In November 2022, when it came to light that Sam Bankman-Fried - the founder of the crypto exchange FTX, had covertly transferred $10 billion of FTX customer deposits to his investment company Alameda Research, one of the biggest downfalls in recent business history occurred.
FTX, once a decacorn valued at over $32B, collapsed in a matter of days. Before this spectacular downfall, however, FTX was one of the leading crypto companies in the world.
The exchange managed to fundraise more than 1.8 billion dollars over its lifetime from some of the most prominent VC funds in the world, with Sequoia playing a central role by leading several funding rounds.
The pitch deck you can see below was used by FTX in 2021, and it was the deck that presumably allowed them to raise their $1B series B round.
Here are three invaluable lessons we can extract from FTX's pitch deck:
1. Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing
What would make people invest in you? What is the most impressive thing about your company that would help you stand out?
Notice that FTX wastes very few words in attempts to convince people that crypto is the future, or to share their vision, beliefs, and aspirations, or other vague cliches that you commonly see in pitch decks.
Almost the entirety of their pitch deck serves two related purposes - to convince possible investors that:
- FTX is one of the leaders in the crypto space
- FTX is still growing rapidly
As Paul Graham famously said, startup = growth. If you are one of the fastest-growing startups in a sexy space, then you are virtually guaranteed to attract investors. All FTX needs to do is to prove this point as convincingly as possible. And the easiest way to be convincing is to use hard data.
It’s important to note that in 2021 FTX is a late-stage startup. Early-stage projects with less history and data behind their backs would have to use other arguments. That said, the lesson is still true - you need to find the few arguments that make your project stand out and build your deck around that.
2. A Text-Heavy Deck Isn’t Always Bad
One of the most common advice you hear is to make your pitch deck as visual as possible. Yet, the deck FTX used in 2021 is the exact opposite - all slides are very text-heavy.
It’s important to note that a pitch deck can be used in two distinct ways. The first and more common type of pitch deck is the one you use to present personally. This is the type that usually needs to contain as little text as possible - it’s hard to listen to someone talk while reading.
The other type of deck, however, is the one that you send over email for people to read. This type of deck needs to have more text because you wouldn’t be there to explain things when people are reading it.
That said, notice that even though the deck doesn’t have a lot of design elements, it is still very well designed. It uses text size and position to emphasize effectively, and of course - it uses graphs to visualize data.
3. Social Responsibility Sells
“Our highest goal is to leave the world a better place than we inherited it.”
It’s very bitter to read these words after FTX has lost billions of dollars of their customer’s money. Yet, there is a lesson in this irony.
People want to feel good for being part of something meaningful. If you can convince them that you are making money while making the world a better place, then you’d dramatically raise your chances of getting your stakeholders onboard.
Of course, it would be great if you were honest about your intentions…
Want to deep dive another crypto company? Take a look at this deck Coinbase used to raise a $600k seed round.