April 5, 2022
Facebook is a social network that connects you with recent grads, classmates, old friends, and distant relatives.
Social Media, IT
It’s hard to imagine a world in which Facebook wasn’t so prevalent in our everyday lives. But, back in 2004, Facebook was just a fledgling startup founded by Mark Zuckerberg and a handful of his fellow Harvard students as a way for college and university students to connect with each other.
Fast Forward to 2022, and Facebook has more than 2.9 billion global users and is the leading social network in the majority of the world’s countries. Combined with a net worth of approximately $545 billion, this makes Facebook the biggest, most successful social media platform in existence.
But, Facebook’s founders couldn’t have carried the platform to such success without securing their first angel investment — an investment of $500,001 that came from PayPal co-founder/billionaire entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel in the summer of 2004.
Facebook’s founders were able to secure this initial round of venture capital funding with the help of their first pitch deck. This article will examine this pitch deck from today’s perspective, looking at what it did well for the time and where you could improve upon it if you were to use it as a template for your startup's fundraising pitch deck.
A Slide-by-Slide Analysis of the Pitch Deck Facebook Used in 2004
Facebook Pitch Deck Slide 1: Cover
Facebook’s founders kick off their first pitch deck with a quote from the Stanford Daily student newspaper:
“Classes are being skipped. Work is ignored. Students are spending hours in front of the computer in utter fascination. Thefacebook.com craze has swept through campus.”
Starting off your pitch deck with a quote is not a standard or necessary practice, but it can be an impactful way to start your presentation and grab potential investors’ attention.
In the case of Facebook’s original pitch deck, the quote works because it shows that the product was already gaining media coverage and being used in its initial market, which included Ivy League schools like Harvard and Stanford.
At the time, this showed investors that “TheFacebook,” as it was originally called, was an actual working product that was already up and running, as opposed to just a concept.
Facebook Slide 2: Description
The next slide in the Facebook pitch deck provides a brief description of what Facebook actually does, providing some context for the quote in the previous slide. As you can see, Facebook was originally intended to work as more of a student directory, but almost 20 years later it’s easy to see how the initial concept grew into so much more.
The description mentions how students will be able to form connections based on friendship, courses, and social networks, all of which are still ways people use Facebook today. It also mentioned the built-in messaging system, which would eventually evolve into the Facebook Messenger that we all know today.
The description provided by Facebook’s founders is great because it gives a high-level overview of the product and its potential, without going into too much detail about it. This is important for initial pitch decks because your original product or concept is likely to change many times, especially in its early stages, so you don’t want to get bogged down in too many specifics.
Facebook Slide 3: User Profile
The third slide in the pitch deck shows how a user’s profile looked when Facebook was first launched and lists all the different information a student’s profile could contain at the time.
This is a very straightforward slide that is a best practice to include in your pitch deck. It gives investors more context and visually shows them what the product looks like.
In Facebook’s case, they already had a working product to pull images and content from for the slide. But, even if you don’t have a product built yet, it’s a good practice to include mockups to show investors what it will look like.
Facebook Slide 4: More Product Info
The next slide provides some more info about Facebook’s product features at the time. It mentions how each user’s profile would automatically contain links to any school news articles that referred to them, and how profiles would show last AIM away status messages and last user access locations.
These features were very specific to Facebook’s initial intended use as a school directory for university students, and thus they didn’t translate over as the social network expanded.
This information may have been interesting to investors at the time, but Facebook’s founders probably didn’t have to give it its own slide — it could have been added as one or two additional bullet points on the previous slide about user profiles.
Remember that investors view dozens or hundreds of pitch decks when they’re looking for new investment opportunities, so you want to keep your decks short and to the point. If you can combine two slides into one, it’s almost always best to do so.
Facebook Slide 5: Social Networking
The fifth slide in Facebook’s first pitch presentation is another product slide explaining how users could browse their school’s network. The slide gives examples of the different ways a user could find and add friends to their networks, as well as how their friendship network would be displayed on their user profile.
This is all important product information that gives investors a better idea of specific functionality, and all the information contained on the slide is connected and relevant.
The only confusing part about this slide is the subheading “Intra-School Networking,” as this is something that is explained on the next slide and not even mentioned on the current slide.
Facebook Slide 6: Intra-School Networking
The sixth slide in the Facebook pitch deck just contains an image of a social network and a single paragraph about how users could also add social networks from other schools to access friendship lists of students at other universities.
Since this slide contains so little information, and the previous slide already had “Intra-School Networking” as a subheading on it, the two slides probably should have been combined.
Facebook Slide 7: Our Schools
The next slide in Facebook’s slide deck is a transition slide into talking about the company’s current market and plans for expansion. It gives some background information about when Facebook was launched and sets up for the next couple of slides.
Transition slides can be effective in fundraising pitch decks, but you have to be careful about when you use them. In this case, Facebook’s use of a transition slide allowed them to fill the next two pages with tables, so it was a good way to avoid clutter and confusion by not presenting too much info all at once.
Facebook Slides 8-9: Schools
The next two slides in the deck show tables of Ivy League schools and other schools in the US where Facebook had already been launched, along with the respective launch dates.
If your product is already live, it’s a best practice to show investors information about where it is in use, so it was definitely a good idea to include these slides in Facebook’s original pitch deck.
Since the list of schools where Facebook had launched was already fairly long, splitting them up into two slides was also a good choice. If the founders had tried to cram all the information onto one slide, it would have looked cluttered and been hard for potential investors to skim and get all the data at a glance.
Facebook Slide 10: Expansion Plan
The tenth slide in the Facebook pitch deck is another sort of transition slide, which lays out Facebook’s mission to expand into most of the schools in the United States. The statement also gives a clear, concrete goal of having more than 200 member schools by September 1, 2004.
This was another good use of a transition slide by Facebook’s founders to create a natural pause in the presentation and segway into the following slides.
Including numbers and dates also showed investors that Facebook’s founders had a clear vision for where to take the platform next and were ambitious about expanding it quickly.
Facebook Slide 11: Audience
Slide 11 in Facebook’s pitch provides viewers with some statistics about the platform's potential user base at the time, which was approximately 15 million college students in the US. It also gives details about their spending power and spending activities.
This type of information is good to show investors because it gives them an idea of how expanding your product’s user base can actually influence its profit potential. In Facebook’s case, they included this to set up for later slides about how they planned to make money off advertising and marketing on the platform.
Facebook Slides 12-14: Demographics
Slide 12 in the deck gives information about Facebook’s actual user base, which was approximately 70,000 college students in the US. It also includes a pie chart showing how users were split between Ivy League and other schools.
Slide 13 goes more in depth about the demographics, showing the split between faculty, alumni, and current student users. Slides 12 and 13 definitely could have been combined into one — they repeat the same information at the top and allow a small pie chart to take up the entire center of the slide.
Slide 14 provides further demographic information about Facebook’s active users, including the percentage of men vs. women on the platform and the percentage of users between 18 and 24 years old. This slide repeats information from the past two slides, and fills up most of the page with graphics, while the important information is squeezed at the bottom.
Overall, these three demographics slides feel out of place coming after slides about the expansion plan and the potential audience for Facebook. They could have definitely been condensed into one slide, and would have felt more natural placed after the slides about the schools where Facebook was being used at the time.
Facebook Slides 15-16: Site Usage
The next two slides in Facebook’s pitch deck cover stats about how much daily and monthly traffic the platform was getting. As with the previous slides, the graphics are large and the information is sparse, so these could have been combined into one slide as well to save space and include all the related data in one, easy-to-scan slide.
Facebook Slide 17: Quote
Slide 17 is another transition slide that just contains a quote from The Daily Pennsylvanian:
“I have a new addiction. It is powerful. It is disturbing. It is thefacebook.com.”
Considering the following slide, this quote doesn’t seem particularly necessary. Perhaps it would have been better to add it to the first slide of the presentation along with the other quote, or to simply omit it altogether.
Facebook Slide 18: User Growth Rate
This slide uses bullet points to clearly present information about Facebook’s growth rate. Including bullet points in your pitch deck presentations is a good practice because it allows people to quickly skim slides to learn key information. However, each bullet point should be easy to understand without needing a verbal explanation.
Using numbers, like in the first bullet point on this slide, is ideal. On the other hand, points that make general statements like “the percentage of daily unique users has slightly increased through time” are not that helpful. Potential investors are going to ask questions like “how much has it increased?” and “over how much time?” So, it’s better to have all the facts and data in writing on your slides.
Facebook Slide 19: Online Marketing Services
The next slide in the Facebook pitch deck is essentially just a title slide for the information that follows. This is not an ideal use of space, especially in a deck that’s already on its 19th slide. The deck’s creators should have left this one out and added the title to the following slide.
Facebook Slide 20: Advertisement
Facebook’s 20th slide introduces the company’s business model, explaining that it will allow companies and brands to reach college students, faculty, and alumni via the social media platform. It also gives examples of the different types of advertising that businesses could choose from.
Including some explanation of your company’s business model, no matter how basic it is at the stage you’re at, is definitely important, as it gives potential investors an idea of how you actually plan to make money. Remember that investors these days are usually looking for the next unicorn (a company valued at $1B+), so they want to see that you have a clear idea of how to turn your concept into dollar signs.
Facebook Slide 21: Advertisement Continued
In the following advertisement slide, Facebook’s founders give details about how advertisers will be able to actually target users on the platform. The slide lays out the different parameters that advertisers can choose from or combine in order to reach very specific demographics of students.
This slide is really interesting because, as you may or may not know, Facebook ads today allow advertisers some of the most granular targeting options. This slide shows that Facebook’s founders had this concept clear in their minds from the very beginning, and they stuck to developing it over the coming years.
