Mitch Grasso is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience building and leading design-orientated technology companies from early stage ideation to market leadership. The consummate problem solver, he has spent the bulk of his career building tools in his sweet spot– the intersection of design, technology, and productivity. He is currently CEO of Beautiful.AI, a Shasta Ventures, First Round Capital, and Trinity Ventures-backed company that aims to democratize design using artificial intelligence to help people build visually stunning documents. Prior to Beautiful.AI, Mitch founded SlideRocket, a cloud-based presentation productivity software focused on team collaboration, analytics, and multimedia content authoring.
In this conversation, Mitch talks about Beautiful.AI.
Geetesh: How was Beautiful.AI born? What motivated you to create a platform for presentations that is faster, and better looking?
Mitch: My last startup, SlideRocket, was the first presentation tool to take advantage of all the cool things that you can do by moving productivity to the cloud – collaboration, sharing, analytics, integrations. But at its heart, it was still an authoring tool – just like PowerPoint or Keynote, you dragged boxes around, picked fonts and colors, and ultimately made every design decision yourself. You could make great-looking presentations if you had the time and design skills but most people don’t and were still struggling with creating great presentations. After I sold SlideRocket to VMware in 2011, I started thinking about how I could make something better. How could I make it so anyone – not just designer – could create beautiful presentations quickly and easily?
And so I built Beautiful.AI by taking my own experience and skill as a designer to create opinionated software that actually understands the rules and best practices of presentation design and constraints users to ensure what they create looks great and communicates effectively. The biggest challenge was finding the balance between making it really easy to use but still flexible enough that you could communicate your ideas.
The great part is that not only do you end up with a presentation that is probably better-looking than what you might be able to create yourself, but that actually takes far less time and effort too. So you can spend your time on what you know best – telling your story, communicating your idea, making your pitch – and not worrying about how it looks or how to best visualize your ideas.
Geetesh: What does the AI in Beautiful.AI represent? Can you really predict what presenters may need before they know about it?
Mitch: It’s not about predicting what people need, but instead interpreting the intent behind what they are trying to communicate and transforming that into a beautiful visual representation with the absolute minimum effort. We’ve seen that freeing the user from having to start with a blank canvas, by suggesting dozens of different ways they can communicate any given message, actually results in much more visually interesting and diverse presentations because it’s no longer the case that bullet points are the path of least resistance. Then Beautiful.AI’s expert systems can use heuristic techniques to best layout and design your message into a beautiful slide.