May I suggest a title for your next Netflix binge?
Check out Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.
For those not familiar, the Fyre festival was a pitch this kid, Billy McFarland, put together with his business partner Ja Rule.
No, that is not a typo.
Billy and Ja went to investors with a slide deck that dripped luxury, touted strong data & celebrity backing and gave the impression that they were a well organized, well thought out investment opportunity. The Fyre festival was to be an epic musical event, with over 30 artists taking the stage, famous chefs preparing local cuisine and high-end glamping accommodations for all attendees coming to the remote Bahamian island. In reality, attendees purchased their extravagant tickets [we’re talking between $500 & $12,000 dollars for increasing levels of VIP perks, plus airfare] and arrived at the secluded beach to find rain-soaked mattresses, cheese sandwiches, no entertainment & no cell service.
Billy wasn’t just in over his head; he had pitched and sold a non-existent event and ended up owing $26 million in restitution and serving 6 years in prison.
So how did so many investors take the bait if the product was a sham?
Billy was a damn good salesman…
…with polished slides.
Let’s see where the Fyre pitch deck really sold itself, and where there may be some missed opportunities.
OK, so right out of the gate I find there to be a missed opportunity. Yes, Billy does jump right into an overarching problem and shift in the music industry, but not enough time is dedicated to setting the stage, explaining how the music industry has evolved and articulating that the Fyre brand understands the changing needs of this space. Are live bookings the main way artists make money now? How do we know that? Is there data that backs this up? Gimme a nice, juicy chart showing an upward arrow for private birthday parties & corporate functions and a downward arrow for iTunes song purchases and I am much more likely to 1. Remember your main point and 2. Believe you. By giving another slide or two to this piece of the narrative, Billy would have been able to show the potential rewards of investing with Fyre as well as mitigate the risks. Instead, you’ll see he goes right into what the Fyre brand is…and I’m not sure he’s built up that know-like-trust factor enough to earn the right to dive into the details of his company before warming up the room a bit.
He then moves on from the Fyre brand/app to the Fyre festival itself…
YAAAAS, Billy. Now I’m listening. [though next time, you only need ONE hype statement slide.] The design of these slides is engaging, it sparks a question and now I want to know more.
Ok, got it. So you’re all about finding cool, off-the-beaten-path locales inspired by the elements. I’m with you……so why the elements of the earth? Water, wind, fire…earth? That’s only 4. What’s the fifth element?
No, no, no. Billy don’t leave me hanging here – if the elements are your “thing” you gotta give me more – what’s the story behind that theme? And what. Are. the. Five. elements?
I’m still not sure I’m seeing the thread carry through these slides. We seem to have gone from a brand whose mission is to bring together musical talent & fans to a brand looking to create live experiences around uncharted locations & the elements of the earth to a cultural experience that will have music, but hey…also, a treasure hunt.
There’s then a video clip. In summary, it’s another hype tactic to try and paint the picture of the vibe this festival will give off. It’s exclusive – the girls are hot, the guys are successful and it is for the movers & shakers for sure. But…we already had several “hype” slides before this clip – I think there’s an opportunity here to cut easily 3 slides.
After the who, what, when, where & why slide, we see a transition slide titled “fyre starters”. For context, Billy did actually pull off a pretty brilliant marketing plan by having an impressive list of influencers upload an instagram post with an orange box linking to the fyre festival website. Over 300 million people saw these posts within 24 hours…roughly 80% of the US population, to give you an idea of impact there.
However, the case study outlining the success of this marketing partnership is buried under FOUR PAGES of influencer shout outs.
On one slide, just make a collage of these thumbnails. Call out some big names in person. Make the biggest celebs slightly larger than the other images. But dear god – WE DON’T NEED FOUR SLIDES WORTH.
We get it. You’re cool. You have famous contacts. Ja Rule is your home boy. Move on.
This is great. This shows some proof that people are excited about this event in a quantifiable way and eliminates one of the main hesitations for investors which is – what if we think this is cool, but no one else does?
Here she is – the pitch. Billy has now explained what’s going on in the industry, outlined how his brand is positioned to take advantage of that, hyped his audience up on the fyre festival itself and now he just has to clearly outline why sponsors should partner with him.
Poor Billy. You were so impressed with yourself and the fact that you saw Bella Hadid in a bikini that you forgot to put the actual substance into your deck.
This slide is saying nothing. FIRST OF ALL, there is a typo. Which just hurts me. Secondly, their “unique manner” for partnering with brands is that they 1. Research the brand to know what their objectives are, 2. Come up with partnership ideas, 3. Pick a favorite, turn it into a real concept and, get this, 4. Do it.
Delete this slide.
People like to follow the crowd, especially when money is involved, so this slide is great to help reassure sponsors & investors that they are not alone in taking the plunge. I will say this slide would be much stronger if they had more confirmed sponsors – and maybe list them above the pending guys.
It would also be stronger if one of the three confirmed sponsors wasn’t Magnises – Billy’s other company. Can’t imagine that was a hard sell.
You have no one to blame but yourself.
YIKES. Give them a chart or some top level numbers. Or actually put the financials in the appendix (spoiler alert – they’re nowhere to be found.)
One other missed opportunity with this presentation is that there is no call to action. The deck ends with 5 pages outlining dozens of Fyre team members, a collage of models on boats, a slide with a quote from Rumi and then the final slide showing just their logo. No contact information, no next step outlined, no take away summarized.
Overall, I think this deck is a great example of slides that look sexy at first glance and sway you with pictures of celebrities and beautiful pictures. But upon closer look, there’s not a lot of meat to the presentation, nor is there a story that the investor can engage with. To me, it feels like Billy’s pitch hinged on an adult version of the movie Mean Girls – hoping that his investors and sponsors wanted to sit with the cool kids at lunch and would ask questions about the financials later. But hey, it worked. It looks professional and the concept is compelling, so I sort of get why some investors jumped at the chance to be a part of it.
Oh, and by the way. The 5 elements are earth, air, fire, water & aether [which was added to the original four later on]. Aether is the material that fills the terrestrial space…which means you should start saving your money now for the Fyre festival 2040, being held on Uranus.