What is a poor, freshly created developer to do when he no longer has a coding internship but has no real-life experience? You enter the world of simulation. This is the basic principle of what Wilco offers. Last week I covered the company’s $7 million seed funding round, and the company’s CEO, On Freund, was kind enough to let me use the game the company created to close out this cycle for my Pitch Deck Teardown series.
One of the things I love, love, love about the game is that it – like the company’s overall design style – uses the look of Sierra-era games . Specifically, it’s reminiscent of old Space Quest games from the 1980s and 90s, and the company itself, Wilco, is apparently named after Space Quest’s main protagonist, Roger Wilco.
TechCrunch+ is hosting an Independence Day sale! Save 50% on an annual subscription here.
(More info on TechCrunch+ here if you need it!)
It’s a particularly fitting name, given that Roger, in the Space Quest series, is a hapless but well-meaning “sanitation engineer” (i.e. janitor) who, more or less by accident , ends up saving the world time and time again. If you really want to dive deep into retro-tasticness, check out the excellent Space Quest Historian podcast. Because sure there is a podcast on the history of Space Quest.
Aaaanyway – sorry, my 8-bit nerd shows up, and nostalgia sometimes gets the better of me. Where were we? Oh yeah, pitch decks and their destruction.
I’m always on the lookout for more pitch decks that we can share with our TechCrunch readers.
We even have a sort of submission process in place. Here is some additional information on how to get involved.
Slides in this deck
Wilco’s Seed Game is a 19-slide game that ticks all the boxes. The ink on the investment cycle article isn’t even dry yet, so the unredacted deck would be full of a lot of company-sensitive information; the Wilco team pointed out that they made a few redactions to make them comfortable sharing the game. I’ve noted them in the list of slides below.
- cover slide
- Team slide
- problem slide
- “What’s going on today?” — Problem Context Slide
- mission slide
- “Who We Are” – Value Proposition Slide
- Solution Slide
- “Wilco’s solution is customizable, adapts and connects to popular tools” – Product slide
- “Scale vs. Customization” – Beachhead Go-To-Market Slide
- “The Wilco Effect” – Product Benefits Slide
- “Product Experience” – Screenshot of the product (and demo, possibly?)
- Go-to-market slide
- Traction Slide — Redacted: Monthly active users (graph of users over time)
- Traction Slide — Redacted: customer logos have been removed
- Traction Slide — Redacted: content partner/customer logos removed
- “What Customers Are Saying About Us” – Testimonial Slide
- Competition slide
- The Ask slide — Redacted: some numbers removed
- “Let’s talk!” — Contact information slide
three things to love
I’ve talked about Wilco’s graphics talent before, but it seems the company’s talent goes deeper than that. The game uses excellent storytelling skills. Here are some highlights:
Advantages vs. Features
Many startups, and especially those with technical founders, fall into the trap of focusing too much on a product’s features, rather than its benefits. You see this in all sorts of places, but here’s an example: Nobody really cares that a car has a range of 400 miles; it’s just a number. Consumers (and, yes, investors too) care how far you can go. In other words: the car can take you from Los Angeles to San Francisco without having to stop to recharge or refuel. It’s benefit-driven storytelling, and it connects with your audience much better than if a car has a range of 380 or 420 miles.
On slide 10, Wilco is doing an incredible job in this area; they call it “the Wilco effect”, but in reality, these are advantages. Junior engineers gain hands-on experience, senior engineers gain more time, management gets visibility into their human resource development and better control over training, and the wider community benefits in many ways.
The “how” will be important but risk the temptation to go into more detail than is important for a pitch deck. The “what” is too tactical; for this part of the story, it doesn’t matter what users have to do to get these benefits. Focusing on the “why” is why this slide is so powerful; it opens the door to deeper conversations if needed, but the groundwork is there. I wish more startups had this right!
A beautifully clear request
It’s extremely rare to find a request slide that actually does what it’s supposed to do. When I saw this one – despite the redactions – I knew I had to introduce Wilco, because it’s such a great example of how to make a good request.
That’s the promise the company makes to its investors: give us $6 million, and we’ll make it happen.
In the first box, the company talks about releasing a “Community Edition” that allows (not “allows”, but I probably care more than I should) developers to play and create quests. It’s not specified anywhere in the game what the feature set is here, so I would expect there to be a slide in the appendix that shows some sort of product roadmap. Nevertheless, it is a clear objective.
In the second box, the company describes its hiring plan. Of course, “the strong team” is a bit fuzzy; I would have liked to see numbers here, but it works.
In the third box, Wilco gets things just fine. “Achieving X WAU and Y weekly quests played” is a very clear SMART goal: it is specific and measurable; there is no doubt that the goal has been achieved or not. The numbers are covered, so I have no way of knowing if it’s achievable, but it’s the promise the company makes to its investors: Give us $6 million, and we’ll make it happen. That’s relevant: achieving this goal will unlock the next round of funding. And it’s time-limited, presumably “within the next 18 months” – more on that in a bit. Great. Bold. Yes. More of that – specific, clear, and credible goals for what you’re going to achieve with your investments will go a long way to ensuring confidence in how your business is going to perform between this fundraiser and the next.
In the fourth box, the company sets specific goals around its growth trajectory, with a number of partnerships it needs to land in order to facilitate future growth, expressed as a SMART goal.
I have a minor point that I would have liked to see done differently here. I don’t know how many months of trail the company is harvesting here, but I’d bet money that the red box covers number 18. Why? Well, that’s pretty much the norm for a fundraiser these days: you fundraise for 18 months and restart the fundraiser when there’s six months of lead left.
Much less than 18 months and you don’t have enough time to do meaningful work. Much more than that and you’re trying to clairvoyance into a somewhat unrealistic timeline. Also, a lot of startups aim for 18 months, but then go to hell with trying to hit milestones sooner.
In a nutshell, you are not collecting money because you are running out of money as expected. You are fundraising because you have successfully reached milestones and need more money to reach your next set of milestones. In short: don’t worry about putting time on your slideshow anywhere; it’s not useful and will show up in your operating plan and financial plans anyway.
Clearly defined problem
I usually only share one slide here, but slides three and four go together, so here are two for you:
Did I mention that people have the temptation to be too technical and product specific in their slides? Yes, yes, I did, in the first part of this teardown. Well, here’s another example of how Wilco dialed in perfectly. In slides three and four, the company is able to explain the problem succinctly and clearly. The company highlights the gaps in the theoretical education and explains what the impacts are on the whole company. In a world where developers are up there with some of the most expensive human resources, any increase in efficiency is a problem. Investors know this better than most; they see the budgets in their wallets.
Even for someone not intimately familiar with the ins and outs of running a development-focused organization, Wilco’s value proposition is clear and easy to understand. Super impressive, considering how many ways the company could have gone horribly wrong.
In the rest of this teardown, we’ll take a look at three things Wilco could have done better or done differently, along with his full pitch deck!