PowerPoint may still dominate the landscape for presentations in many people's minds, but some might say that legacy status also makes Microsoft's software ripe for disruption. Now, a startup out of Berlin called Pitch has just picked up a substantial Series B of $85 million to take it on with what it believes is a more dynamic approach.
The round is being led by Lakestar and Tiger Global, with previous backers Index Ventures and Thrive Capital also participating. We understand from sources close to the company that the valuation is now at $600 million for the Berlin-based startup.
In the words of CEO and co-founder Christian Reber, the ambition is to create the "YouTube for presentations," with the ability for people to create, collaborate on and share presentations with each other through an online-based interface.
His interest, meanwhile, in taking on Microsoft has a deeper story to it. As we have covered before, Reber's previous startup, the planning startup Wunderlist, was acquired by Microsoft and folded into its productivity suite, only to eventually be killed off, much to Reber's disbelief and disappointment.
Not to dwell too much in the past, the funding Pitch has now raised will be used in several areas, including hiring more people and reach. The startup has already seen good progress on the latter front. Pitch is already being used by tens of thousands of teams, it says, who have created some 125,000 workspaces on the platform. Customers include (ironically) a number of other trailblazers in the world of business productivity: Intercom, Superhuman and Notion are among the list.
The plan will be to work on bringing on more users into its freemium universe, while converting more to its Pitch Pro $10/user/month paid tier, which includes more extensions like unlimited storage, video uploads, version history and advanced permissioning. Pro already has a "couple of thousand" subscribers, Reber said, enough to prove out that "we definitely see our business model working." Pitch is also working on rolling out an enterprise version so that it can sell Pitch into the bigger businesses and deployments that dominate usage of PowerPoint.
And the other way that Pitch plans to bring more people into the fold will be with more functionality. Along with the funding, Pitch is rolling out some new features that will include the beginnings of an ecosystem, where presentation designers and creators will be able to upload presentation templates, as well as presentations themselves, to help other people get started in creating their own presentations.
The idea here is to celebrate creators, Reber said, but it's (at least for now) stopping short of paying them, seeing this more as a way of sharing designs and ideas in a more collaborative exchange with each other. Both, however, seem to me to be ripe opportunities down the line for building a marketplace. Creating a great pitch deck for a startup is great to share as a resource, but if you are also, say, a leadership coach who makes a living out of giving people inspiring direction on how to handle something, a pitch deck with that IP in it perhaps might not be something you'd always be willing to part with for free. (Reber says his inspiration here was the world of design forums like Dribble, where an exchange of ideas has thrived.)
Initially, the user-generated content will be selected by Pitch itself, although the plan over time will be to make it something that will be open to everyone, Reber said.
Another new feature will be presentation analytics. This will not be unlike the kind of data that people currently can apply to, say, email or web traffic to measure what people are clicking on, how long they are spending looking at content and where they are dropping off. Pitch will apply the same to its presentations -- which are HTML-coded -- so that those who are making them and sending them around can get a better idea of how they are performing, and even begin the process of A-B testing to try out different approaches.
Reber points out that analytics will be opt-in only: If users choose not to share that tracking, it won't be shared, he said.
"As a German business, we have a special relationship with data privacy in the greatest sense," he said. "We care deeply about making sure we approach features in a privacy-first way." The idea is to make it less like spyware, and more like the kind of analytics one might have on YouTube for videos there.
Finally, it's adding in more video features to bring in narrative recording and playback. These first will be "recorded" around the presentations themselves, but longer term, it's likely that the feature will also have a live element, which makes a lot of sense since a lot of presentations have had their most highly trafficked exposure by way of webinars or live presentations (say, around an earnings call), where you might not only have multiple presenters talking along a slide deck, but also people feeding back, asking questions in relation to the presentation and so on.
If this all sounds a little WordPress-like, that's not a coincidence. Reber noted that website building is something else that Pitch wants to bring into the platform. "We are experimenting with that," he said. "In my opinion, presentations are collections of information and we want to publish them in various ways. Slides just happens to be one format. But if it's all already written in HTML, why not build it also into a site? That will be another feature coming, and something that we will be also using the funding for."
Indeed, that may not work for deeper content efforts (such as publications like the one you are reading right now), but would be perfectly adequate for, say, basic sites along the kind that are built on sites like Squarespace to lay out some online real estate for a small business. The scope of what you can already do, and what Pitch wants you to do, is precisely what makes this all so interesting to investors, they say.
“The exciting vision that Christian and the team at Pitch have is beyond just being a superior alternative to legacy presentation software," said Stephen Nundy, partner at Lakestar, in a statement. "A reimagining of the entire workflow surrounding presentations is very much overdue, and when coupled with the ability to harness new data and media integrations, Pitch will lead the way in changing how stories are told. I’m very proud to be joining the board of a European company with its sights set on a truly global opportunity.”
“We are incredibly impressed by the quality of Pitch’s offering today and Christian’s vision for the future. Pitch will be a true productivity platform, and we are excited to become investors in this special company,” John Curtius, partner at Tiger Global, added.
Reber's take on the new tools are also here: