When it comes to presentation creation, PowerPoint and Keynote remain the de facto tools by incumbent advantage. PowerPoint has more than 1 billion installs and 500 million users alone, thanks to Microsoft's longtime bundling of Office with certain Windows editions. But this hasn't stopped startups from trying to disrupt the status quo. Besides Prezi, there's Pitch, a deck creation suite from the founders of Wunderlist. Also slotting somewhere in the product category is Gamma, a presentation designer platform built around a card-like interface.
Convinced he had something novel to contribute, Rajat Mishra in 2021 co-founded Prezent.ai, a presentation creation tool that today closed a $20 million Series A round led by Greycroft at a valuation "north of" $100 million. In addition to hosting templates for companies to build branded presentations, Prezent.ai offers gamified learning courses to help employees improve their presenting skills.
"[I] realized that great business storytelling is essential to making your ideas shine and grow your career. Yet, millions of busy business professionals don’t have the time or training to bring their ideas to life," Mishra told TechCrunch via email. "Alternatives like management consulting and design agencies are expensive and inaccessible to the vast majority of business professionals."
Mishra, a former Microsoft engineering manager who spent over five years as an associate partner at McKinsey, was the general manager at consultancy Mu Sigma before becoming SVP of customer experience at Cisco. Before starting Prezent.ai, Mishra co-founded Prezentium, a firm that creates presentations on behalf of business clients.
Unlike Prezentium, Prezent.ai is self-service, offering "brand-compliant" templates that conform to corporate standards defined by the C-suite. With Prezent.ai, users can share and collaborate over decks and storylines -- the service's format is compatible with PowerPoint and Google Slides.
Prezent.ai's online design dashboard. Image Credits: Prezent.ai
The "AI" in Prezent.ai refers to the product's AI-powered presentation recommendations. When users log in, they're greeted with styles that correspond to personal preferences, popular choices on the platform and so on. According to Mishra, Prezent.ai's algorithms take into account factors like audience likes and dislikes and a company's tribal knowledge and industry (e.g. healthcare) to suggest storylines, presentations and slides.
"We are using AI to codify empathy and context," Mishra explained, somewhat vaguely. "Communication varies by context. Our algorithm learns to personalize communication based on empathy and context."
As for the gamified aspects, Prezent.ai provides lessons covering four core areas: problem-solving, visual storytelling, presentation designing and presentation delivery. Each course comes with content, quizzes and exercises aimed at enhancing particular skills.
So, will Prezent.ai succeed against both the presentation design tool market's startups and giants? Mishra makes the case that young professionals today don't have the time to learn presentation basics without the aid of a service like Prezent.ai. Empirical data is hard to come by, but at least one survey suggests that Generation Z feels ill-prepared for workplace activities like negotiating, networking and frequent public speaking. Prezent.ai isn't the only solution, but it's not unreasonable to suggest products like it could instill some confidence in employees frequently tasked with presenting.
Mishra says that Prezent.ai has more than 30 paying customers with a combined hundreds of teams and "thousands" of active users.
"[The goal is to give] every person in the company sophisticated business storytelling capabilities -- structured storylines inspired by management consulting, high-end designed templates, expert guides, and contextual learning modules," Mishra said. "Working from home has changed the dynamics of business communication. The coffee-room conversations and short in-person hallway discussions have been replaced by virtual meetings and online chats."
Other investors participating in Prezent.ai's Series A included WestWave Capital and Emergent Ventures, both of which invested in the company's June 2021 seed round. Prezent.ai plans to use part of the proceeds to expand its headcount from roughly 60 employees to more than 100 by the end of the year.