Wilco’s $7 million seed deck – TechCrunch

what is poorWhat do freshman developers do when they’re past coding bootcamp but have no real-life experience? You enter the world of simulation. That is the basic premise 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 deck the company created to use this round for my pitch deck teardown – complete the series.

One of the things I love, love, love about the deck is that – like the company’s overall design style – it uses the look of the Sierra-era games. Specifically, it harks back to the old Space Quest games of the 1980s and 90s, and the company itself, Wilco, is apparently named after Space Quest’s main protagonist, Roger Wilco.

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It’s a particularly apt name, considering that in the Space Quest series, Roger is an unfortunate but well-meaning “plumbing engineer” (i.e., janitor) who keeps saving the world, more or less by accident. If you really want to delve deep into retro tactics, check out the excellent Space Quest Historian podcast. There Naturally there is a podcast on the history of space quest.

Aaaaway – sorry, my 8-bit nerd is showing and the nostalgia occasionally gets the better of me. Where were we? Oh yes, pitch decks and their demolition.

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slides in this deck

Wilco’s Seed Deck is a 19-slide deck that ticks all the boxes. The ink on the investment round article isn’t even dry yet, so the unedited deck would be full of a lot of business-sensitive information; The Wilco team pointed out that they made a few edits to make them feel comfortable sharing the deck. I’ve noted them in the list of slides below.

  1. title slide
  2. team slide
  3. problem slide
  4. “What’s happening today?” — Problem context slide
  5. mission slide
  6. “Who are we” – value proposition slide
  7. solution slide
  8. “Wilco’s solution is customizable and adapts and connects to popular tools” – product slide
  9. “Scaling vs. Adjusting” – Beachhead’s go-to-market slide
  10. “The Wilco Effect” – product benefits slide
  11. “Product Experience” – product screenshot (and demo, maybe?)
  12. Go-to-market slide
  13. traction slide — Redacted: Monthly Active Users (chart of users over time)
  14. traction slide — Edited: Removed customer logos
  15. traction slide — Redacted: Removed content partner/customer logos
  16. “What customers say about us” – testimonial slide
  17. competition slide
  18. The Ask Slide — Edited: Removed some numbers
  19. “Let’s talk!” — Contact info slide

three things to love

I’ve already raved about Wilco’s talent for graphics, but it seems the company’s talent runs deeper. The deck uses great storytelling craftsmanship. Here are a few highlights:

Benefits over features

[Slide 10] By breaking down the benefits for each user, Wilco explains its reason for being. photo credit: Wilko

Many startups, especially those with technical founders, fall into the trap of focusing too much on a product’s attributes rather than its benefits. You see that in a lot of places, but here’s an example: nobody really cares that a car has a range of 400 miles; that’s just a number. Consumers (and, yes, investors too) care about how far you can go. In other words, the car will get you from Los Angeles to San Francisco without stopping to charge or refuel. This is utility-driven storytelling, and it connects with your audience much better than if a car had a 380 or 420 mile range.

On slide 10, Wilco does just that incredibly well; They call it the “Wilco effect,” but realistically, there are benefits to it. Junior engineers get hands-on experience, senior engineers get more time back, management gain insight into their workforce development and better control over training, and the wider community benefits in many ways.

The “how” will be important, but risks the temptation to go into more detail than what’s 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 basics are there. I wish more startups got this right!

A pretty crisp question


[Slide 18] The redactions remove detail, but the story is solid. Photo credit: Wilco (opens in a new window)

It’s excruciatingly rare to find an Ask slide that actually does what it needs to do. When I saw this one – despite the redactions – I knew I had to show Wilco because it’s such a good example of how to ask a great question.

That’s the promise the company makes to its investors: Give us $6 million and we’ll make it.

In the first box, the company talks about releasing a “community edition” that will allow (not “allow”, but that probably interests me more than I should) developers to play and create quests. It’s not stated anywhere in the deck what the feature set is here, so I’d expect there to be an appendix slide showing some sort of product roadmap. Nevertheless, it is a clear goal.

In the second box, the company outlines its hiring plan. Of course, “strong team” is a bit fuzzy; I would have liked to see some numbers here, but it works.

In the third box, Wilco does everything right. “Achieve X WAUs and Y weekly quests played” is a super clear SMART goal: It’s specific and measurable; there is no doubt whether the goal was scored or not. The numbers are covered, so I can’t say if it’s achievable, but that’s the promise the company makes to its investors: Give us $6 million and we’ll make it. It’s relevant: Reaching this goal will unlock the next round of funding. And that is scheduled, probably “in the next 18 months” – more on that in a moment. Brilliant. Bold. Yes. More of the same – having specific, clear, credible goals for what you want to achieve with your investments will go a long way in insuring confidence in your business between this round of funding and the next.

In the fourth box, the company sets some specific goals around its growth trajectory, with a set of partnerships it needs to make to enable future growth, expressed as a SMART goal.

I have a small point that I would have liked to have seen differently here. I don’t know how many months Runbahn is raising here, but I’d bet the red box covers the number 18. Why? Well, that’s pretty much standard for a fundraiser these days: you raise for 18 months and start the fundraiser again when there’s only six months of runway left.

Much less than 18 months and you don’t have enough time to do any meaningful work. Much more than that and you’re trying to get clairvoyance into a timeline that’s a little unrealistic. Also, many startups aim for 18 months but then hit the road to try and hit the milestones sooner.

In short, you don’t raise money because you run out of money as planned. You collect money because you have successfully reached the milestones and you need more money to reach your next milestones. In short, don’t worry about marking the time anywhere on your slide deck; It’s not helpful and will show up as part of your operational plan and financial plans anyway.

Clearly defined problem

I usually just share one slide here, but slides three and four go together, so here’s a twosome for you:


[Slide 3] problem. Photo credit: Wilco (opens in a new window)


[Slide 4] How companies solve it today. Photo credit: Wilco (opens in a new window)

Did I mention that people are tempted to be too technical and too matter-of-fact about the product in their slide presentations? Yes, yes I did, in the first part of this teardown. Well, here’s another example of how Wilco dialed in perfectly. On slides three and four, the company can explain the problem briefly and clearly. The company highlights the shortcomings of the theoretical training and explains the impact on the entire 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 portfolios.

Even for someone unfamiliar with the ins and outs of running a development-oriented organization, Wilco’s value proposition is clear and easy to understand. Super impressive considering how many opportunities the company had to get this horribly wrong.

In the rest of this teardown, we’ll take a look at three things Wilco could have improved or done differently, along with his full-pitch deck! Wilco’s $7 million seed deck – TechCrunch

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