A Q&A with Present.me CEO Spencer Lambert. The London–based company was founded in Spring of 2011 and launched to the public earlier this month.
SUB: Please describe what Present.me is, and the value proposition you bring to online presentations and content.
Lambert: Present.me enables individuals and organizations to create and share presentations online, so that the viewer sees both content—slides, photos or document—and the presenter—via webcam or uploaded video—side-by-side, on-demand. Think YouTube meets Slideshare.
People talk about ‘sending a presentation,’ and then just send slides. But the slides are only half the story. We need to see and hear the presenter as well, and at the same time. The problem was editing together the content and the recorded video in a simple way; we have solved that problem. Present.me is the next best thing to being in a room with them and in one respect it is better—because it is on-demand it is at everyone’s convenience.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Lambert: Anyone who is sharing content. Whether communicating with customers or clients, pitching for business, updating a team, setting assignments for students or applying for a job, it can be used in countless situations where content would be more easily understood, and have greater impact, with the addition of a human face and voice.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Lambert: Companies like Slideshare and YouTube allow users to present content but, by mixing content and recorded video in the same place, Present.me stands apart. And where content and video is possible through video conferencing, Present.me offers a way for this to be available on-demand so that presentations are possible even when everyone can’t be online at the same time.
SUB: What differentiates Present.me from the competition?
Lambert: The advantage of Present.me is that it’s simple, it’s easy to use and it’s not just an application—it’s a platform for sharing your content. If you can talk and click a button at the same time, you can use Present.me. Further, ‘Presentmes’ can be viewed on your iPad, without an app, and coming soon on Android and iOS smartphones with an app, as well as on the desktop.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Lambert: We founded the company about a year ago, having worked on it part time as a side project for about a year. The first step once the idea had solidified was to find someone prepared to build a prototype. That in its self-proved to be difficult—most developers we spoke to said it hadn’t been done because it couldn’t be done. We found one very smart guy who said he’d give it a go, and it worked.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Present.me? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Lambert: It was a bit of both. I’d been working on the idea of taking my presentation design consultancy online, and had been looking for ways to promote it in the corporate environment. One idea we had was to run an online ‘Presentation of the Year’ competition, but there was no easy way of putting a presentation online. At the same time we were creating online presentations for clients, charging them a lot of money for doing it, and it was a pain in the neck. We knew we should build something, but whichever way we looked at it, it was always going to be less than ‘easy.’ Then one day Richard called me and just said the words ‘web cam,’ and that was it—the ‘aha’ moment. By the end of that day I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted it to look like and how it should work.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Lambert: Apart from the technical obstacles of building something that’s simple on the surface but complicated underneath, the biggest challenges are around time, money and people. We bootstrapped for the first year before going into beta, and that was tough, it really makes you focus on where you spend your hard earned pennies. With the arrival of investors, nothing really changed. We still watch every penny, and we still have a hundred ideas we’d like to build tomorrow, and we still don’t have enough people.
From a personal perspective, making the commitment from it being a part-time project into a full-time job was a big leap to take—going from a freelance career with enough money and work to keep me comfortable to taking a small salary and a full-time job was a challenge.
SUB: You just officially launched to the public. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Lambert: I’m not sure there’s ever a good time to launch. We had a few delays with development, so rather than keep on waiting for everything to be perfect, we asked ourselves three questions: Does it work? Is it awesome? If I launch without certain features, will the answer to questions one and two still be yes? We had three yeses so we took the plunge.
SUB: Do you plan to raise outside funding in the near future?
Lambert: Absolutely—we don’t need it yet, and one of our goals is to be cash flow positive as soon as possible, but we are ambitious, and we have some big plans that will require extra funding. Our challenge is to find the right source for that funding, be it VC, private equity—as they start to wake up to the maturing SaaS market—or wealthy individuals. Our growth and plans are rooted in building strategic relationships, so any investor that can open doors in the right places will be the one we go with.
SUB: What are your goals for Present.me over the next year or so?
Lambert: Our immediate goals are to launch the Android and iPhone apps, and launch the multi-user ‘Team’ version, aimed at SMBs and teams within the enterprise. Building user numbers and growing the amount of content on the platform are all key to our success.
Present.me – www.present.me