The Case of the Fake Square Pitch Deck
I was doing research on pitch deck design when I stumbled on a bunch of sites boasting “X greatest pitch decks!”
Some of these compilations were from services that offer slide design or hosting services, which adds some level of credibility to them since it’s easy to think, “ok, this is their whole business, surely they’ve vetted the sources of these decks.”
One example of a pitch deck that was used to successfully raise funding is a deck purported to be Square’s Series B deck. When I first saw it, I thought, “seriously? Jack was cool with this design?!” 😱
But, the content was compelling, well-researched, and it made a good case for the business.
See for yourself. 👇
I realized I didn’t have any sample work I could share on a new landing page for pitch deck design services; most founders don’t want to share their decks publicly. So, I decided to find a few publicly available decks to redesign as examples, and the Square deck seemed like a good choice.
Four slides into my redesign though, I couldn’t shake the suspicion that there was no way this deck could be real. 😕
I googled the names on the first slide, which are given no context — are they analyst contributors…the actual authors?
After a bit of sleuthing, I found that a few of the LinkedIn profiles possibly associated with these names attended UC Berkeley. Interesting.
I eventually found a Twitter account and tweeted for confirmation.
But, still — I find it disconcerting that there are founders out there thinking they’re learning from a notable entrepreneur, when they’re really seeing the work of a few promising undergrads. I suspect some of the sites that include this fake deck are scraping examples off of some other site that didn’t vet their sources. Ironically, as the original source gets further obscured, the false source grows more creditable.
Lesson: in this age of listicles and viral curated lists, be skeptical of compilations or examples shared by someone other than their maker. Try to find the original creator sharing their creation; usually they’ll add valuable context around their thinking (Reid Hoffman’s LinkedIn Series B deck commentary is an epic example).
The most convincing and enticing pitch deck for your startup is going to make your strengths obvious and emphasize every advantage you’ve got, and that won’t look exactly like other decks. Templates and examples can educate you about investor expectations, but your story isn’t something you can copy — you’ll need to create it yourself.