Source: https://medium.com/@gc/the-beginning-of-uber-7fb17e544851

Date: Late 2008

Outcome: Well…

Let Uber’s first deck soothe the nervous founders out there: You don’t have to be a design genius to get funded. You just need to stay out of your own way. Communicate the key points directly. Don’t overthink it. Dive right in.

That’s what Uber’s deck does, immediately addressing the problems on both sides of the market. You can even see hooks for the founders to start the conversation: “How many times have you been out with your partners at a late dinner and you needed to hail or call a cab? It’s an awful experience! It’s so inefficient!” Investors are immediately invited to relate to the primary use case.

(As an aside, I know at least one NYC-based venture investor passed on Uber because he didn’t see the need. And why would he? He’s a white guy in the #1 taxi market in the country and he lives in an upscale, well-traveled area. When has he ever had a problem hailing a cab? This phenomenon is a huge problem in the VC world, which is why an effective pitch is so important.)

Slides 4 through 16 are almost entirely dedicated to describing the product. A demo would have sufficed — in fact, a demo ride with the founders would have been an ideal time to talk about the information in all of these slides. What these slides actually accomplish is a demonstration of how broadly the founders have thought about this idea. They lay out pieces of the product roadmap and separate them into digestible pieces. That’s also what the market slides accomplish: They show how deeply they understand the market and lay out the size and growth potential.

Put this all together and it communicates to early investors the most important message of all: This team is smart, diligent, and committed. Obviously, they got that message across. In fact, it was an epic understatement.

Other notes:

  • Based on the date and the (laughable) progress slide, this was clearly a pitch for friendly angels to finance their first cars and early product development. But the funding environment back then was different. If you’re pitching angels today — especially outside the Bay Area — they’ll want to see more evidence of traction and a more detailed crack at your business model.
  • The design is text-heavy — I think they’re using the default Powerpoint font — and that means the rare change in style stands out. Notably, “Digital hail can now make street hail unnecessary” is large and green, which calls your attention there.
  • “The NetJets of car services/Limos” is incredible to read now in light of the countless “Uber for X” pitches. This trope is so played out that, if it actually is a helpful metaphor for you, it’s best limited to emails and verbal discussion, not the deck. Better: Just be direct and call it a marketplace for X.
  • “Profitable by design”? Can’t win ’em all.