Structuring an EIC Accelerator Pitch Deck for the Jury Interview (SME Instrument)

Under Horizon Europe (2021-2027), the EIC Accelerator blended financing program (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) will reprise its use of pitch interviews after they have been successfully applied in previous years. In these interviews, startups and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) are questioned in accordance to the evaluation process imposed by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) during the in-person pitch week in Brussels (Belgium) or remote video calls (read: Pitch vs. Proposal).

Professional writers and consultants have been able to support a high number of successful applicants throughout the process but the official documentation by the European Commission (EC) has been scarce when it comes to the preparation of the pitch deck (read: Why Companies Fail & How to Prepare). While there was no in-depth guideline for the construction of a pitch deck or the questioning by the jury, there were some resources that could be used as a template.

One of these materials is a pitch deck template created by an external communication advisor of EASME in October 2017 that gives a general overview of how a pitch could be structured (link: EIC Pilot SME Instrument Pitch Deck Templates) but it is outdated. Like the pitch video (read: Structuring a Pitch Video), there are multiple creative ways to construct a pitch deck and the following article provides an overview of two different methods and approaches.

The EIC Template

The semi-official EIC Accelerator template for the pitch deck provides a very general list of slides with bullet points to explain the desired content. It is definitely a well-thought-out and comprehensive document but, as with all other templates, it can or cannot be ideal for a specific project. The individual guidelines for the slides are:

  1. Title Slide
  2. Company Purpose (i.e. mission, tagline)
  3. Problem & Solution (i.e. pain point, market need, fulfilling the need)
  4. Value Proposition (i.e. customer value, product benefits)
  5. Market Opportunity & Risks (i.e. market creating/transforming potential, target market size, risk mitigation)
  6. Competition (i.e. competitive analysis/advantages)
  7. Business Model (i.e. revenue streams, timing, costs)
  8. Commercialisation & Marketing Strategy (i.e. strategy, time to market, traction)
  9. Financial Projections (i.e. revenues, investments, financing needs)
  10. Team (i.e. management team, competence, track record)
  11. Conclusion (i.e. summary)

This template is very useful since it takes two of the most important aspects of the EIC Accelerator interviews into account: The 10-minute time restriction and a justification for support by the European Union (EU). On the flip side, it might be too overcrowded when it comes to the content per slide (i.e. market transformation, target market and risk analysis on a single slide) which could easily turn the deck into a text document.

In the end, a pitch deck has to inspire and convey a simple idea rather than to squeeze everything into a single document which can make the EIC template less suitable.

SlideBean Analysis

SlideBean, a company focusing on pitch presentations and resources for startups, has created a list of successful examples for pitch decks (find their articles here and here). This list includes companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Facebook and presents a valuable resource for the preparation of an EIC Accelerator pitch deck. Their recommendations based on the use of successful examples are the following:

  1. (Title Slide)
  2. Problem
  3. Solution
  4. Product
  5. Market Size
  6. Business Model
  7. Underlying Magic (i.e. why the technology works)
  8. Competition
  9. Differentiators
  10. Marketing
  11. Team
  12. Traction & Milestones

This version of a pitch deck, while having a similar length to the EIC template, clearly displays a leaner structure since aspects such as the company mission, risk mitigation or the market-creating potential are omitted. The SlideBean guideline exhibits a flow that aims to tell a captivating story rather than overwhelming the listeners with facts while specific justifications for the need of EU funds can be added to the last slide (or simply left for the questioning since this question will be posed anyways).

Conclusion

Even the greatest business will not succeed if the jury is bored or not captivated which means that the entertainment value (i.e. a good story-line, eloquent speakers and clear communication) comes first. The EIC pitch template can be misleading and potentially have companies overload their pitch decks with content while the SlideBean pitch deck is leaner and focused on storytelling.

For prospect EIC Accelerator applicants, it is useful to take the latter approach to pitch deck creation and follow the SlideBean template.

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles: