Azure, Hummer Winblad back PowerPoint rival

Venture capitalists spend an inordinate portion of their working lives viewing PowerPoint presentations. But last week two firms made clear they believe there’s a better way.

On Tuesday, Azure Capital announced it is leading a $5 million Series B round for SlideRocket, developer of an online tool for making presentations that competes with Microsoft’s industry-dominating offering. The round, which was joined by Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, brings the San Francisco-based company’s total funding to $11.7 million.

Azure Capital General Partner Ray Carey, who will join SlideRocket’s board, says he was drawn to the company’s vision for transforming the traditionally static, desktop-generated presentation into a more accessible online format.

As someone who spends a “vast” amount of time watching PowerPoints from entrepreneurs seeking funding or at board meetings, Carey says, “I just want presentations to do more.” That includes enabling collaboration between viewer and presenter, securely sharing the content, and collecting analytics on how viewers are interacting with the presentation.

SlideRocket, which sells its presentation application through a monthly or annual subscription, is joining a competitive space. In the last couple of years, venture firms have invested in several startups developing presentation tools.

The startups in the sector include SlideShare, a service for sharing PowerPoint presentations online that raised $3 million from Venrock Associates and other investors in May 2008; Freepath, a Folsom, Calif.-based developer of a rich media presentation-building application that raised $1.5 million from Velocity Partners a few months earlier; and Accordent Technologies, a presentation software company that raised $4 million from TVC Capital in 2006.

Additionally, large cap technology companies are investing in their own would-be PowerPoint killers, with offerings such as Apple’s Keynote and the free office software application Google Presentations.

Then of course, there’s PowerPoint itself.

“Microsoft is really kind of the gorilla in the room, and we feel fortunate in the sense that they are really beholden to making that upfront long-term sale of Powerpoint,” says Chuck Dietrich, CEO of SlideRocket. “It’s always been difficult for a company that sells and upfront, one-time fee service to try to switch to a subscription based model.” —Joanna Glasner