Tech

The guy who sold Wunderlist to Microsoft is now working on a PowerPoint competitor with funding from Instagram's co-founders

Key Points
  • Pitch now has $50 million in venture capital funding.
  • The presentation app has users at video conferencing app company Zoom and other firms.
Wunderlist founder Christian Reber hopes to take on Microsoft PowerPoint with his presentation app, Pitch.

Christian Reber knows all about the gaps in Microsoft's productivity apps.

In 2015, Microsoft bought his to-do list app, Wunderlist, for a price reportedly north of $100 million as part of a renewed push into mobile productivity apps. Microsoft drew inspiration from Reber's work to build its own mobile To Do app, and gradually sidelined Wunderlist — to the point where Reber recently offered to buy it back to save it.

Now he's enlisted investors to help him take on one of Microsoft's more prominent products: PowerPoint.

Microsoft's program for building and making presentations has been a fixture of the Office bundle for three decades. Office products and cloud services give Microsoft a quarter of its revenue. People have long sought to dethrone PowerPoint, but it's hard taking on a product that's so ubiquitous.

Reber is trying anyway. He's founded a new start-up called Pitch along with Jan Martin, Charlette Prévot, Eric Labod, Adam Renklint and others who worked with him on Wunderlist.

"Me and my co-founders talked about it, and immediately felt that we knew exactly what kind of product we would have to build to be able to compete with the giants in this space," he wrote in an email to CNBC this week. "Like with Wunderlist, Pitch is a product that we wanted to have for ourselves, so we didn't think about it too much and started working on it instead."

At Microsoft, Reber learned about how widely installed the PowerPoint software is — and how few presentations are made with the tool. Then he started thinking about the problems facing PowerPoint.

"Broken fonts, compatibility issues, lack of versioning, no collaboration support... The list was long," Reber wrote. "And the biggest thing I've noticed is that people really struggled with designing good slides. They spend an enormous amount with moving boxes around a slide, rather than focusing on the content and the story. Microsoft is struggling with a lot of legacy -- PowerPoint is now 32 years old, so it's a quite a beast to maintain."

Pitch includes version history so users can look through past changes and revert to previous versions. It will organize content on slides intelligently and let users work within the constraints of their employers' brand guidelines. The service, which is accessible online, integrates with external services like Slack and Microsoft Excel. And it will be possible to take a slide presentation made in a different service and work on it in Pitch.

People at Intercom, Superhuman, Zoom and other companies are using Pitch, Reber wrote. Over the next few months Pitch will start providing beta access to the service for people who signed up for access on the start-up's website. The service will launch for everyone in 2020.

The company kicked off in early 2018 and is based in Berlin. Its $30 million in new funding comes from Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger -- co-founders of Instagram, who sold their app to Facebook for $1 billion when their company had about a dozen employees -- Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra and Thrive Capital, among other investors. Overall, Pitch has raised $50 million.

It's not as if Reber's company is alone in challenging PowerPoint. Google Slides is available to Google account holders and paying G Suite business customers, and Apple offers Keynote. Last year Salesforce's Quip division introduced a presentation app. There are also smaller companies with presentation software, including Beautiful.ai, Prezi and Zoho.

Nonetheless, Reber built the product he wanted to use, and he believes others will follow.

"We've built an experience that enables teams to create, view and share great presentations faster and easier than ever before," Reber wrote. "And we made it fun."

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