Mayuresh Patole and Tejas Gawande are on a mission. The founders of Chronicle, which is today announcing a $7.5 million seed funding round, believe the world needs a new way to tell stories. “We are in an epidemic of bad information design,” says Patole. “The tools we currently use to create presentations just make it far too easy to make bad ones.”
The way people approach presentations – from students delivering class projects to huge enterprises publishing critical business information – is rooted in the analogue world, Chronicle argues. “The slide format was created in the 1980s with the advent of the overhead projector,” says Gawande. “Now, 40 years later, the way we work has completely transformed but our presentation tools are still stuck with the same concept.”
Chronicle has therefore developed something different. Its tools help users to create presentations using “blocks” – pre-designed elements that can simply be dropped in and moved around, much like you move the apps on your iPhone screen. The aim is to provide a multitude of new and interesting ways to present information – and to make it easy for users to take advantage of this functionality.
Chronicle-enabled presentations are also far more interactive, enabling consumers to zoom in and out of each area, rather than proceeding through in a completely linear fashion. “We want to enable everyone to create high-quality, inspiring presentations in a new format that is far more engaging and interactive,” says Patole. “Users shouldn’t have to face design challenges they don’t feel equipped for; using our pre-designed blocks they can concentrate on telling their story.”
It’s an aim that will resonate with those familiar with the idea of “death by Powerpoint”; in a world where Microsoft research suggests attention spans may have shrunk by as much as a third over the past two decades, audiences simply no longer have the appetite for lengthy one-dimensional presentations. Some studies suggest 10 minutes of information in its current form is as much as most people can manage to stay focused for.
“I’ve actually got nothing against tools such as Powerpoint,” says Patole. “It’s just that you need to do a lot of work to use tools like it really well; we need to get to a point where users can create visually stunning stories in seconds or minutes, rather than hours.”
Naturally, the proof is in the pudding. Chronicle hopes it has created a new way to build presentations with an intuitive feel that will support adoption. But the founders are realistic that when people have been doing something the same way for so long, persuading them to do it differently will be challenging. “It will take time to change people’s behaviours,” says Gawande. “But we want Chronicle to be the tool of choice for any presentation use case.”
The company’s backers clearly believe Chronicle can follow through on that ambition. Today’s funding round is led by Accel and Square Peg, and supported by a number of business angels from roles at leading technology firms including Apple, Google, Meta, Slack, Stripe, Superhuman, OnDeck, and Adobe.
Shekhar Kirani, a partner at Accel, thinks Chronicle has the determination and imagination to deliver. “Chronicle is re-imagining storytelling,” he says. “The team is obsessed with fixing the problem and making the experience of crafting impactful stories not just bearable but joyful.”
It’s a view echoed by Paul Bassat, founder at Square Peg, who points to Patole’s long-held obsession with developing better presentations. Patole’s interest in the theme began at university, where he spent hours helping fellow students to build their presentations, and has continued through a series of consultancy roles in which he was continually bombarded with poor-quality decks, and dedicated to creating better ones.
“It is rare to find a founder who has such a special connection with the problem,” says Bassat. “Mayuresh is absolutely obsessed and uniquely skilled to craft a new storytelling medium. When he showed us what he means by a new format, it was immediately clear that the opportunity is huge and they are thinking about this very differently.”
Still, the company is some way off commercialising its innovation. It’s currently in a closed beta phase, testing and refining the product with a handful of key clients, with the company’s new financing providing the means with which to build out and accelerate development.
Eventually, the founders envisage moving to a fremium model. Users such as students would access a limited set of tools for free, with larger organisations paying a monthly subscription to use the full range of Chronicle’s functionality. “This is ultimately going to be an enterprise solution,” says Gawande.
Chronicle itself offers evidence of the impact that better story-telling can have – its pitch deck to investors was built using its own tools, helping to convince them to back the company. But the challenge has only just begun; now the company must persuade everyone else to ditch the same old slide decks in favour of a new approach.