Jacob Beckerman, a former investment logic engineer at Bridgewater Associates, grew frustrated using standard document apps like Acrobat and Microsoft Office to print out and mark up documents. He wondered why there wasn’t a way to read and write on a PC that felt as fluid as paper, which led him to experiment with PDF processing software.
By 2020, those experiments had grown into a fully fledged, custom PDF editor that Beckerman helped to build from scratch. Using AI, the editor — called Macro — pulls out key terms, sections and equations to make documents interactive and hyperlinked.
The vision intrigued investors, it seems. Macro — the eponymous startup behind the tool, founded by Beckerman — has raised $9.3 million in a seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from Craft, BoxGroup and 3kVC. The capital infusion comes as Macro prepares to release a word-processing tool and grow the size of its eight-person workforce.
“We believe that there’s a significant amount of room for improvement in open source formats like PDF, DOCX, PPTX, XLSX and email,” Beckerman told TechCrunch in an email interview. “The nice thing about these formats is that they’re standards. Nobody owns them. And they’re extensible, which means you can actually modify and build on the standard. So instead of writing proprietary formats from scratch, and instead of ignoring the network effects these formats already have, we’re extending and building on top.”
To that end, Macro’s PDF editor — which is available for free alongside a $49 per user, per month plan for additional features and an enterprise tier for volume licensing — lets users click on any cross-reference in a document to get an instant preview. Hyperlinks to pages and sections are inserted via an AI-powered detector if the underlying PDF doesn’t contain them, while web browser–like tabs provide a more flexible way to navigate between pages.
In Macro, documents can link between — as well as within — files. Moreover, the software can compare files, consolidate edits from multiple Word and PDF files into a single version, generate files from templates, and create one or many PDF documents at a time from a spreadsheet. Other features of note include a filterable side panel of potential detected errors in a PDF and a table of contents generator.
“We’re focused on power users of productivity apps. Finance runs on XLSX. Law runs on DOCX and PDF. Sales, compliance and more run on PDF. Everything runs on email,” Beckerman said. “We’re particularly excited about how we’ve made documents dynamic and interactive (within DOCX and PDF) and next, we’re focused on making external comms more like chat (fun, fast and more informal) while maintaining backwards compatibility with email.”
Of course, Macro isn’t the first to try to shake up the PDF space. And it’s no wonder, really, given the opportunity. According to one source, PDF is the third-most popular file format on the web — more popular than JPEG, PNG or GIF files even. Research and Markets estimates that the market for PDF editor software will be worth $3.79 billion by 2027.
One of the bigger players is PSPDFKit, which provides APIs and a software developer kit that customers can use to power document processing features like e-signing, document viewing and editing and collaboration. Another is Nitro, which allows users to create, convert, edit and sign PDFs within their browsers.
A point in Macro’s favor is enthusiastic early adopters, Beckerman averred. He claims that the startup is currently working with “many” of the top Wall Street investment banks, Am Law 100 and Magic Circle law firms, university endowments, private equity firms and hedge funds. And while he wouldn’t reveal the size of Macro’s customer base — or even give a ballpark revenue estimate — Beckerman said that current economic pressures are working to Macro’s advantage.
“We serve several banks and law firms that operate in counter-cyclical industries like restructuring and distressed investing, which is picking up in the current economic climate,” Beckerman said. “Little did we know, our quest to upgrade the PDF experience was only the beginning of a much bigger mission. As we start to serve … organizations, we’re constantly surprised by how many document problems were still left to solve. Managing versions, information chaos and busywork still plague most workstreams — we’re excited to solve these problems for our end users and enterprise clients.”
Macro’s focus in the coming year will be the aforementioned word-processing tool, followed by an “inter-company communication” tool, Beckerman said. “We’re interested in tailor-made solutions for different verticals,” he added. “We think horizontal tools have a natural scale advantage, but it’s important to understand how different teams will use the software to get different jobs done.”