For early-stage startups looking to onboard prospective investors, a well-organized data room is an essential tool. It acts as a secure online repository, forming a solid foundation under your pitch and streamlining their due diligence process. When you’re already tackling the many challenges of a founder, and preparing for an imminent raise, making sure your data room is at highest standard can feel overwhelming. Here are some best practices to guide you:

Efficiency is Key: Think Pantry, Not Supermarket

Imagine your data room as the pantry of a professional kitchen, not the supermarket produce section: You don’t want people getting lost amongst the shelves, browsing unnecessarily. You want them to find exactly what they need as efficiently as possible so they can get back to work.

There are two main reasons for this, which both relate to the remarkably high rejection rate from venture capitalists:

  1. Unless they’re already very interested, they aren’t going to spend time getting stuck into the due diligence of reviewing contracts and past financials. If it takes too much effort to find what they’re looking for to answer a particular question or concern, they’re likely to just pass.
  2. They’re looking for any excuse to say no to you, because it frees up their time. This can be because of something as trivial as the wrong date on a pitch deck. For this reason, you want to keep their attention focused on the most important information at this stage.

Earning Access: Gating Sensitive Information

While some of the information in your data room can be shared without much worry, other parts of it should be reserved for when the investment conversation has progressed enough to show serious intent.

You will probably want to create a 6-8 slide deck which runs through the essentials of your pitch, the real headline content, which can be distributed in advance of meetings. You can then reserve a more comprehensive version of your deck to share with qualified investors during the initial meeting, to distribute with them afterwards if they show interest.

This should include details that touch on all of the main aspects — which your data room will later expand on:

  • A list of any other investors already involved in the company.
  • A summary of the current position and projected revenue and cash.
  • The key metrics around growth, acquisition, engagement and retention.
  • A few logos of major customers and some project details.
  • The basic company information

This gives prospective investors enough detail, in addition to what is discussed in meetings, calls, messages and emails, to decide whether or not they want to proceed with moving your company through their own pipeline. You can open up sections of the data room upon request, if it seems appropriate. Once the process reaches the point of investment committee (IC), where the partners of the firm decide whether or not to sign-off on the deal, that’s when you would open the data room up entirely for their team to carry out more thorough due diligence.

Being too quick to open everything up to prospective investors can be a negative signal, as you are directly responsible for protecting the sensitive information involved in the operations of your company. It’s also unfortunately true that some investors will seek meetings with startups specifically to gain access to information, which they use to inform other investment decisions or even benefit competitors.

Suggested Structure

Here's a recommended folder structure to make your data room easy to navigate as you move through the process and open up additional information to investors:

Fundraising Documents

This folder houses the most important elements of your funding round: your pitch deck (complete with summary financials, usage stats, current shareholders, major clients and fundraising budget), a fundraising deal memo, and a forwardable brief that summarizes the round without sensitive information. While a business plan might not be universally requested, consider including it if it strengthens your overall narrative.

Cap Table

Transparency is crucial. Ideally organised on a cap table platform, but may also just be an Excel file, your cap table should detail all current equity holders, including founders, early investors, advisors with equity stakes, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), and any outstanding instruments like SAFEs, Convertible Notes, and warrants. Clearly outline share classes and their terms.


Demonstrate financial health with your financial statements, balance sheet, cash flow and P&L forecasts. You should also include any recent valuations done for tax purposes (e.g. 409A valuations in the US, BSPCE in France, HMRC in the UK), and/or an up to date valuation calculated with a clear methodology which clearly reflects your progress and pitch.

Usage Data

If you are post-launch, lay out all of the key metrics for engagement with users. This will include growth rate, acquisition channel performance and efficiency, as well as details on monthly, weekly and daily engagement and retention. As your company matures, you will be able to provide more sophisticated data such as cohort analysis to show changes over time.


This folder highlights your traction and customer validation. For post-launch companies this may include current contracts, an overview of your sales pipeline, and case studies showcasing successful stories. For pre-launch companies it may include Letters of Intent (LOIs), target customer feedback and market research. Don’t forget to include reference details for current or past customers, as investors look to conduct customer reference calls.

Company Information

Company Info: The foundation of your business resides here. Store incorporation documents, shareholder agreements, and all Intellectual Property (IP) documentation. Depending on your industry and regulatory environment, additional folders for Technology and Security certifications might be necessary. However, these topics can often be covered in dedicated technical meetings alongside interested investors.

  • Miscellaneous: There will likely be additional documents that don’t fit neatly into the above categories. A sub-folder within “Company Info” can hold details like team member contracts, tenancy agreements, insurance details, and company policies. Remember, the goal is to provide a complete picture without overwhelming investors with irrelevant information.
  • Specific Considerations: Depending on your scenario (industry, regulatory regime, customer types, etc), you may also be expected to require documentation related to specific operating licenses or security and privacy certifications. Do your research about the relevant expectations at your your stage of development.

Beyond Structure: Essential Considerations

  1. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity: Don’t clutter your data room with outdated documents or irrelevant information. Present the latest versions and tailor content to the types of investors and industry concerns that are most relevant to you.
  2. Prioritize Error-Free Communication: Double-check everything, from dates on your pitch deck to financial figures. Typos and inconsistencies can create a negative impression and raise doubts about your professionalism.
  3. Maintain Easy Access: Choose a secure data room platform that offers user-friendly navigation and permission controls. Allow investors to easily download documents they need for further analysis.
  4. Prepare for the Q&A: Anticipate investor queries and have supplemental information readily available. This could include market research reports, competitor analysis, or a more detailed product roadmap which can be filed in the “Miscellaneous” subfolder.

Your data room is often an investor’s first comprehensive look at your company. A well-organized and informative space sets a positive tone, demonstrating professionalism and transparency. By following these best practices, you ensure a smooth due diligence process and increase your chances of securing the investment you need to propel your startup forward.