A few years ago I spent time in prison with Trevor O’Brien, the founder of Projector. Yes, I always imagined announcing the company that way. We were of course there to work with incarcerated men on developing entrepreneurial skills on behalf of Defy Ventures. We had met previously when Trevor was a product manager at YouTube and Upfront had funded the largest video producer on YouTube, Maker Studios.
When we got out of prison Trevor began describing the startup he and his co-founder, Jeremy Gordon, wanted to build. They had worked together as senior product manager and senior engineering leads at Twitter and identified a problem they saw in visual communication of information. They teamed up to solve this problem and when I heard about their approach it completely resonated with me. Upfront immediately wrote a check to back this vision and we later teamed up with their former colleague from Twitter turned VC, Rishi Garg of Mayfield and we’ve stayed quiet on what we were up to.
The vision is Projector, announced today on TechCrunch — you can sign up if you want to try the service. The mission for the company is to to help people communicate clearly and memorably using visual information. Initially that means a creative, collaborative toolset for visual communications, allowing users to develop really compelling slides, print materials or social media posts that are more visually compelling and easier-to-build for those who aren’t naturally gifted as visual story tellers. Over time we will roll out features the help you to understand the full vision of where we will take visual collaboration.
Why does this resonate so much with me?
I believe that the fundamental nature of getting buy-in from organizations to make complex decisions involves visual storytelling. This is certainly true in how startups raise money from VCs. It is true in how founders share progress and issues with boards. It is how sales reps talk to prospects about their products & services to try and gain buy-in for a sale. And it is true in how speakers stand in front of audiences and take them on a journey to buy into a vision of the speaker.
We know that good visual storytelling can be persuasive and we know that it is also important to retaining key information after a presentation has been completed or a report has been shared.
Yet as somebody who has to read and write decks as a major portion of his job I can tell you that most people struggle with how to tell stories visually and when I need to do it I am aware of how difficult the modern toolsets make it to do this alone, let alone collaboratively. Today, marketers and creative agencies have their work in Keynote/Powerpoint/Slides for presentations, inDesign for PDF reports, other Adobe products for other social media posts and video, iMovie and FinalCutPro for video. And most of these tools are created for designers and aren’t accessible for the wider group of marketers, sales people, agencies and speakers who are actually trying to tell stories.
Projector sets out to simplify this process greatly with one tool & interface for all your visual communication while making your output significantly better by baking great design into your work as you complete it.
What are some examples?
- You know when you want to grab an image off of the web and you can’t quite size it so that it fits in Keynote or Powerpoint? Yeah, this sucks. You stretch photos or you can’t tell which part of the photo will be included or not included.
- You want to take said photo and make it blurred or lightened so your words pop? You can do that in Keynote but good luck finding the feature buried in 5 clicks of obscurity.
- Take a photo and make images rounded as the photo at the bottom of this blog post is? A piece of cake in Projector.
- Think of time spent outlining presentations and swapping online and offline notes with co-authors before you even start building. Projector gives you dedicated space for real-time collaborative notes with colleagues on both logic and design, all in the same tool.
- We communicate with our friends and family using videos, Gifs, images, texts all in one app. Why don’t our work tools offer the same modern communication style? Projector lets you layer all types of media together.
- Want to preview your presentation on social media? Get ready to spend an hour building a whole new visual for the specific Instagram format — or use Projector to quickly resize and export.
I built a few presentations in Projector and began to forget that I was natively building in my browser because it became so seamless as though I had just fired up a local app.
We know that apps are fully moving to the cloud. Just as we use Google Docs for writing or AirTable for spreadsheets, the world finally has an amazing in-browser tool for visual presentations. We are launching the simple feature set version with perfection in the tasks one needs to complete most often and watch for a fast-follow as we layer on full collaboration and integration with other products you know and love. I can’t wait to see where this journey goes.
I hope you’ll give it a try and let us know what you think!