A Q&A with PointDrive founder and CEO Bill Burnett. The Chicago-based startup, which turns emails and attachments into analytics-enabled presentations, launched on the DEMO Fall 2013 stage a few weeks ago. It was founded earlier this year, and to this point has raised funding from Angel investors, friends, and family.
SUB: Please describe PointDrive and your primary value proposition.
Burnett: PointDrive is a web-based application that addresses the presentation and feedback limitations of email. It’s designed for sales-minded professionals, and allows you to drop in all types of content—proposals, supporting images, links to web assets, videos—and add in your commentary and profile information in one flowing presentation that then provides you feedback on when your customer views and shares your content. It’s as easy as email, but a totally new ballgame in terms of presentation value and analytics.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Burnett: We’re focused on what we’re calling ‘sales-minded professionals.’ To us, this is a very broad market because the truth is, most of us are selling something, and we all want to look good and know how our content is being received. So, in addition to traditional sales professionals, we’re seeing interest from entrepreneurs pitching investors, photographers sharing their work, students sending resumes and portfolios, PR professionals sharing clips and press kits, and all types of small business owners.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates PointDrive from the competition?
Burnett: From a product standpoint, we see our closest competition to be presentation tools like Prezi and SlideShare. But we’re not a tool to help you create one presentation that you share with many people. Our tool is one that allows you to use existing materials of all types, and turn that into a very polished and personalized presentation for one-to-one email communication. Our biggest competition is habit. People are used to doing what we do in emails with attachments. But email doesn’t differentiate between a very important message for a client or prospect that’s meant to close a sale or persuade, and something that’s just a quick message to a colleague. And, most importantly, it doesn’t deliver any feedback after you hit send.
SUB: You just launched publicly at the DEMO Fall show. Why was this a preferred venue for your launch?
Burnett: DEMO has a long history of launching great tech companies. The timing worked out well with our development schedule, and we knew it would be a chance to get in front of a host of media, investors, and other influencers all at one time. The process of preparing for our four minute pitch helped us to craft a powerful—and concise—demonstration of our product that we’re using with everyone now. Additionally for us, the key attendees at DEMO—entrepreneurs—are one of our key audiences, and we knew that we would find tons of power users of PointDrive at the event.
SUB: How would you describe the experience of launching on the DEMO stage?
Burnett: Overall, it was a fantastic experience. Walking out on that stage and getting started was by far the hardest part. We had practiced so much that after I got into the story and demonstration, I was able to put it on autopilot to an extent. Afterwards, with that sense of relief and accomplishment, we couldn’t have felt better and, appropriately, headed straight for the lobby bar.
SUB: Now that you’ve launched, what are your next steps as a company?
Burnett: We have an aggressive roadmap of development to develop our ‘Pro’ version of PointDrive by the first of the year. This will include a much more robust analytics offering, enhanced integrations, as well as new sharing options. We’ve had a great response thus far, and are closely watching usage and feedback from customers to make sure we’re developing the features they most want and need.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for PointDrive? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Burnett: The idea was more gradual for us. We had experience with content-sharing tools for financial services and large marketing events companies, and from that we knew people wanted customer feedback and a better way to send content, and we knew that demand extended to a broad audience of professionals. But the beauty of PointDrive is much more in the ‘how’ than the ‘what,’ and figuring out how to do something elegantly and intelligently takes some time. From the start, we knew we needed a scalable tool that provided a better way to share content on all devices and platforms, and get actionable feedback from customers. How we ended up doing that was a work in progress over the past year, and will continue to evolve, but I think we’re on to something pretty great.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Burnett: In building PointDrive, one of the first steps we took was hiring Slalom Consulting to help guide the strategy and design of our solution. They have been an invaluable partner.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Burnett: The name is simple, easy to remember and spell, and denotes driving home your point.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding to this point?
Burnett: Yes, we have raised in the seven figures from Angel investors, family, and friends. We have closed our first round with this group and will look to open another round next year.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Burnett: I think the greatest challenge was getting the product out the door and live. We could work on it forever, so putting a stake in the ground as to what features and capabilities would be in the launch version and driving the team to get those perfected in time, while at the same time readying all our marketing initiatives, was a significant challenge. It’s important to have a hard deadline though and DEMO provided us that.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Burnett: Starting in January, 2014, we will begin charging for our Pro version at $10 per month, or $99 per year. We also have plans to launch a team version in Q1 of 2014.
SUB: What are your goals for PointDrive over the next year or so?
Burnett: Our short-term goals are to launch both the paid Pro version for the individual, as well as the team version, early in 2014. From there, we plan on extending into the enterprise where we see great potential.
PointDrive – www.pointdrive.com