Despite many upstarts seeking to make their mark on presentations over the years, Microsoft’s PowerPoint remains the number one presentation player globally, with an estimated 95 percent market share.
Given Microsoft’s ubiquity in the business realm, it can be difficult for companies to shift entirely to new presentation tools, even if they are willing. However, there is nothing stopping them from using different programs for different situations.
Against that backdrop, San Francisco-based Beautiful.ai, which pitches itself as “the first AI-powered presentation design tool,” is launching out of beta today.
Though PowerPoint has evolved over the past three decades, the underlying concept remains the same: The end user creates the content and is responsible for the layout and general look and feel. There are built-in tools to remove some of the manual labor, but for the most part the user is in charge of the design, even if they have no real design credentials. And this is where Beautiful.ai is hoping to find its niche.
The company was founded in 2015 by Mitch Grasso, who helped found another presentation startup called SlideRocket, which was acquired by VMware back in 2011. Clearly, Grasso thinks presentation programs are ripe for improvement, something he’s setting out to do with his latest startup that promises to “apply the rules of good design in real time.”
Browser-based Beautiful.ai features around 50 customizable “smart” templates that adapt and adjust as you fine-tune your content. Basically, you don’t have to worry about changing fonts or tweaking text boxes — Beautiful.ai promises to take care of everything.
By way of example, if you decide to change the background color of your slide from light to dark, you would normally have to change the text color so that it doesn’t blend in with the background. But Beautiful.ai automatically changes the text color to contrast with the backdrop.
“We’ve all experienced those moments — tinkering with text boxes at 2 a.m., drawing boxes and circles and then trying to align them, or spending hours looking for the right image for our slide,” noted Grasso. “We’re using AI to give users the benefits of professional-quality design without the pain of spending hours, or even days, perfecting their presentations.”
Based on our brief tests, Beautiful.ai works well, though unfortunately the web app only seems to be compatible with Google Chrome for now. We’re told that there eventually will be native apps for desktop and mobile, with expanded browser support to rollout in the next month.
The state of play
Other notable “PowerPoint-killers” already on the market include heavily funded Hungarian startup Prezi, which has built a solid reputation over the past decade for its slick platform that uses a “zoomable” canvas on which you can plot all the different components of a presentation.
Elsewhere, Seattle-based Haiku Deck launched an AI-powered presentation tool called Zuru a few years back. However, Zuru requires you to upload an existing presentation file from PowerPoint or a draft outline, which it then transforms into something much prettier.
Beautiful.ai raised a $5.3 million series A round back in 2016 from First Round Capital and Shasta Ventures. The software is now available for everyone to use for free until June, 2018, after which the company will introduce tiered pricing for individuals and companies.