And if the material product managers had tools as powerful as those available to software PMs? Well, that’s the world Five Flute wants to live in. The company raised a $1.2 million round which I covered earlier this week. Today we take a closer look at the pitch deck he used to elevate his pre-seed ride. Five Flute shared their excellent deck with us with only minimal changes, and I’m excited to share it with you – along with my usual teardown shenanigans. Let’s dive in and find out what works well and what feels a little wonky.
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
Five Flute elevated their pre-seed tower with a really interesting deck; it includes a number of slides that I rarely see in pitch decks, but the narrative flows well, and I can see why the company chose to include them.
The company has a few slides that have been slightly redacted for publication: logos have been removed from slides 5 and 11, a small amount of text related to product plans has been removed from slide 15, and some of the business and fundraising details have been removed from slide 16. .
Here is an overview:
- cover slide
- “We have shipped hardware and software products across all industries and fully understand the problematic space.” — team slide
- “Product development is a complex interactive process involving multiple disciplines and a variety of tools.” — overview of how hardware products are made
- “Collaboration in hardware product development is a nightmare – existing tools are siled, discipline-specific, and don’t work well together.” – problem slide
- “We personally felt that pain.” — a “who has this problem?” drag
- “Five Flute is a connected issue tracking platform for interdisciplinary work.” — solution slide
- “Five Flute’s issue tracking platform lives where the real work is done.” — product slide
- Demo slide
- “Onboarding improves customer experience and accelerates adoption.” – moat slide
- “Integration is the key.” – go-to-market strategy slide
- “Our competition is structurally unable to address this niche.” — competition slide
- Target Audience Slide
- Market Size Slide
- Go-to-market slide
- Product Roadmap Slide
- Slide “The request”
- Closing/contact us slide
three things to love
One amazing thing about this game is that seeing its construction, I can imagine the frustration of the founder of Five Flute. There’s a “how hardware products are made” slide, a “who has this problem?” slide. slide and a few others that you rarely see in slide decks.
It makes sense; at a time when software has eaten up most of the world, there aren’t really many people in VC who fully and deeply think about what it takes to build a hardware product. That’s good, in a way, it means that when someone chooses to start a business in this space, they’re likely to come up against a much smaller competitive set. It’s also a source of great frustration: when your potential investors don’t have a frame of reference, it’s easy to assume that developing hardware 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 has done an amazing job.
Before we start going through the three big slides, can we just pause with the cover slide for this game:
This cover slide… :chefs-kiss:
It succinctly summarizes what the company does, setting the stage for the rest of the field. The only thing I would add here is that this is a pre-seed round, just to really anchor the deck, but it’s still a good start.
Let’s take a look at some of the other highlights.
How products are made
I’ll admit that before doing a lot of hardware development myself, I didn’t know any of that either. The flow from prototype (“Is it possible?”) to the final product that rolls off the manufacturing assembly line is incredibly complex. You need a product from a working prototype (the product works, but looks ugly) to a look-alike prototype (the product works and looks better but cannot be mass-produced) to a manufactured prototype (the product has undergone ” design to manufacture a product, and the prototype is as close as possible to how it would be mass-produced). Then comes a whole series of processes to validate the engineering, production and manufacturing workflows, and finally the product life cycle management process, which is usually value engineering (manufacturing the same product at lower cost, with higher manufacturing yields, etc.).
Slide 10 sets up Slide 11 by reminding investors that the integration-focused workflow is both a go-to-market strategy and a kind of defensible moat. Beautifully done.
These are complex things, often referred to as EVT/DVT/PVT, and each step often results in a multitude of design and product iterations. Now, if the founders were talking to investors who understood this process, this slide would be completely redundant. I can imagine the exasperation I would feel if I had to put a slide like this in my pitch deck; but on the other hand, as a founder, it is your job, in the pitch process, to coach your investors and help them understand the magnitude of the opportunity at stake.
Including this slide is a very, very smart idea. Go to the slide and see if the investor growls like, “I’ve been doing this since prehistoric times, and you can ignore it.” If they lean in and are curious for more, you’ll be “wasting” some of your pitch time talking through this process. Frustrating, yes, but it has to be done — without understanding this piece of the puzzle, an investor cannot invest.
Bonus kudos to the Five Flute team for doing one of the best and most concise overviews of this process I have ever seen; usually the whole process takes a handful of slides. What I really like about this slide is that it’s very easy to ask a question, “Do you understand all of this, or do I need to give a quick recap of how hardware products go from idea to the shopping aisles at Target?”
For your startup, if you’re doing something particularly specialized or obscure, feel free to include an introduction to your problematic industry/market/space.
A great predicate
I’m a little surprised that this slide only appears way past halfway through the pitch deck. I would have advised putting that as the second or third slide. There is a method for genius, however – I’ll get to that in a moment.
This slide is just great narration. This shows that there are predicates 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 quite easy to use television as a medium to tell the story.
“Hey, you know how a TV show starts with a script, then gets shot, then they do the editing, post-production, special effects, and everything else? To keep the production team on track and to make it easy to collect feedback throughout the process, Frame.io exists.We do the same thing, but to create physical products.
The other important point that Five Flute makes on this slide is that integration first is a go-to-market strategy that has worked in other industries before, so they don’t have to invent a new strategy to have fun with their customers.
Now, if you go to slide 11, you’ll see why this slide makes so much sense. This is Five Flute’s competition slide, and the company says that none of the incumbents or competitors are in a position to tackle this segment. The perfect solution in this space is product-agnostic, which means that if Autodesk were to develop it, it would have to create software that works seamlessly with its competitors and be deeply integrated throughout the product development lifecycle. All companies in this space do this to some degree, but few are independent enough to achieve it. Slide 10, then, sets up Slide 11 by reminding investors that the integration-focused workflow is both a go-to-market strategy and a kind of defensible moat.
Happy and bright people holding hands
Chaos. Complete, utter, frustrating and devastating chaos. This is what you often look for in product development; in the existing world of physical product development, it usually takes a particularly determined project manager to keep everything moving in the same direction. The issue is further complicated by the fact that different parts of the product development cycle have different priorities, areas of expertise, and visibility into the issues and challenges facing a particular product.
This slide, more than any slide in this game, brings to life how Five Flute could bring the whole process together. By starting at the engineering layer and then making additional tools and views available, it’s easy to see how the business strategy is as lean as possible: create a value proposition that works great for a subset of the target customer, then expand by adding feature sets that interest other users.
The needs of technical, repair and support personnel (who often perform customer-facing testing and operations), teams of engineering managers (who have a less detailed but more strategic view) and other aspects of the business are all different. On this slide, Five Flute effectively outlines how it plans to make itself indispensable across the entire product organization. The slide helps position the business in the org chart in an easy to explain way and also shows its ultimate ambition very well.
As a start-up business, there will always be a temptation to solve the whole problem that you can see but that traps you: you literally can’t solve everything with the resources you have. Reducing the scope – in this case, by narrowing the target audience – is indeed a very smart decision.
In the rest of this teardown, we’ll take a look at three things Five Flute could have done better or done differently, as well as his full deck!