Startup Advice

How to write a competition slide

Differentiation is not enough

Paddy Stobbs's profile photo

Paddy Stobbs

Co-Founder & CEO

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I've been sent ~500 startup pitch decks in the past 3 years. And a common facepalm moment is the competition slide.

You know the ones I mean - the 'Here's 5 features we have that our competitors don't' slides, or the 'We chose an X and Y matrix that makes us look good' slides. Not totally useless, but almost.

I've had enough. This is the hill I will die on.

Here’s some simple tips for writing a better slide.

Don't (just) do this

2x2 diagram with "quality" on the vertical axis and "ease-of-use" along the horizontal axis
The 'we made an X and Y axis that make us look good' slide

Or this

Table showing "our company" having all features with various fictional competitors having less features
The "here's 5 features we have that they don't" slide

Why not?

These slides talk about differentiation.

But that, in itself, is not terribly helpful. Because it might be entirely irrelevant that you have a higher quality product, or that you’re easier to use, or that you have “AI capability” (whatever that is). My local barista makes a sumptuous flat white, but that will not be the reason they unseat Starbucks.

Put simply - no investor cares about your differentiation unless it's meaningful. Unless it's a key reason why you will beat the competition. So it's your job as a founder to make it crystal clear not just what your differentiation is - but why it will be critical to success in your market.

These slides also totally fail to address +30% of what should be on a competition slide - defensibility (i.e. why fast-followers won’t out-compete you over time).

Instead, articulate why your differentiation is meaningful (& your defensibility)

The best competition slides outline 3 things:

  1. Your differentiation (limited to your strongest points)
  2. Why it's critical to success in your market
  3. How you will defend yourself against competition over time‍

Resist - I repeat resist - the temptation to believe 2 & 3 are implicit. Trust me, 90% of the time they're not.

Cool, so give me an example

Here's a template, and a fictitious application of it (with apologies to Spotify).

A template you can use to demonstrate differentiation and why your point(s) of differentiation are valuable
A template you can use to demonstrate differentiation and why your point(s) of differentiation are valuable
A fictitious application of the differentiation template, applied to Spotify
A fictitious application of the template (sorry, Daniel)

I'm not pretending this is perfect (the design could be 10X'd for starters).

But it is far more helpful - and powerful - than most competition slides. Because it shows that you understand (or at least have a view on) what the critical drivers of success in your market will be.

So when you next hunker down to write your pitch deck, consider showing the reader not just your differentiation, but why it matters.

Paddy Stobbs is Co-Founder of Stackfix. Stackfix helps startups find the right software, fast. If you or any company you know are looking for CRM / Customer Support / Applicant Tracking / HRIS software - go to www.stackfix.com (it's totally free).

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