See the pitch deck a startup used to raise $2.1 million and win over Serena Ventures

Kathleen Chan, the founder and CEO of Calico
  • Calico is a management tool to help businesses set up and maintain supply chains in soft industries.
  • Kathleen Chan spent seven weeks fundraising during the pandemic and announced the raise in March.
  • Chan raised $2.1 million from the likes of Serena Ventures and’s CEO Deborah Lui.

Kathleen Chan raised $2.1 million for her fashion supply-chain-software company, Calico, during the pandemic. The company announced the round in March of this year.

Serena Ventures contributed the most, and’s CEO, Deborah Lui, is an angel investor in the company. 

Before Calico, Chan had built two brands: one for direct-to-consumer jewelry and one for corporate apparel. While developing these brands, she noticed the tools she used to manage the supply chain were very fragmented and manual. 

As Chan turned to her network of business owners — both small and large — she was surprised to find they all used Excel to manage their supply chains. 

There were no tools like Shopify or Facebook Ads for supply-chain management. 

Chan describes Calico as an operating system targeting soft goods — like jewelry or apparel — that lets businesses perform all supply-chain functions in one place. Using Calico, businesses can quote, bring their suppliers on board, and place prototyping and production orders.

While Chan had bootstrapped her previous startups, she decided to go the venture route with Calico because she wanted to do it right and do it fast. 

“I strongly believe what we’re doing will shift just about every player in the supply chain, and to do that, you truly need the right partners and the right kind of funding,” she said.

Chan walked Insider through the pitch deck she used to close the $2.1 million seed round.

Courtesy of Calico

While Chan’s first seed round closed in only six to seven weeks, it wasn’t easy. She met with over a hundred investors and heard “no” quite a few times. 

All the meetings happened over Zoom, which meant the pitch deck was the main touchpoint; she had to ensure it was compelling and self-explanatory. 

By the time Chan met with Serena Ventures, she had iterated her pitch deck a few times. She would also change her narration slightly depending on who she spoke to, so she could give them the specific context they needed about the supply-chain market.

Courtesy of Calico

Chan said it was important that the design and images were clear and intentional because of the supply-chain industry’s complexity.

Chan said, “I spent a lot of time iterating on this slide. I sat there and I thought, ‘I have spent over seven years in this space. I know how to take a product to market.’ There are tons of steps.”

She intentionally made the slide cluttered to highlight the problem in the supply-chain industry.

Chan told Insider, “If it’s overwhelming, then people will realize, ‘Okay, this is the problem.’ It’s not supposed to have that many steps.”


Courtesy of Calico

Chan put Calico alongside Shopify and Stripe to demonstrate where her business fits in the ecosystem. 

“If you want to bring a new solution to this space, you really need to give people context,” Chan said.

With past startups, Chan tried to explain what her business did, but people would get confused. So with Calico, she decided to turn it around and ask, “Who are all the known players in this space?” and categorize the business in comparison to those players.

Courtesy of Calico

If slide one addresses the problem and slide two shows the solution, slide three breaks down exactly how Calico works.

There’s minimal information on the screen because Chan said this slide is meant to “trigger more questions.”

Chan told Insider that venture-capital funds often asked about the company’s unique selling point, market size, go-to-market, and growth strategies.

She said presenting a coherent business plan was integral to addressing all these questions.

Courtesy of Calico

With this slide, Chan told Insider she wanted to show the difference between the current state of the industry and what Calico could do to improve it. 

On the left are the screenshots of the standard process of making hoodies, and on the right is how Calico could streamline the task.

She wanted to emphasize efficiency because, after conducting customer research, she found this was one of the biggest pains of supply-chain management.

Courtesy of Calico

“I wanted to tell who my team is and why we’re well-equipped to tackle this,” Chan said, referring to herself and two important early hires.

She picked information to put in all of their bios that would be relevant to Calico and instill trust in investors who view the pitch deck.

While Chan wasn’t sure what aspect of the pitch deck sealed the deal, she knew Serena Ventures was the right partner for her business; they respected her time, moved quickly, and she didn’t have to wait months to hear back. 

If Chan had to guess what made them tick, it would be her mission: She’s here to solve a very big problem, and it resonated well with Serena’s team.