Over the years, there have been multiple incredible technological transitions that have transformed the way we operate. The market of presentation is similar. This market is valued at $5.90 billion and is expected to reach $14.32 by 2030. This creates further innovation in this niche seizing the lucrative market. “Pitch” is a product that recognizes this opportunity and uses AI to make its way to the heart of its clients. In this interview, we will talk to an expert who has played a pivotal role in Pitch and gather insights from him.
Pitch is an innovative platform revolutionizing how teams create, collaborate, and share presentations. With a keen focus on creating beautiful designs, real-time collaboration, and rich multimedia content, Pitch empowers its users to create stunning presentations effortlessly. It is a go-to tool for businesses and individuals seeking to communicate ideas effectively and engage their audience.
Therefore, let’s start with the interview. However, before jumping onto it, let’s learn a little about our guest.
Who is Adam Renklint?
1) Could you share your journey from being a developer to a CTO at Pitch?
Well, my journey as a developer began at an early age. I started programming around 11 or 12, writing go-to loops in BASIC. I gradually moved on to creating small games and projects using Visual BASIC.
At 14, I earned my first bit of cash by building a website for an artist. This experience gave me the idea that I could potentially pursue a career as a professional developer.
However, my dad was pragmatic and always emphasized that computers are tools, not a careers. Following his advice, I spent the first few years of my adult life in a different business. I was working with call centers and leading teams in customer support. About 15 years ago, I decided to branch out and start freelancing. Initially, I worked as a mobile app and front-end developer.
Through freelancing, I came across a company called 6Wunderkinder. They were a small team of around 11 or 12 people at that time. I was living in Sweden, but they needed help with specific projects, so I decided to uproot myself and move to Germany to try startup life. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I played a significant role in growing the company, Wunderlist (6Wunderkinder’s product), from a team of 11 or 12 to around 70 people over a couple of years, serving millions of users. Wunderlist became a beloved product.
Naturally drawn to leadership roles, I led the web team at Wunderlist, working on expansions for new products and leading cross-functional teams. Eventually, Microsoft acquired Wunderlist, and I spent two years there as a senior developer and engineer.
After a few years at Microsoft, some colleagues and I decided to leave and start something new. That's how we founded Pitch with my seven co-founders. Initially, we didn't assign specific roles. We just wanted to build, be creative, have fun, and work with people we trusted. However, as a startup founder, many tasks beyond making a product need attention.
I naturally took on the responsibility of hiring and ensuring our early team had a clear direction. This led me to become the lead engineer and, eventually, the CTO. I've been in this role for over five years, and it's a position that evolves every six months, particularly in a growing startup. Initially, it was more like being a lead engineer and a direct manager, but as we expanded, it transformed into a more executive role, leading teams of teams.
Despite the dynamic nature of the CTO role, I still try to code every week. However, not necessarily in the critical path of our product but to stay connected with the company's pulse and codebase. Programming is my therapy; it's incredibly enjoyable, and I do it to savor the experience simply.
2) Can you elaborate on the technical features of ‘Pitch’ compared to its competition that makes it stand out?
When we initially built Pitch, collaboration wasn't considered a standard feature for many, and many people were still sending files back and forth, especially with presentation software. A fundamental philosophical and technological principle behind Pitch is to create an experience as if you're working collaboratively with others inside an office. The aim is to establish a virtual connection, making it feel like everyone is sitting at the same terminal, eliminating the need to exchange files constantly. Our goal is to make collaboration immediate and immersive.
This perspective stems from our experience, particularly at Wunderlist, where we had successfully implemented similar collaborative features. Building on that knowledge, we structured everything around creating a seamless collaboration experience.
From a technical standpoint, AI is now a significant consideration in everyone's approach. Currently, we are exploring ways to go beyond the standard AI demos that are fun and interesting but relatively easy to implement. Instead, we aim to delve deeper, investigating the new opportunities this technology can offer. This is a key focus for us as we work to integrate a new type of assistive interface into our products.
