Business plan vs Pitch deck

The different essential documents for startups and the uses of each.

When presenting your business to potential investors or partners there are several document formats that can be used. It is important to know the difference between them to know how to use them correctly. There are three types of documents:

  1. Business plan:
    A business plan is the superset of data about your business - encompassing the business model, your financial projections, and all other details about customer outreach, customer service, operations.

  2. Pitch deck:
    Is a presentation/ deck of slides that one brings to potential investors. The pitch deck is an effective summary of the key items in the business plan and includes details about what you intend doing with the funds you are asking the investor for.

  3. Elevator pitch:
    It is not exactly a document, it is verbal pitch, 1-3 minutes length, that answers "so, what do you do?". The idea is that someone asks you the question in the elevator and since you don't know how long you have got and whether the asker is getting off at the next floor, you get to give this brief pitch and with luck, it is a conversation starter!

So, the same content, with decreasing order of detail, but sharper focus on the most essential ideas and metrics. But the same degree of focus and intimate familiarity with the business.
Pitch deck vs Business plan
Pitch deck Business Plan
Length 10-20 slides 10-100 pages*
Design Highly visual Highly text-based
Main goal Get investorsÆ attention Self-reference guide & give investors
information about your company
*Just an estimation. Business Plan is a more detailed document, so it should be longer than the Pitch deck.

As you can see, a pitch deck is often used to get the attention of an investor. Since you will be sending out a pitch deck much more often than a business plan, a pitch deck is arguably more important. However, a pitch deck is usually created after the business plan is created. The business plan is the basis of your pitch deck and is therefore equally important. Generally, you should only send a business plan when an investor explicitly asks for it.

However, let's be clear, back in the day, the business plan was the most important aspect for investors, as it let them know how you think and what plans you might have for the future. As investors see lots of startups and ideas every day, Venture Capital and Private Equity funds have lots of interns and analysts who will summarise a long business plan in an executive summary. Investors are now more inclined to go for pitch decks and one-page executive summaries.

Nevertheless, if you intend to raise a large amount of capital, investors will conduct a due diligence process before investing in your company. Have a business plan ready for these situations, as you will most likely be asked for one.

Now that we know the different documents and the usefulness of each of them, let's look at how to structure the information. The structure can vary, but should include the following elements:

Executive summary 1-page that highlights what youÆre pitching for
in as little space as possible
- itÆs essentially the written version of the elevator pitch
Business idea Strategic plan
Financials Financial plan
Fundraising The Ask
In the following modules we will see what information should be displayed in each of these sections. Click on the next module if you want to discover the keys to create a successful business plan.

Key concepts:

  • Business Plan
  • Pitch deck
  • Elevator pitch