You would expect the co-founder of a startup that improves on traditional slide presentations to hate tools like PowerPoint. But that’s not the case with Mayuresh Patole, the CEO of Chronicle. He says he loved PowerPoint and before becoming a founder, spent 10 years building presentations, including stints teaching university students how to make engaging ones, and then at his first job at a consultant at BCG. But he found that creating good presentations took hours of work and was especially difficult for people without a visual design background.
Sydney- and San Francisco-based Chronicle was born as a result. Co-founded with Tejas Gawande, the startup’s goal is to make building attention-grabbing presentations as easy as dragging and dropping interactive, pre-designed blocks. The experience is meant to be as simple as arranging widgets on an iPhone, and the founders say decks can be created in just eight minutes.
As expected, Patole and Gawande used Chronicle to build their pitch deck for fundraising. The two-year-old startup announced today it has raised $7.5 million in seed funding from Accel and Square Peg, along with angel investors from Apple, Google, Meta, Slack, Stripe, Superhuman, OnDeck and Adobe.
Chronicle was created to solve two main problems. The first is that creating slides is time consuming because many presentation tools expect users to be visual designers, and most are not. The second is that the results are usually unappealing and static. Patole and Gawande cite research that shows people stop paying attention to presentations after 10 minutes, unless there’s something else that captures their attention, like videos, props, demos or being asked questions.
Chronicle’s typical users are people who have already stopped using traditional slide tools and moved on to Notion or Figjam. But Patole and Gawande say those tools weren’t created for effective storytelling.
Patole told TechCrunch that the way people consume information has changed a lot over the last decade. “The behavior is dominated by these fleeting sort of experiences, bite-sized consumption formats that people are more used to. Most users read complex information on social media. So slides essentially were an outdated formation.”
But it’s challenging to create presentations for people with short attention spans and “extremely, extremely easy to end up with bad ones,” he added. Patole enjoyed using PowerPoint because he has an interest in visual design, but many people tasked with creating presentations don’t.
“The reality is, PowerPoint essentially forces you to be a designer. You start with a blank canvas, drawing shapes and text to end up with your output. But that’s now how everyone works,” he said, adding “What people actually need is not those raw material choices of design, like fonts and colors and space.”
Patole and Gawande walked me through how Chronicle works. The main way it differentiates from other presentation tools is pre-designed blocks, which users can drag-and-drop. The blocks are interactive—for example, users can add a photo, animation or link to pack more information into one. Users can also paste links of all the different information they want to show and Chronicle will automatically package that information into an attractive format. Chronicle is integrated with more than 100 apps, including Twitter, Notion, Slack and Figma, which makes it easier to add info from them into blocks.
“I think the mission we are on is to really design the right format for today’s consumption,” Patole said. “If we start from a blank slate and really ask ourselves what’s the best format for users today in the context of remote work and the fact that workplaces have Gen Z and millennials. The answer is a format that is a lot more bite-sized, reduces consumption times and is interactive.”
Chronicle is currently in closed beta, working with about 200 pilot users on a first version focused on founders’ pitch decks. It plans to expand to other use cases soon, like sales decks, product sharebacks, investor and board updates, organization documentation, business strategy and reports and all hands.
Chronicle’s founders sort its competitors into four categories. The first are traditional slide tools, like Google Slides, PowerPoint and KeyNote. The second are design tools like Canva and Pitch. The third is productivity tools like Notion, Figjam and Miro that weren’t created for storytelling, but are used because of their convenience. Finally, Chronicle is also up against newer presentation tools like Prezi, Tome and Gamma.
The founders say Chronicle’s key differentiation is its creation process, since its pre-built, drag-and-drop blocks mean users no longer have to spend a lot of time formatting shapes and texts. It’s also designed for storytelling, with a “bite sized” and mobile-first format that allows for remote and asynchronous collaboration.
Chronicle is still pre-revenue, but it will monetize through a subscription-based model. Tiers include free plans for individual users who want to test out the software, a team plan for $10 to $20 a month that will include collaboration and sharing and a tailored enterprise plan with features like customized branding and company specific blocks.
In a prepared statement about the funding, Square Peg founder Paul Basset said, “It is rare to find a founder who has such a special connection with the problem. Mayuresh is absolutely obsessed and uniquely skilled to craft a new storytelling medium. When he showed us what he means by a ‘new format’ it was immediately clear that the opportunity is huge and they are thinking about this very differently.”