or competitors are positioned to address this segment. The perfect solution in this space is product-agnostic, meaning that if Autodesk were to develop it, it would have to create software that would work seamlessly with its competitors and coordinate up and down the product development cycle. All companies in this space do that to some extent, but few are good enough to pull themselves together. Slide 10, then, sets up Slide 11 by reminding investors that the merger-first workflow is both a go-to-market strategy and a defensible one.
Shiny happy people holding hands.
Chaos is complete, unmitigated, maddening, destructive chaos. It’s something you often see in product development; In today’s physical product development universe, it takes an especially tenacious project manager to keep everyone pointing in the same direction. The issue is further complicated by the fact that different parts of the product development cycle have different priorities, expertise and challenges facing a particular product.
This slide, more than any other slide in this deck, brings to life how Five Flute pulls the whole process together. By starting with the engineering layer and developing additional tools and visualizations, it’s easy to see how the company’s strategy leans as much as these things can: create a value proposition that works for one target customer segment, then expand it by adding feature sets that other users care about.
The need for technical, maintenance, and support staff (who often do the testing and customer-facing tasks), engineering management teams (with a less detailed but more strategic view), and other aspects of the business are diverse. On this slide, Five Flute is effectively working on how it plans to make itself important throughout the production. The slider helps to easily explain the company on the org chart and position it in a way that reflects its ultimate ambition.
As an early stage company, there will always be a temptation to solve all the problems you can see, but that trap is that you cannot solve them all with the resources you have. Narrowing down the scope – in this case, narrowing down the target audience – is actually a very smart move.
In the rest of this tear, we look at three things with a full pitch surface that five flutes could have improved or done differently.