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Christian Reber's latest product, Pitch, has been in beta for more than a year. It's a big beta, to be fair: More than 25,000 teams are already using Pitch, which aims to make it easier, faster and more fun to make slide decks. Reber and his team have liked the state of the product for months, but they've kept polishing, kept tweaking, kept making sure everything worked and scaled and made sense. Because it's like they say: You come at the king, you best not miss. PowerPoint is the king, and Reber's been lining up his shot for a long time. Now it's launching publicly, and the former Wunderlist founder think it's ready.
The initial Pitch pitch goes like this: Slide decks are a great, wonderful, powerful thing, no matter what some people might say, but making them is a nightmare. "We always had this idea of, basically, building a tool for non-designers to build beautiful decks." Pitch uses a huge template library to give people a better place to start from, built-in video collaboration for making decks as a team, integrations with Google Sheets and Google Analytics, and more. "We wanted to build an interface that's delightful, and most importantly fun, to use." Pitch is meant to be faster, simpler, all-around more enjoyable to spend your days inside than PowerPoint.
Even Pitch's list of investors telegraphs its intentions for the space. The company has already raised more than $50 million, and some of its most visible backers are lions of the best-of-breed industry. The Slack Fund invested; so did Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger; so did Zoom's Eric Yuan. The implication, and indeed Pitch's plan, is that Pitch believes that the world needs a truly great way to make slide decks, and that there's a big business in doing so.
Edging into a market dominated by giants — not just PowerPoint but also Google Slides and Apple Keynote — won't be easy. And Reber said he's still perfecting his explanation. "It's tough to tell anyone what exactly makes the product different, because it's a collection of things." Like Zoom with video, it's just supposed to work better. He said that teams who try Pitch tend to pick up on that feeling pretty quickly, and as the company launches publicly, he hopes that continues.
Pitch's design-y take on decks could make it easier for anyone to create nice slides.Image: Pitch
In the long run, Reber said, the process of "building a deck" should mostly go away. "We have a very clear idea that you should basically be able to write an outline of your presentation, you should pitch a design, and then you just merge your outline with the design and boom, you have the presentation ready for you." That involves a lot of time and a lot of machine learning, he said. "I think it will probably take 12 months or so just to see the first glimpse of that kind of AI for presentations."
AI-generated decks aren't even the wildest part of Pitch's plan, either. The company wants to redefine the whole notion of a deck. What if a deck was a shareable, interactive document, Reber wondered, with analytics and comments? Basically, what would Instagram For Presentations look like? That's next on Pitch's roadmap: building an open platform of decks and templates anyone can share and see.
After that, what if people didn't have to update their sales decks every quarter, because the deck did the work for them? Integrations, Reber said, are crucial to the future of Pitch. "We're actually learning from our customers, which integrations would they like to have next? Is it a Stripe integration, a Typeform integration, a MailChimp integration to pull in live subscribers from newsletters?" In Reber's mind, a presentation becomes a living document, more like a website than a .ppt file. "Every presentation is just pure HTML," Reber said. "If you build interactive websites with live data, you really change what presentations are. You can present in the form of a website."
Pitch even has ideas about changing the way people present their decks, though here Reber is cagey about his plans. "Presenting decks asynchronously and synchronously" are important to get right, he said, "and we need to help people distribute decks." That's where the Instagram for Presentations comes in, but there's more. "I think audio and video play a huge role in that," Reber said, before stopping himself — though he did mention that Tomaž Štolfa, the former founder of communications startup Layer, is working on lots of cool things in that space.
Pitch is one of the better-funded companies on this path, but certainly not the only one. The app Mmhmm recently captured people's imagination by turning decks into performances, recordable and editable and interactive. WeTransfer's Paste has similarly interactive, embeddable ideas about the future of decks. "When you think about the office world, the document suites, they're really still immersed in these print-document-centric views," WeTransfer's Georg Petschnigg told me earlier this year. The rest of the internet doesn't work that way, he pointed out: "When you look at how many online tools we're using now, the Figmas, the Google Docs, something like Paste is designed for that." Pitch is very much the same.
In talking about the vision for Pitch, Reber has to continually bring himself back to the present, force himself not to get too tied up in the big vision. He's been having to do that for two years, making sure Pitch gets the fundamentals right before worrying about the wholesale reinvention of everything forever. None of the next stuff matters, he knows, if he can't build a tool that does PowerPoint things better than PowerPoint. If Pitch can get there, it earns the right to do everything else.
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