A pitch deck is a story. Sometimes this story ends up creating a billion-dollar company. In other cases, it ends up with the founder in jail for lying about a non-existing product. Nevertheless, this resulted in an entertaining book and a TV series. Interestingly, the Theranos pitch deck tells an intriguing story.
That’s the story of Elizabeth Holmes and the startup she founded, Theranos. She started off by dropping out of Stanford to create Theranos. Then she raised over $1.4 billion with a product that does not do what they said it does. This led to her being sued and eventually sentenced to prison.
Yet, this is not what we’re here to discuss. We’re all about business. So the question we aim to answer here is – How did Elizabeth Holmes convince investors to invest over $1.4 billion in Theranos, a company with a non-existing product?
The answer sometimes lies within their pitch deck, and that’s what we’re here to look at and analyze.
The Theranos Pitch Deck (Downloadable)
Firstly, as with all of our pitch deck analyses, if you’re looking to download a PDF version, then check out our thorough analysis of this pitch deck; do that right here below.
That being out of the way, let’s carefully analyze how Holmes did it.
Theranos Pitch Deck Analysis
Slide 1 – Cover
The start was a casual cover page specifying that this deck is for investors. There’s nothing out of the ordinary, as per most decks. Usually, such startups add a confidentiality sentence. Yet, according to the book and the series, they probably made whoever sees this sign tons of NDAs.
Slide 2 – Theranos Deck Intro
Theranos’s pitch deck starts slow. Their introduction shows it quite well. Given that it is a 23-slide presentation, it’s already apparent that they’re taking their time explaining their company.
They tried to show here their initial focus on clinical trials. This gives the reader the sense that they’re not here just to provide a small product. They’re going after a market that is extremely delicate to deal with.
Slide 3 – Traction
When the reader starts wondering whether they’re up for it, Theranos starts shooting numbers and statistics so that any doubt goes away. They’re mentioning their expected revenue in the next 1.5 years. By the way, while you’re reading this, always remember that when we’re trying to analyze a business, we attempt as much as possible to put emotions aside.
Theranos hurt thousands of people, investors, employees, and actual patients. Nevertheless, in terms of a business, putting a projected revenue is not out of the ordinary. They could’ve reached this revenue if their product was doable.
Yet I believe that some of the numbers on this slide, in particular, are conjectures with no basis.
Slide 4 – Team
Following their achievements, they need to put a picture to take responsibility. Hence, they pitch their team members here. The name Elizabeth Holmes back then was becoming known as it was on the cover of Forbes, amongst other media outlets.
Deck Slides 5 till 8 – Theranos as a Product
Then they start to explain what the Theranos system is.
They’re making it easier for the investor to understand the product by segmenting it into three different sections.
This is one of the most famous images of the Theranos pitch deck. It showcases how they intend to operate or how their operational supply chain is.
Then they finally put some product facts that any health investor would have questions in regards to.
Slides 9 till 13 – Theranos Unique Selling Pitch
As a business, they start to showcase their unique selling point.
The above four slides are mainly targeted toward pharmaceutical companies or investors with a good knowledge of the health industry. After all, these were one of the most essential stakeholders of Theranos.
Deck Slides 14 till 17 – Theranos Market
Any pitch deck would not be a story without the environment around it. In our business case, that’s the market. They showcase their market size to impress the reader. This was not a challenge. Everyone knows how big the health market is. They also showed some pains in the current solutions as well as the Theranos business model.
Slides 18 and 19 – Theranos as a Solution
Many business analysts value the FMA (first mover’s advantage) more than I do. Don’t get me wrong. Having the first mover’s advantage is an edge. But it isn’t what makes or breaks a startup.
In the above slides, Theranos starts pitching the company as a business solution to the market formerly presented.
Slides 20 and 21 – Investments
This was the most impressive slide that they’d consider a winner – their list of investments and investors. This slide alone could spark a big fear of missing out amongst some investors back then. You’d think that history wouldn’t repeat itself until you read more about FTX.
Slides 22 and 23 – Technology
Finally, to maintain their brand image of being the smartest in the room, they close their story by showing some technical elements of their system versus the current solutions.
Theranos Pitch Deck Conclusion
If there’s a word to describe this deck, I’d say the word is arrogant. They know they’ll raise investments with the deck and that they could abuse this power. That’s exactly what they did.
Yet, from a business perspective, putting the investor list aside, the deck is quite a mundane normal deck. Their traction is not as impressive as it’s mostly projected. The market is one that any investor should be quite careful about before investing in.
Meet The Author Of This Article
I’m Al Anany, the founder and CEO of Albusi.
I’ve written tons of decks. But I find great pleasure in reading the pitch decks of other companies. It’s similar to reading an autobiography about how a company started.