We aim to empower users to focus on what truly matters to them. The message, story, or presentation they want to convey. We want to minimize the manual effort required for tasks like moving elements around or ensuring aesthetic appeal. The software should take care of these aspects, allowing users to concentrate on crafting their message effectively.
3) Could you share something specific on how startups and companies improved their presentations and workflows after using Pitch?
One of our valued customers, with whom we collaborate extensively, is Frontify. They specialize in a tool designed to assist with brand management. Using Pitch, they've achieved greater consistency in their presentations.
As mentioned earlier, we offer templates, and additionally, we have a feature called Brand Styles. This allows users to create stylesheets describing how certain elements should appear. These stylesheets can be shared across the team, eliminating the need to remember specific color codes for each project. This streamlines the process and ensures consistent branding, saving valuable time.
This particular team has extensively utilized our live collaboration features, a concept not as prevalent when we initially developed Pitch. Live cursors, a feature common in many tools today, help users see where their teammates work in real-time. While technical solutions like operational transforms address collaboration challenges, live cursors aid in resolving social issues. For instance, if someone works on a headline, others can easily see it and avoid overlapping efforts. Additionally, our built-in messaging through comments facilitates real-time coordination eliminating the need for external tools.
Another example is a company named Linear, known for its modern task and project management approach. We use their tool internally for building Pitch. Linear, in turn, utilizes Pitch to discuss and construct its projects. They find that Pitch enhances focus during meetings, especially for All Hands meetings, by serving as a centralized platform to collect and present information. This aligns with our vision of making communication more efficient.
We've implemented features that initially catered to those using Pitch to win external projects but also found applications internally. For example, Linear employs Pitch to ensure better internal communication. Features like tracking how others engage with your presentation—how they open it, and the time spent on each slide—originally designed for external presentations, have proven useful internally. Linear uses this to confirm that everyone has reviewed the necessary material before a meeting, promoting efficiency and shared understanding within the team.
4) How are you planning to use AI in creating presentations? Also, can you share some examples?
Yes, we've incorporated AI into Pitch since its inception, though it wasn't always at the forefront of our discussions. A prime example of AI in our product from the early days is the automatic positioning feature. When you drop an image or a folder into Pitch, it is automatically positioned to showcase the face or the object of interest. Many users might not be aware of this feature because it seamlessly works in the background.
Our philosophy is to make features feel like magic so users don't have to make every decision themselves. While they remain in control and can make changes, the default experience should be great, especially visually, as people choose Pitch for its value in delivering presentations with excellent design, even if they are not design experts or don't want to invest much time in it.
As mentioned earlier, our most recent addition is the ability to create drafts or customized templates for various use cases. Looking beyond that, we are actively exploring integrating an assisted interface into Pitch.
Considering the typing involved, this won't necessarily feel like a chat, but it will guide users through creating a presentation. Many people find presentation creation daunting, especially at the process's beginning and end. Our research indicates that the initial and final stages are the most challenging, and Pitch aims to address these concerns. The generator feature, along with our templates, assists users in getting started. Users feel comfortable working on their content and leveraging their creative abilities in the middle stages. Towards the end, anxiety may arise about deciding when the presentation is finished and polished.
This anxiety often stems from not knowing what one might not know, as not everyone is an expert in presentation creation. Therefore, we aim to introduce a coaching element into Pitch as a user guide. This goes beyond mere automation, striving to help users streamline their processes and become better presentation creators in the long run.
5) How does Pitch use analytics to empower users and achieve data visualization and comprehension?
When we started Pitch, the founders gathered around a whiteboard, drawing and noting down ideas for what we envisioned as the presentation tool of the future. Having previously worked with PowerPoint at Microsoft, we recognized one of the major challenges: the manual transfer of data between different places. People often resorted to taking screenshots of graphs or charts, leading to issues with resolution and outdated data. To address this, we integrated the capability to input data directly into presentations within Pitch.
We began by ensuring compatibility with Google Suite, allowing users to connect their Google Sheets seamlessly. A single button press updates the data, but users retain control over when this update occurs. It's not a live update minutes before a presentation; users decide when to refresh the data. This data integration is part of the presentation's history, allowing users to use the undo button to revert to previous data if needed.
