Our startup: Serkan Ferah explains PitchSpace

His pitch building platform aims to bring order to the $643 billion raised in VC each year
BizAge Interview Team

Hi Serkan! What does PitchSpace do?

We built PitchSpace with a mission to bring standardisation to the relationship between startups and investors. Our first product is an automated pitch builder that 600+ startups organically joined Beta to use.

Imagine instead of wasting weeks to try to perfect their pitch decks, founders build their pitch materials simply by answering a series of guided questions following the instructions and examples.

Then, using their answers, the algorithm automatically generates a fully editable pitch deck and executive summary. It even helps them with their investor message.

The whole process is a first in terms of standardising deal offerings in Venture Capital markets.

What's your biggest strength?

There is no standard way of creating a pitch deck and each time a founder goes to market to raise, they have to deal with fiddly pitch deck templates or waste time searching for best practise.

PitchSpace is completely intuitive to use. Answering pitch builder’s guided questions, founders can focus on what’s important and will get them that funding from investors. The product deals with the rest and get their PowerPoint deck and investor outreach message instantly ready. No design skills required; no templates involved.

We have users who have gone through the pitch builder and realised they’re not ready or suitable for funding yet. This is a massive value for the investor community in terms of improving the quality of deal flow as well as founding teams.

We’re a team of founders and investors who have been involved in hundreds of funding rounds. 95% of those became successful and some failed. So we know how a pitch can make an investor think and instil confidence, and what the common mistakes are. That’s how we came up with the perfect formula and created a pitch standard which will hopefully help thousands of founders and investors.

What made you think there was money in this?

$643 billion of venture capital investments were made globally in 2021, there are more people building startups than ever and regulators are trying to find ways to open more of the market to retail investors.

However, even with this rapid growth, there are many areas that need improvement and the most obvious is the requirement of a standard framework for information flow between startups and investors.

Standardisation will enable more founders to get funded while educating non-professional investors on how to evaluate private investment opportunities .

In my previous roles I had helped hundreds of startups to build a compelling pitch deck and secure funding. The guidance and support around investment pitches is very fragmented and dysfunctional. Pitch deck templates are not solving any of the important problems other than helping you create a nice looking document.

Founders are making similar mistakes, asking similar questions and generally failing for similar reasons. Investors and venture builders are having to go through deals that are pitched in various formats just to understand whether the deal meets the criteria or not. That’s too much wasted time, effort and capital in the end.

I tried to find a solution to these problems and couldn't find one. There’re many great companies out there for legals and matchmaking but the source is entirely neglected.

So we embarked on a journey to standardise the entire investor relations stack starting from the pitch.

Where is the business today?

We launched our Beta programme in July 2021 with a single post on my own LinkedIn profile and targeted reach 100 startups by the end of 2021.

Things went much better than we planned - we had 400 people joined our Beta by the end of 2021 and as of mid-May 2022, we passed 600 with an activation rate of more than 60%.

We’ve also got a verbal confirmation from the largest startup accelerator programmes in the world to use the full version of PitchSpace once launched.

And the best is, all of it is organic either through word of mouth or recommendations.

Our next goals for this year are first shipping the new version of pitch builder with our first paid feature in June, start building our community and work on a standardised deal screening product for investors.

What is the secret to making the business work?

Being a founder, in common with many startups founders I speak to, is a lonely journey and no matter how many inspiring advisers and mentors you have, it is ultimately down to you to make decisions on a daily basis that will affect the future of the business.  My advice would be to make sure you keep things as lean as possible and surround yourself with people who can add value to your journey.

I also recommend you don’t be fooled by those big deals we read about everyday – what matters more than the amount you raise is what you achieve with that funding. And most importantly, fundraising and pitching is all about being a good storyteller – even your financial model is built on a story. Be sure that your story is compelling and convincing.

How do you market the company?

Currently, I can say we’re almost in a zero paid marketing mode and all this growth we’ve seen so far is organic. We believe in community and that’s how we decided to shift our focus to community and product instead of paid channels at the moment.

I believe paid channels will still be used in the mix but achieving a stable product experience and a sustainable user engagement first are more important.

Our users are loving the product which is the most fulfilling thing for a founder and they’re kind enough to recommend it to fellow startup founders.

What funding do you have? Is it enough?

We initially raised 55K from a small group of 4 angels and friends after receiving a couple of pitch decks that was generated by our MVP and finding them very strong. So it was almost a one of a kind moment for us. That helped us fund the development of our current product.

We’re now again in fundraising mode and will start engaging with investors who can help us to get to the next stage very soon.

Tell us about the business model

Our strategy is entirely built on low barrier entry to the product and democratisation of technology for good. Therefore, our users will never have to pay thousands of pounds to build a deal and fund their businesses on PitchSpace.

That is vital for any startup trying to build a network and community.

We’re currently planning to embrace a Pay-as-you-go approach while delivering incremental value to our users. However, next year we will also launch subscription products too, which will ultimately help us build the entire universe of PitchSpace like Lego - to let our users pay for only what they need without trapping them into a subscription model.

What were you doing before?

My background is in branding and marketing communications, and I have previously worked with brands like Aston Martin, Maserati and Abarth in their global brand licensing projects. I worked with a lot of startups in branding and helping them shape their messaging to attract the attention of investors.  This gave me a lot of insight into the needs of different sizes of companies and how to best communicate each company’s unique value.  Prior to founding PitchSpace, I worked with over 100 startup private and crowdfunding campaigns with 98% success rate.

Are there any technologies you've found useful?

I love reading, learning and research. That’s why I discover a lot of new products and share them with my circle of founders.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Asana - I really don’t understand people using other tools.

However, currently my absolute two favourites that can take all my money are Decrypt - the blockchain and Web3 publisher that serves news and educational content in a human friendly language and constantly updates with fresh content. I am on it for at least an hour every day.

And the other one is absolutely Notion - a documenting solution. It has almost an unlimited use case, it’s amazing to keep record of all your ideas, strategies and content - vital for a startup team. I use Notion everyday whenever I need to type something or work on strategic things. Completely ditched Google Docs.

What is the future vision?

The overall venture capital deal process, legal documentations and its costs are inherited from archaic frameworks. The industry needs new standards and a simpler language that belongs to today.

The real innovation almost never comes from insiders. Many of the products that are served to founders are created by other founders who were previously lawyers, investors or financiers. That carries all the language and behavioural pattern of traditional markets back into the digital framework.

That’s why we founders are still having to pay a few thousand pounds to fill a standard form and generate a generic legal fundraising document.

We are moving to take our vision further and build a scalable framework that will standardise investor relations in private markets, make capital market fairer and accessible and let market participants including founders and investors shape it.

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
May 24, 2022
Written by
May 24, 2022