Can an HTML5, cloud-based presentation platform take on Microsoft’s PowerPoint? Tel Aviv-based Visual Software Systems has just scored $2 million so that its Emaze product can get a better foothold in that quest.
PowerPoint is the 800-pound gorilla in this space with a 90+ percent market share, CEO and cofounder Motti Nisani acknowledged to VentureBeat. He noted that nearly 30 other companies have tried to take on the giant — Google Docs, Apple’s Keynote, and OpenOffice among them — with modest success for only a few.
The key reason, he told us, is that “all were just trying to copy PowerPoint, feature for feature.” Nisani pointed to one exception: the Flash- and cloud-based Prezi, “a quite revolutionary product” that came out in 2009 and which has acquired tens of millions of users.
“Prezi always looked like Prezi,” he said, with a distinctive look and functionality — and a steep learning curve that Nisani said can take two to three days to master.
Emaze, on the other hand, is aiming to provide “a different experience [that is] very, very easy to use,” he said, “and has a lot of design options.” (The linked presentation was created, and is playing back, in Emaze.)
Released as a beta in May of 2013, and then offered in general release this past spring, Emaze has about 750,000 registered users. Nisani declined to say how many were paying, although he noted that “it’s more than a few percent.”
A user signs onto the cloud-based platform, chooses one or more of the 80 or so templates, and creates the presentation singly or collaboratively. The result can be accessed in the cloud, or downloaded and run inside a browser, on computers, smartphones, or tablets.
Currently, templates and their built-in transitions are not customizable, although Nisani said that capability is coming in eight weeks. Templates include ones with 3D walkthroughs, panning and zooming, video with text/image overlay, or Web-based designs that look like a modern, scrolling website — in addition to ones that emulate a standard PowerPoint presentation. The Emaze presentations, shareable via a link, can also incorporate live data from such sources as Twitter, Survey Money, Google Maps, or the NASDAQ Ticker.
Public, cloud-based versions are free. Creating a private cloud-based presentation, or downloading, requires a Pro Plan for $4.90 monthly per user. Custom templates will only be available in the higher Emazing plan at $9.90 month/user.
The funding from the Series A round, led by FirstTime Venture Capital, will be used “mainly for marketing and user acquisition in the U.S.,” Nisani told us, plus additional product development. A previous seed round netted $800,000.