At the time, there was no platform like Facebook that allowed advertisers such specific targeting capabilities. Sure, there were banner ads and pop ups all over the internet, but these were more about quantity than quality. Slide 21 in Facebook’s pitch shows that the company’s founders had a vision to change the way online advertising worked through a social network — and it was a vision that came true.
Facebook Slide 22: Rates
Slide 22 is the final slide regarding Facebook’s business model, and covers some basics about how they will charge for ads based on factors like scope, duration, targeting, and size. There’s nothing too specific on this slide, and that’s a good thing because all of that would be likely to change as advertising was actually implemented on the platform. This slide showed investors that Facebook’s founders were already putting thought into their options for generating revenue, without going into too many details.
The strange part about this slide is the call to action on the right-hand side. This call to action seems more aimed towards actual advertisers, rather than at prospective investors. This was perhaps because Facebook’s founders intended to use the pitch deck to pitch their advertising services to businesses, in addition to pitching the company to venture capitalists.
If you’re looking to raise capital both through private investments and through selling something like advertising services, you should absolutely create two different decks tailored to each of your specific audiences. Looking at this slide, it seems like Facebook’s deck was intended to serve dual purposes, which isn’t a best practice.
Facebook Slide 23: Contact Info
Looking at slide 23 backs up the point we mentioned above, as it specifically asks anyone interested in Facebook’s marketing and advertising services to contact one of their team members via email.
If Facebook originally intended to use this deck to land advertisers, then shifted to using it as a pitch deck to raise venture capital, they definitely should have replaced this slide with something more general, such as a team slide with info about all the company’s founders.
Facebook Slide 24: Quote
Facebook's initial pitch deck ends as it began: with a quote, this time from The Harvard Independent:
“The wonderful thing about The Facebook is its ability to connect so many people through so many different avenues, including courses, interests, houses, politics, concentration, and favorite movies.”
This is a nice way to conclude the deck and wrap up the pitch presentation, bringing the slideshow full circle and reinforcing the fact that Facebook was already gaining a lot of traction and recognition in its initial student markets.
Missed Opportunities in Facebook’s Pitch Deck
Something clearly missing from Facebook’s pitch was a slide explaining the problem the company sought to solve. In other words, an explanation of the why, or why Facebook’s founders created the platform in the first place.
For example, the founders could have added a slide that said something along the lines of “modern university campuses provide no online ways for students to connect and network with one another” or “students are forced to rely on old-school paper directories to find contact information for faculty and fellow students.”
Clearly explaining the problem you are trying to solve to potential investors gives them an idea of what makes your company unique, where it fits into the market, and why they should consider backing it in the first place.
As we already touched on, the Facebook pitch deck probably should have included a team slide instead of a contact information slide with an email and info about only one of their founders. A team slide can help investors evaluate the ability of the team to actually do everything they claim they are going to do.
In the case of Facebook, it would have been great to show Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, and explain his background in coding and tell investors that he actually wrote the initial code for the platform himself. Showing other team members with backgrounds in marketing and other applicable skills also demonstrates that your company has a well-rounded team, capable of getting the job done and delivering on promises.
It’s not always necessary to include deal terms you’re offering when you’re pitching a startup to investors, but it can be nice additional info for venture capitalists to have. For example, Facebook’s founders might have included how much initial funding they needed to take the platform to the next level and what investors would receive in turn.
Fun fact: Peter Thiel got a 10% stake in Facebook and a seat on its board of directors in exchange for his early investment. When Facebook went public in 2012, Thiel sold 16.8 million shares at the IPO for around $640 million.
Facebook Pitch Deck PDF Templates
If you like the idea of using the original Facebook pitch deck as a template for your own startup fundraising pitch deck, try using one of the editable Facebook pitch deck PDF templates below to get started:
Remember that a template is just a starting point for you to build off as needed/as you see fit. Not every slide that Facebook’s founders used in their initial pitch deck will necessarily apply to your business, and there are certainly slides that they didn’t include that you should consider adding to your own deck.
As with many original pitch decks we look at from the early 2000s, Facebook’s deck could have been shorter. The company’s founders included a lot of slides about their current user base and were very focused on showing that the company already had traction.
While this was all definitely important information to include, and probably played a big role in securing Facebook’s first investment from Peter Thiel, the deck’s creators could have condensed this information into fewer slides and looked for other opportunities to add more slides about different topics.
Even one or two slides about the problem Facebook was solving would have gone a long way towards helping build a stronger narrative for investors to consider and could have earned the company even more seed funding in its first round.
But, all things considered, Facebook’s pitch deck is very good, especially considering the fact that it’s almost 20 years old.
The deck included plenty of relevant statistics and did an excellent job of showing investors that the founders had a clear vision and path forward, backed up with descriptions of a working product that already had an impressive user base for something built in a college dorm room.
Overall, there were just a few slides that could have been combined or omitted, and there wasn’t any information that seemed completely unnecessary or without purpose.