My first attempt at a Pitch Deck
The terms, Incubator, Accelerator and Pitch Deck are all relatively new. The first company known to use the word “accelerator” was Y Combinator, which started in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by Paul Graham in 2005.
What happened before that?
By 1999 I and my colleagues had started a few companies and had financed those on our own, we had not needed to raise funds to get a business up and running. This applied to a startup called Remcentral.com which eventually went on to become a Unicorn, a company with a Billion-dollar valuation.
Remcentral.com had evolved from some rudimentary software developed by Remuneration Planning Corporation Pty Ltd (RPC) of which I was a Director. In the mid 1990’s at RPC we started to create a software platform for the administration of employer provided benefits and Remcentral.com was formed. Having built a basic version, we were successful in acquiring a large hospital as a client, we hired a few employees and started to expand. I had lobbied the Australian Department of Defence for the previous two years and they decided they were interested and called for submissions to manage their 100,000 employees. We won the contract and immediately knew that we would need to raise funds to build the infrastructure and develop the programme and it would be more than we could personally afford. We had to find an investor.
In 1999 there were no investment funds that were accepting startups, no incubators, accelerators or other institutions that we could approach as the ‘Startup’ industry was itself a ‘startup’. I looked for individuals and companies that might be interested and spent several months fruitlessly knocking on doors and pitching our case to people. We knew we had limited time left to keep the company afloat and it was at this time that someone said, ‘why don’t you approach Macquarie Bank as I have heard they have backed a few new ventures”. A meeting was arranged in their Sydney office and I walked with a PowerPoint set of slides that can only be described in today’s terms as pathetic. They were pictures without facts, figures or financial projections and were embedded with the sound of a cash register every time a new slide opened. To my disappointment I reached halfway through the 12 slides and was asked to close the PowerPoint and that was that. On the way out I was told the usual “well get back to you”.
What happened next?
Two weeks later I received a call from Macquarie from the person who had shown me the door, he said “Can you come back for another meeting?” A few days later I went back to the same building and was shown into a larger room where about 20 solemn faced individuals were sitting. The person who had set up the meeting asked me to show the people gathered the same PowerPoint set that I had shown him two weeks earlier. I completed the slide set and not a word was said, nor a question asked. I received a polite ‘thank-you’ and left the building.
Another two weeks passed, and I received another call from the same person who asked me to call into his office in the afternoon. I walked in not knowing what to expect and he was sitting at his desk with a dozen envelopes in a pile. He said, “these are for you”. He handed me the envelopes which I opened to find $4.2 million dollars in cheques made out to my company. I walked back to my office, looked at my partners and said, “you will never guess what I have in these envelopes”.
Remcentral.com changed its name to SmartSalary Pty Ltd in 2000 and today is valued at over 1 Billion dollars.
I had just presented my first successful Pitch Deck and at the time had not even realised that in the coming years the Pitch Deck would become more sophisticated and the fundamental document that grabs the interest of investors in the quickest possible time.