Opendoor – the leading residential real estate marketplace in the US – recently announced that they will go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).
The terms of the deal place Opendoor at unicorn level with a $4.8 billion valuation. The market seems to have reacted positively: shares of the company skyrocketed 35% a few days after the announcement.
Back in 2014 when it was founded, Opendoor raised $10 million Series-A from YCombinator and Khosla Ventures. The pitch deck they used at the time has just appeared on Twitter. It is a masterful example of how to tell a compelling story and offer a solid value proposition to investors.
Its coherent pace follows clear patterns: it is concise, neatly designed and well-written, all of which shows competence and inspires trust. This puts investors at ease that the company is able to execute the plan and efficiently use their resources.
It’s a deck every startup should take inspiration from.
The title slide is eye-catching and contains all the needed components:
Starting the deck with a team is a brave move and one that I’d advise founders to do. Many investors claim that they invest in teams rather than in companies.
The most common advice is to start your deck with the problem, your solution and the market size, and introduce your team close to the end.
However, at the start of a company journey, your value proposition revolves entirely around co-founders and early employees. Until you build a strong track record of positive financial results, you and your team are your company’s greatest assets.
All members of Opendoor’s founding team have impressive backgrounds in relevant business areas. This provides potential investors with confidence that the team will be able to execute properly their objectives.
After explaining the skills of the team and building confidence with the reader, now they address the problem. If Opendoor started their deck with the problem in the real estate sector, potential investors might have discarded them thinking that’s too big of an issue for such a new company.
Here they explain convincingly that real estate is a huge market with lots of friction, presumably that friction which Opendoor will try to remove.
The slide is clean and straight to the point. 3 keywords indicate the major problems faced when selling your home. The company puts itself in your shoes. Opendoor will address each of these keywords separately later on in the deck.
At the bottom of the slide, there is a summary sentence of the main takeaways. This design component repeats throughout the deck and is a great way to emphasise arguments effectively.
Having explained in the previous slide the major problem for home sellers, Opendoor now uses a slide to elaborate on the topic in more detail. This slide allows them to later explain their solution for each of the topics addressed.
Since Opendoor’s objective is to optimise a process, presenting the problem as a step by step line is a smart move. Readers understand the complexity with their own eyes even before reading the slide.
This approach gives a sense of slowness and “old-fashioned” in an industry that is ripe for disruption.
An emotional kind of quote is added on the bottom, to demonstrate the company has researched their users’ needs.
Having presented the problem, it is common to price it and show that the company’s solution is appealing.
The reader can easily understand that the market opportunity is huge. Not only globally, but also at micro level where each deal is worth a few hundred thousands of euros and there are millions of real estate transactions happening every year.
We can assume from this slide that people going through selling their homes will be keen to pay for efficient services, which will optimise this process and lower their costs.
By changing the background colour to black, this slide automatically stands out and attracts attention.
This slide addresses here the first (out of three) problems they have outlined previously, namely that residential real estate selling is a lengthy process.
We can immediately understand that the process has been shortened to 3 simple steps to be fulfilled in a matter of days. This is as opposed to months in the current situation explained in the earlier slide.
The value proposition regarding process optimisation and friction removal appears obvious to the reader.
When you make a bold statement, like in the previous slide, then you must substantiate it. Opendoor understands that it needs to prove that their solution is in high demand and that they have validated it in advance.
They do this right after the solution slide by comparing real estate to other investment areas and extrapolating a fundamental user behaviour from the data.
The high discount (expected profit) on home deals can be interpreted as the desire of home sellers for high liquidity, i.e. the ease with which an asset, like a home, can be converted into cash quickly. From that one can assume that home sellers will easily pay for additional services if they bring them the expected liquidity.
Opendoor answers the second problem stated earlier (“expensive”) by positioning their discount (i.e. commission fee from the transaction) at a reasonable 6% when taking into account traditional costs.
Compared to the 35% commission introduced before, 15% looks like a fair deal. Adding to a simplified process with one counterpart only (Opendoor as a platform) instead of many potential home buyers, the value proposition is re-asserted strongly.
Also, using an empty slide with a short and strong sentence is an efficient way to emphasise one unique value proposition. Again, this is a strategy they have used repeatedly throughout the deck.
Usually, a good pitch deck should show a track record of recurring revenues and the next 3-5 years financial projections with revenues, costs and EBITDA. The aim of this is to show when breakeven happens and that scalable margins can be gained after 3-5 years from the investment.
However, as a young company without revenues, most of Opendoor financials are projected and can not be determined with great precision.
Presenting the costs in a cascade chart here is a smart and simple way to address their costs without going into too much speculation.
We know from a previous slide that the average US real estate residential deal is around $260,000 and that there are 5 million deals / year. If Opendoor can get a profit margin of 4.7% / deal (which can increase to over 8%), the opportunity is great.
Opendoor explains coherently that real estate is an industry with significant financial risks. The 5 slides above get quite technical in addressing what Opendoor considers to be their 3 major risks.
These slides are nicely laid out and present how Opendoor will mitigate the risks and their potential consequences. Following the same pattern of before, one slide outlines three elements that it later explains in details.
These slides project a deep knowledge and understanding of the market. The last one also shows the strategic thinking and targets the founders set for the financing of the company.
Adding that they currently already have 3 termsheet negotiations with investors adds a feeling of urgency, and “fear of missing out” for other investors.
Now that all aspects of the business model have been addressed, the deck gets to the most important part for investors: the “ask” and how the founders will use the money.
By linking key objectives to milestones to be achieved, Opendoor makes strong commitments towards investors. It shows that, if they get the money, they will be able to sell their solutions more aggressively and onboard more customers (home sellers).
The details of the deal and the valuation will be likely addressed during the due diligence, so sticking to the target amount is enough for now.
What could have easily been added to this slide is the company’s exit strategy. This usually means offering a return of investment as a percentage of ownership in the company (through shares) within a certain amount of time, and explaining the means of exit (e.g. IPO). Opendoor decided not to add this information on the deck and keep it for confidential discussions with investors.
The last two slides outline the development plan for the coming four years in three phases. Showing a strategic multi-year plan is a requirement for many investors.
Each phase is described in terms of initiatives (what they will do) and goals (what they will achieve).
Keeping it evidence-based around initiatives and goals is an elegant way to project the future without making unsubstantiated claims and empty promises to investors.
Ending on a social impact slide is a nice way to show potential investors that, if Opendoor succeeds, their money will have made more than a juicy return: it will have changed the status quo in the residential real estate sector.
As an entrepreneur, storytelling is one of the most important skills you need to master. Your ability to deliver a compelling story on a pitch deck about why and how you do what you do will persuade investors to finance you.
Until you accumulate a few years of positive financial data, you and your story are your company’s strongest assets. In that regard, your most effective storytelling tool is a well-crafted and impactful pitch deck.
The Opendoor example should be followed by every company trying to fundraise.
Marco Torregrossa is a private investments advisor for Innovation Manager Finland Ltd. Follow him at @MarcoTorreg