Cal Hacks Fellowship 🏠 Slidedeck Guide

Introduction 🐻

Your slidedeck for the Cal Hacks Fellowship isn’t a typical presentation. It’s a document to succinctly and effectively summarize the strengths and uniqueness of your project to our judges. You’re first going to be judged based on these few slides, then qualify for a quick interview in a follow-up round. In the real world of venture capital and fundraising, slide decks often precede a real pitch conversation in much the same way!

As a result, this slide deck isn’t going to be like your typical presentation slides. It has one single purpose: to clearly and concisely demonstrate the most important parts of your project’s story to Cal Hacks Fellowship judges, who are experienced investors, entrepreneurs, and and engineers.

Put another way, don’t worry in the beginning about designing a logo or making a beautiful template. Focus on the content, then on making the message focused, clear, and convincing. 

Structure 👀

Although we don’t require any particular structure except for a 7-slide limit, we strongly recommend this outline.

You can start from scratch, but we’ve also built a template you can copy to start with the right slides. However, we recommend that you read these two pages before you start working on your slides. They’re here to help you make your best case that your idea is the greatest thing since sliced bread 🥖.

As you go through this guide, you may notice that you don’t have a great answer for all of these questions. That’s okay! The Fellowship program is designed precisely to help you use your best data gathering skills to research and answer all of these questions throughout the program. For now, try to learn about and answer these questions to the best of your team’s ability..


  • Should answer: What’s the name of the project/company, and what do you do in one sentence?
  • Should include: Name, logo (if you want to make/have one), and a very short description of what the project is or does


  • Should answer: Who are the people that need this product, and what’s the problem that this product solves for these people? In other words, why would people pay their hard-earned money for this product?
  • Should include: A statement of the problem, and how we know the problem is in great need of a solution.


  • Should answer: What’s your solution the problem outlined above, and (at a high level, very simply) how does it work? How would it fit into the user’s life or problem situation?
  • Should include: Short description of solution and why it’s unique or improves upon the status quo, and how much progress you made during the hackathon. Also include how the solution fits into the problem emphasized earlier.


  • Should answer: how do you know people will adopt this new solution from an unknown newcomer to the marketplace with no track record?
  • Should include: Within the 37 hours of the hackathon, try to put the product you’ve built or a minimal version of your idea in front of real people, especially your target audience, and take note of / learn from how they react. Try to get a broad and detailed understanding of whether people want to use your product, and why, and then use that to make an argument that people will adopt your product into their lives. In starting new companies, there’s no substitute for putting your idea and product in front of real people, and asking honest questions.


  • Should answer: What kinds of competing solutions exist to your problem, and why will people choose your solution over all the others?
  • Should include: These slides often include either a comparison table or a market map, because they make it easier to answer the questions outlined above. Remember that competitors from name-brand companies aren’t the only ways users solve the problem you identified -- many times, people will develop homebrew solutions to problems or simply choose to ignore it. Build your case that your solution is better than all of the existing solutions, for your target group of people. This may require you to zoom in or out to a specific target customer segment that’s different than your competitors.


  • Should answer: Why do you care about the product, and why do you care about solving this problem? Years down the line, if the company is successful, how will the world be different?


  • Should answer: Why should the judges and investors allocate time and money to you and your team? What uniquely qualifies your team to attack this problem?
  • Should include: Don’t copy your entire cover letter onto these slides. More than 90% of all startups fail. So use this slide to convey information that’s necessary to convince potential judges and investors in your idea why you’ll be that exceptional 10%. This may have to do with prior experience in the industry, your education and academic pedigree, your experience with the problem you’re solving, or something else.

Slide Design Tips 🎨

  1. In our template, we’ve very intentionally kept the slides very simple and content-focused. Focus on your idea and communicating it -- all else is in service of that goal, so remove any extraneous flair or detail that doesn’t help you communicate your story.
  1. We’ve also very intentionally set the body text size to be 24pt. If you have to use a small font size to fit more onto the slides, you are very likely saying to much. Be concise.
  1. Graphs, charts, and diagrams can often communicate an idea more effectively than words. Feel free to pull in any graphic you think will strengthen your case.
  1. Beware of using too many bullets on each slide. You’re at a hackathon, not a shooting range! Focus on communicate 1-3 most important ideas on each slide, and make those messages crystal clear, instead of making a rote list.

Resources 📚

If you have more time, definitely check out Y Combinator’s slidedeck guide:

Here’s another sample pitch deck from the Silicon Valley VC firm, Sequoia:

Good luck, and happy hacking!
Cal Hacks Fellowship Team.