Artificial intelligence is a game changer and will continue to influence how we do things. San Francisco-based Beautiful.AI, a first-of-its-kind tool that applies artificial intelligence to automate the design process, has just released new product features to help SMBs create modern, clean and professionally designed slides in minutes. New features include: animation, audio, auto-advance, Easy come, easy go (back) and Revision History. We had a chance to interview Mitch and asked about his story, how he started his business and the future of Beautiful AI.
Tell us your story. Why did you start your business?
I’m Mitch Grasso and I am the CEO and founder of Beautiful.AI. I have more than 20 years of entrepreneurial experience building and leading design-orientated technology companies from early stage ideation to market leadership. In addition to acting as CEO and founder, I’ve also worked as an art director and a programmer.
My last startup, SlideRocket, was the first presentation tool to take advantage of all the cool things that you can do by moving workplace 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 those were the people struggling to create great presentations. After I sold SlideRocket to VMware in 2011, I took some time off and then started thinking about how I could make something better so anyone – not just designers – could create beautiful presentations quickly and easily. I built Beautiful.AI by taking my design skills and programming experience to create opinionated software that actually understands the rules of great design and leverages AI. By constraining users, we actually help them create a presentation that looks beautiful, communicates their message and takes less time and effort than ever before. In the end, they can spend their time on telling their story, communicating an idea, making a pitch – and not lining up bullets and struggling with formatting.
How did you come up with your business name?
Beautiful is all about bringing great design into the workplace so it practically named itself.
Tell us about your products and services. How do you help clients?
Beautiful.AI is democratizing design in the workplace by using artificial intelligence to help people build stunningly visual documents. Its presentation tool brings great design to all with AI-powered expert systems that automate design and layout. Beautiful.AI frees users to focus on their ideas and stories instead of worrying about aesthetics, formatting or design, enabling them to create stunning professional-looking presentations with ease.
For us, AI is about creating software that is itself the expert so the user doesn’t have to be – more so than the technologies used. Beautiful.AI’s software transforms the intent of what people want to communicate into a beautiful visual representation with the absolute minimum effort. Freeing the user from having to start with a blank canvas by suggesting dozens of different ways they can communicate any given message 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.
While we only launched the product a few months ago, traction has already exceeded expectations. We have tens of thousands of active users creating presentations and many more people viewing those presentations. However, the most gratifying part so far has been the emails and comments we get everyday exclaiming how excited people are by what we are building and what it can do for them. There is a tangible demand to alleviate the challenges and frustrations of creating presentations.
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
Presentations are the most ubiquitous medium today for visual communication both in and out of the workplace. Millions of people from students to CEOs create presentations everyday. But the vast majority of them don’t have the skill, time or resources to spend hours figuring out how to best visualize their slides and so they fall back on the path of least resistance – itemizing their ideas as bullet points.
Beautiful.AI is unique in that its artificial intelligence-powered software designs the presentation slides for users, alleviating the need to for them come up with the visualization themselves. While this may not be “sexy AI” that powers robots or self-driving cars, Beautiful.AI knows the rules of great design and applies heuristic techniques to layout and design desired messages into beautiful slides. Users can focus on the story they want to tell, instead of trying to figure out how to make good looking visuals.
Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years?
We’re starting with presentations because they’re fertile ground for improvement. For now, we are focused on making Beautiful.AI as great as it can be to meet the needs of our “fan base”– exploring and building new features. But the idea of truly of democratizing design has applications to many different mediums. We’ll be sure to let you know when we are ready to announce anything new.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
The early stages of starting a business feel like a giant rush with a million more things to do than bodies to do them. Ironically though, this is the time when you have one of your biggest advantages over established competitors because you have so much more flexibility by having no revenue and zero customers. Instead of rushing to get an MVP out the door, use this time to iterate, challenge your assumptions, and get your plan, product, business on a great track from the start. It only gets harder and harder to adapt and change once you start gaining traction.
What have been some of your achievements that you are most proud of? Why?
In my business life, I’m most proud of the impact my products have had on people’s productivity. There is nothing better than hearing feedback from users when they are able to create things that they’d ever be capable of in such a short amount of time.