I had a briefing yesterday with SlideRocket, the company that “provides premium communication tools through innovative and compelling software-as-a-service to let you present the right message, to the right audience, at the right time. SlideRocket gives everyone the power to make great presentations, communicate effectively with colleagues, impress customers and captivate audiences.” I spoke to them partly because I have a good relationship with their PR agent (which is proof that while I’m dubious about PR I can sometimes be swayed – startups looking for PR help from someone who “gets” SaaS could do worse than have a chat with NectarPR) but also because they’re naturally proud to announce today that they’ve secured $5 million worth of Series B funding as well as the appointment of a new CEO.
I spoke with new CEO Chuck Dietrich, a salesforce.com alumnus who has taken on the challenge of building a SaaS vendor of (at first view) a very different flavor. An interesting discussion with Dietrich however led me to believe there are some real commonalities between the SlideRocket journey and the salesforce one. In terms of what the new funding round will achieve, Dietrich flagged a ramping up of R&D expenditure and an increased focus on the clarity of the messaging they use – more on that later.
Anyway – first things first, the series B funding was led by Azure Capital Partners and Hummer Winblad is in there as well – so some big VC names are backing the SlideRocket journey. Dietrich’s history meanwhile is interesting, he was most recently General Manager & Vice President, of the division that mobilizes Salesforce CRM, custom, and Force.com applications as well as that he’s held a variety of roles including building salesforce.com’s consulting, marketing and product alliances programs as well as building out foreign distribution.
When I started talking with Dietrich I was a little dubious – “power users” of presentation software tend to use either PowerPoint or Keynote, while those who want a light weight offering will make do with either Zoho (disclosure – Zoho is sole sponsor of CloudAve) or Google show. SlideRocket seems to sit in the middle and could be poised to be the meat in the proverbial sandwich.
Dietrich articulated a vision for SlideRocket however that, while not messaged at all well on their site, resonates for me. His vision is one that touches me recurring themes of aggregation, integration and collaboration. He gave two interesting examples;
Stealing the SharePoint Thunder
Dietrich was positive of the value to a large organization that having centralized presentations brings – he gave the example of a organization with 200 sales people using common presentations. The ability to deploy updated presentations and have them immediately used across the salesforce is a powerful one – I’d have to say that it’s not a killer proposition, given the number of people providing this sort of asset management functionality (from SharePoint, through Google docs, Zoho and box.net)
SlideRocket as the trigger for discrete, but connected, processes
This kind of got me excited. Dietrich used the example of a sales presentation that included a slide detailing a particular widget the organization markets. A couple of things can happen from there, SlideRocket can provide analytics that indicates which slides individual viewers spend most time viewing – from there it can automate a campaign through, for example, salesforce that will provide an organization with a targeted campaign delivered to semi-qualified customers.
The second scenario, and one which really excited me, was where a viewer of a slide could forward it to his/her friends. SlideRocket could then automatically create a targeted email campaign, leveraging the power of the network to deliver highly targeted and, hopefully, “in-tune” messages to the viewing public. Of course none of this discusses the privacy concerns around this sort of data aggregation – that’s a post for another day though.
SlideRocket as an ecosystem play
SlideRocket are doing interesting things around creating a marketplace for services delivered around the core SlideRocket offering. The example Dietrich gave was providing a location where designers who embrace the SlideRocket offering can sell their services to SlideRocket customers who want to create super-compelling presentations. ANother angle is a marketplace for images and videos and the like. Again I see a real opportunity here – it’s about aggregating a software offering, integrating it with other offerings and wrapping that all up with a services component for users who want/need it.
I went into the briefing dubious about SlideRocket’s chances but left feeling much more positive about what they’re doing. They need to work on their messaging, ensuring that it’s easy for users to understand the core proposition, but that aside I like what they’re doing.