Expanding on analytics, traditional presentation tools used to be file-based, creating a lack of feedback on how presentations performed. Recognizing this, we recently launched a feature that enables users to develop named links for any presentation. These links provide insights into how the presentation is consumed, including time spent on each slide and drop-off points. This near-real-time data informs users about the presentation's effectiveness and guides adjustments for future versions.
Looking at the future, we're exploring ways to package more insights naturally. The AI revolution has opened up possibilities, breaking down barriers with natural language interaction. Users can describe the end state they want, and AI can assist in achieving that. Additionally, AI can provide insights into natural language, eliminating the need to decipher complex charts. The importance of data is undeniable, and the advancements in AI are reshaping how we interact with computers and gain insights from data.
6) Considering Pitch has got a funding of 85 million in B-round, what are your long-term plans? Also, how do you plan to ensure resources to enhance your product’s capabilities further?
Yeah, so we embarked on this ambitious idea with a team of eight people. Initially, we framed it as the mission to 'kill PowerPoint.' However, we've softened our approach over time, but the essence remains the same. We created a David and Goliath story to revolutionize how people approach presentations. Considering the widespread use of presentations globally, we understand it's a gradual process. However, having strong backing from well-renowned institutional investors and the capital to experiment extensively allows us the freedom to envision without compromising.
This support means we don't have to limit ourselves. Instead, we can push every aspect of our work to its full potential. It requires significant manpower and creative minds dedicated to solving problems from first principles rather than merely replicating what other tools are doing. These investments empower us to innovate, striving not just to be 10% better than our competitors but aiming to be twice as good. It's about bringing a fresh perspective and real, meaningful change to the world of presentations.
7) What is your sure shot long-term plan that we can expect from the product?
One will see more AI integration throughout the product to create magical moments in collaboration with the computer. It's almost like a conversation, allowing you to focus more on what you want to say. These innovations, among other things, will assist you in crafting your story much better. We like to think of ourselves as being in the business of raising the value of the world's ideas. We are not just a tool for fully formed ideas but a partner in refining them.
With the presentation analytics I mentioned earlier, we've made progress in helping you toward the end of the life cycle of a presentation. However, we also believe there's much more we can do at the beginning. This involves aiding you in getting started and addressing the problems that hinder people from spending more time enhancing their presentations.
This could mean building out analytics to make them more actionable and improving the editing experience by simplifying the actions that are frequently performed during presentations. For example, if we can turn three clicks into one for something done 300 times during a presentation, it's a significant improvement.
While considering our future roadmap, we always aim to blend exploratory, perhaps risky, innovative features. We try to solve minor but frequently encountered issues that users of all presentation tools, especially Legacy tools, face.
8) Can you share your perspective on how technology will continue to shape future presentation software?
As I mentioned earlier, AI is already playing a significant role, and I believe it will continue to transform how we interact with software. The past year has felt like a revolution for many. With rapid changes occurring, I think we're just scratching the surface. The potential of more iterative and conversational interfaces for computer interaction is yet to be fully realized. However, this shift will likely be significant.
Currently, most users use Pitch on a desktop or laptop computer equipped with a full keyboard and a trackpad or mouse. However, with the aid of AI, I foresee a future where software will provide a mobile experience that allows users to perform the same tasks differently. In the future, interacting with software on a mobile device may resemble how we communicate with Siri today but take it to the next level. It's an exciting prospect for the evolution of technology and user experiences.
- Renklint’s journey started as a developer at a young age which transitioned to customer support leadership and became a key figure in 6Wunderkinder.
- Pitch aims to create a collaborative presentation by integrating the feel of working together in an office.
- Users such as Frontify and Linear have experienced improved presentation consistency and internal communication using Pitch.
- Pitch is integrated with AI for features like automatic positioning of images. Furthermore, the future involves deeper AI integration.
- With substantial funding, Pitch aims to revolutionize the presentation space.
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