8 Slides That Will Land Venture Funding For Your Pre-Seed Startup

Do you want to impress investors with your pitch deck? Make it short! The longer the deck, the weaker and less focused you seem to the VCs. The good thing? All you need are those 8 slides to land you a sweet pre-seed round💰.

Borys Musielak

Borys Musielak

I invest in early stage startups in CEE via SMOK.vc.

Yes, even in this market🐻.


Tell me what you do without the use of adjectives / syntactic sugar🍬

The shorter the better. The simpler the better.

Make it simple enough even a VC will understand!


Yes, it’s a bit radical to start with team slide, but that’s what makes pre-seed VCs excited.

All you need to do here is:
– state the biggest achievement 🏆 of each of the founder
– show that you know the industry💡you’re trying to disrupt
– smile ☺️



Tell me about your industry, assuming I know nothing about it (I probably don’t).

What’s its biggest problem? What impact does it have on business?



Don’t repeat yourself here, I already know what problem you’re solving (see slide 3).

This is space for you to explain your unfair competitive advantage ⚔️ in your industry.

What have you figured out that others haven’t?

How is this defensible? 🛡️



Why hasn’t this been solved, yet?

Has there been a recent break through in research🔬 / tech 👩‍💻 / data availability 💾 / regulation 🗳️ that makes the previously impossible possible?

Timing 🕜 is everything in business. Show me time is on your side!



This is the most important slide outside of the TEAM slide.

How many customers have you talked to?
How many bought your product?
Do you have any sales (actual or booked)?

I need to feel your urgency! I need to believe all you care about is this company.



The purpose of this slide is to convince me that the opportunity is big enough.

Good founders can show that even with the initial product this can be a unicorn 🦄

The best founders show the vision that is even bigger 🦄🦄🦄 and it’s backed by the numbers📊.



How much are you raising? 💸
How much runway will it give you? 🛫
What are you going to achieve by then? 🛬

I need to understand you have a plan📝.
Plans can change, but you gotta have one.



At SMOK Ventures we invest in top pre-seed founders in the CEE region.

🇵🇱🇨🇿 🇸🇰🇪🇪🇱🇹🇱🇻🇺🇦🇧🇾🇷🇴 🇧🇬 🇭🇺🇸🇮🇭🇷🇲🇰🇷🇸🇲🇪🇧🇦🇲🇩🇦🇱🇽🇰🇦🇲🇬🇪🇦🇿🇰🇿

If you like what you read, take a look at our FAQ https://www.smok.vc/faq/ and reach out at borys@smok.vc

5 powerful tools for startups to slay the dragon

Startups have a famously small rate of survival. 80% of them fail. Why? Mira Wilczek talks about the main reason in this TED talk, but to spare you 10 minutes of your life, she says that most startups fail because they pick the wrong problem to focus on.

Luca Stirbat

Luca Stirbat

CEO @ ReaktorX & Creative Motion.

 Now, ask another 100 founders and entrepreneurs from the ecosystem and you will get 100 different answers. Some blame the team, some the timing and others even the ecosystem itself. 

We call this meeting your dragon. Just like in the hero’s journey, you/your startup will have to face your biggest challenge yet and it will most probably be different than any other dragon other startups encounter. This is also where most meet their demise. 

Meeting our dragon happened at different stages for every startup. We encountered it during validation, tech feasability analysis, product-market fit, betas etc. Each time we needed a different approach, but here are 5 tools that helped us slay the dragon no matter when we encountered it.

Board of Innovation Toolkit


What it is: Set of tools and guidelines on problem discovery, interviews and validation. Basically a breakdown of the Design Thinking system that helps innovators solve problems that actually matter.

How it helps: These are the basis of our whole brainstorming and validation process internally. It has worked wonders and saved us tens of thousands of euros that we would have spent in development. 

Page Flows


What it is: A detailed view of how loved products like Spotify, Bumble or Docusign organize their user flows. Outlines each clear micro-interaction and moment that you go through without realizing at first how important they are. 

How it helps: You can now learn from the best on how to structure your own solution and what really makes the difference and converts users to long-term clients. It also helps with splitting your own structure so you can more easily communicate to your designers and developers what to build.



