Many people think PowerPoint is a reason for a nap. But an Internet start-up that helps people share slideshows online has got the attention of several prominent Silicon Valley investors.
On Thursday, San Francisco-based SlideShare will announce that it has landed a $3 million series A investment from venture capitalist Venrock and individuals including Broadcast.com founder Mark Cuban, Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams and David McClure of 500 Hats. Venrock general partner David Siminoff, an early investor in Yahoo and eBay, will join the company's board.
The company's advisory board also includes Hal Varian, who's chief economist at Google, Garage Technology Ventures managing director Guy Kawasaki, and Saul Klein, founding partner of The Accelerator Group.
So why the interest in slideshows? Since its launch in October 2006, SlideShare has turned into a kind of YouTube for PowerPoint junkies, albeit in a much smaller way. Using the site, people can share their text-and-image presentations, tag their favorites, or respond to another person's slideshow with their own creation. People can also create a mash-up of music tracks and PowerPoint. (People can upload slideshows using Microsoft PowerPoint, Open Office or the PDF format). In the last year, as many as 400,000 registered users have added 300,000 slideshows to the site, according to Rashmi Sinha, CEO and cofounder of Slideshare.
Still, one of the site's most popular slideshows is called "Death by PowerPoint (and how to fight it)," with more than 350,000 views. "Lots of people are killing each other with bad presentations now," according to the 61-page document.
Sinha said that critics of PowerPoint are a loud few, but the format is so common that many people can express themselves easily with a slideshow.
"It's a medium that has been abused a lot. But people have learned that it's a simple, linear storytelling format. And navigation is under your control," Sinha said.
The company plans to use the $3 million to expand its team of 10 people in San Francisco and further develop its product, according to Sinha. One direction, she said, is to create more categories of slideshows in areas like technology and social media. At the moment, SlideShare makes money through Google ads, but eventually the company plans to collect fees from directing sales to third parties through the use of slideshows.
"Right now, we're focused on the growth stage," she said.