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How eight successful startups explained their addressable markets to investors

Over the past few weeks, I've been working on a piece meant to address what I consider the most overlooked part of startup pitches: the slides on which companies explain their total addressable market (TAM) to investors. Along the way, I put together a set of eight publicly available TAM slides from the early pitches of successful companies.

One quick takeaway is that almost none of these startups took the advice I mentioned in my piece. That doesn't negate the advice I'm about to post in my piece, but it is a helpful reminder that there's no formula for startup investing, no matter how many advice pieces VCs write.

Another is that many epic success stories like Facebook, Uber and Youtube had very little conception of their potential scale at the outset and likely surprised their own founders- yet another reason that early stage investors focus heavily on picking the right founders.

Without further ado, here are the slides, each with a short note from me.

Uber: Uber's original deck kept things simple, focusing on the existing Taxi/Limo market (which it has wildly surpassed) and the lack of concentration therein.

Youtube: Given that is was creating a new category, Youtube's "market size" slide made a prescient case for widespread video generation and consumption over broadband.

Square: Square's TAM slide focused not on payments overall but on the impact of mobile, making the point that it was set to benefit from the shift.

Moz: One of my favorites, Moz used a slide to segment user behaviors and personas to demonstrate the full set of people they could appeal to over time.

Mint: A great example of a helpful TAM slide that tells consumers (i.e. investors) lots about the business.

LinkedIn: Another product without easy comparables, LinkedIn's slide compared it to other online markets. Side note: damn, search was a small market in 2004.

Facebook: Facebook focused purely on the purchasing power of its initial target user base. It will bring in revenue this year that is more than half of the purchasing power it cited its end customers having in this early deck. That's a TAM that expanded handily over time.

AirBnB: Simple, but effectively highlights the scale of the lodging market and subsegments into the "addressable" piece for AirBnb.

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