What it is: Stackshare provides real-time visibility into all the developer tools, services, and packages you’re using internally, down to the version level, across all your Git repos. In english, it’s easier to track what your tech stack is and how it’s used.


How it helps: Besides organzing what is usually a mess behind the curtain for most startups, this tool also has a section dedicated to seeing what other companies use in their stack. Ever wondered what Uber was using for notifications or Airbnb for database management?

Zapier / Make

What it is: Cloud-based automations that integrate with your standard services like Mailchimp, Airtable and others. Easy to set-up and with a powerful free-tier available, both Zapier and Make are great options to simplify processes.

How it helps: From onboarding new hires and posting new blog posts on your site based on your social media, all the way to suplementing a part of your product/service, this is an incredibly powerful tool to rid you of the boring busy-work and have you focus on what matters.

What it is: Self-serve analytics that you get to configure with amazing granularity on your app, website, platform etc. Based on those analytics, you get to configure your own dashboard to identify strong and weak points in your user flow.

How it helps: You can now know where exactly you’re losing customers and why. Information is power and now you have the knowledge of what exactly to change in your product to make it work. 


10 Things Founders Say That Make Venture Capital Investors Pass

I listen to 100+ pitches a month and invest in 1 startup on average. There are some things that founders say that make me instantly lose interest. Here are the 10 sentences that make me pass.

Borys Musielak

Borys Musielak

I invest in early stage startups in CEE via SMOK.vc.

1. “Dear Sir / Madam”


If your email feels like spam, it will be treated as such. It’s not about VC egos. It’s poor sales, and you need to be a top salesman to win at a startup, and because I can’t see it, anyway. Those emails are automatically hidden by smart filtering systems VCs use like Superhuman or Sanebox.


2. “Our company is a software agency spin-off”


This is not always bad. But it’s usually bad.
In 95% of cases (not a scientific number) agency spin-offs result in unfocused founders, fuzzy responsibilities and broken cap tables. A recipe for failure.


3. “Here is our fundraising advisor”


It’s actually OK to use consultants in the process of fundraising or market validation, but the VCs should never have to interact with them.
The moment I get approached by a consultant instead of a founder, I immediately lose interest. Fundraising is the founder’s job and if you hate doing it, your startup will fail sooner rather than later.


4. “Once we build the product we start selling”


Pre-seed investors love seeing a product ready to launch… right?
Investors love seeing a well-validated hypothesis first. Ideally so well validated that the customer validation process itself earned you first customers before you even started working on your product.
Note, this relates to everyone, also the R&D heavy projects. First talk to customers, then build. Never the other way around!


5. “Here is one more startup I’m working on”


Smart people put their eggs in many different baskets*
* not applicable to startup founders

You need to be 100% focused on your company. Both now and during the next 10 years. You’re not going to get funded if you work simultaneously on more than one project. And no, don’t even mention Elon Musk. You’re not Elon Musk. Also, he’s an idiot.


6. “We’re testing this product on our local market”


Founders from everywhere but US and China have a small market problem. They start locally and say things like “once we prove the model here in Finland / Bolivia / Burkina Faso / Philippines we immediately go to the US”. But it doesn’t work like that! Proving that it works in an obscure local market that you know well, where you can sell to your industry friends and get traction based on your reputation doesn’t prove that you can repeat the same model elsewhere. Getting it done on two local markets (unless those markets are California and NYC) still doesn’t prove you can be successful on a big and competitive market.
VCs are looking for global market leaders. Their math doesn’t work for local leaders. That’s why if you can’t take over a huge market quickly, it’s usually a “no”.


7. “Our CTO is a PM in a software house”


One of the main reasons to invest in an early stage team is the team itself and the belief that the founders will be capable on building and selling the initial version of their product by themselves.
If you outsource a critical part of your business like tech or sales or marketing (depends on the type of company what’s the most critical one), you’re admitting the founding team is not good enough. It’s an easy pass.


8. “Our advisor owns more than 1% of your stock”


It’s a great signal if you have industry leaders in your cap table as advisors / mentors. They should own 0.1–1% of stock in your company each, depending on how important they are and at what stage they joined.
It’s a terrible signal however if an advisor owns anything more than that. I’ve seen extreme cases of advisors owning 40% of company and more. It’s an absolute no go for investors.


9. “This is our NDA for you to sign”


VCs don’t sign Non-Disclosure Agreements for reasons Brad Feld explained in this 2016 article Why most vcs dont sign NDAs. If you ask for one, it shows you’re a newbie and haven’t done your research.


10. “We have no competition”


You always do. Think of competition as alternative ways of fulfilling the same need, not only other startups doing what you do. The competition to the first scooter rental platform was having your own scooter or walking (or public transport in the civilized world).



What makes you pass?


Are you a venture capital investor? Tell me what makes you pass by tweeting with a #whatmakesmepass hashtag.


  • My name is Borys Musielak. I’m the founding partner at SMOK Ventures where we invest in top pre-seed founders in the Central and Eastern Europe.
    🇵🇱🇨🇿 🇸🇰🇪🇪🇱🇹🇱🇻🇺🇦🇧🇾🇷🇴 🇧🇬 🇭🇺🇸🇮🇭🇷🇲🇰🇷🇸🇲🇪🇧🇦🇲🇩🇦🇱🇽🇰🇦🇲🇬🇪🇦🇿🇰🇿

    If you like what you read, take a look at our FAQ https://www.smok.vc/faq/ and reach out to me at borys@smok.vc or via twitter @michuk.

Youtube channels to follow as a startup founder

Luca Stirbat

Luca Stirbat

CEO @ ReaktorX & Creative Motion.

We all spend a lot of time glued to our phones, endlessly scrolling on Facebook, Linkedin or Instagram. However, two huge platforms take the cake when it comes to getting us hooked: Youtube and TikTok. We’ve all been there: diving deep into a rabbit hole on youtube looking for how to create intricate cocktails with ingredients in your own house or trying to find out which conspiracy theories are real. We also all know that TikTok works like a time machine: you enter it for 5 minutes and exit 2 hours later without any recollection of where you’ve been.

These are huge time-wasters, yet required for us to clear our minds after a lot of thinking (and overthinking). So we prepared a list of inspiring youtube channels and videos to watch as a startup founder in your downtime to get you moving/motivated for that next sprint.

1. Slidebean

We’re all sleeping on Slidebean right now. With most videos not passing 50k views and yet incredibly good content and production value, Slidebean is the number one channel to follow if you want to understand more about entrepreneurship, startups and validation. The video above is about creating an investor data room, a much needed overview of how this looks and what it requires when you’re raising funds from VC’s.

2. Y Combinator

You’ve probably seen this coming. Y Combinator is the top accelerator in the world and there is a lot of know-how generated from the thousands of startups that passed through their gates, so they launched a youtube channels to share those lessons. Although they might get a bit boring after a while, the content is great and if you pay even 20% attention to it you’ll get some amazing insights. This video is one of the best from them, about features and ideas that can’t/don’t scale.


Now this might be a bit of a surprise, but hear us out. CNBC, an American news channels, has done some incredible research and their videos give insight into some of the most obscure problems. For example, they did a piece on why Walmart failed in Canada and how the culture affected the business or what are the current technologies being explored for generating energy from waves. One of our favorites is this one, about why cities are starting to give up on cars and how that affects commuting. (an issue which we are also adressing with our startup Cruze).

4. CGP Grey

It might seem silly, but CGP Grey presents some of the most mind-boggling topics in metaphoric, animated, short videos. Although not 100% centered around entrepreneurship or startups, most of his video help in thinking critically and understanding the world around us. Our favorite one however is the one about becoming a pirate, or rather a quartermaster and how a rag-tag team of nobodies organize (similar to a startup team).

5. Our Changing Climate

Our Changing Climate is a top channel to watch regarding our sustainability, ecology and climate impact. Some of their videos edge on the limit of realism and panic-inducing-crisis-everybody-drop-everything-you’re-doing-and-save-the-planet type, but it does shine a light on some of the most hurtful industries to our planet like fast-fashion, car manufacturing and oil and gas production. A sample of this is this video about vertical farming and how we could use it to our advantage in cities and urban areas.

6. Some TED’s

We can’t close the list without some great TED Talks on business. Our top pick is one from Bill Gross, the inventor of the startup studio model, who talks about single biggest reason why startups succeed based on years of research and data from tens of thousands of companies. However, we have a shorter list here (a list within a list) of really great business TED’s to watch while you procastinate: