Interview with Motti Nasani
We interviewed Motti Nasani, CEO of VisualBee.com, to learn more about the thought process behind the program.
So Motti, tell us a bit about your background.
Overall I had 18 years’ experience in the technology industry when I co-founded VisualBee three years ago. I was previously VP for Business Development for a company called Nice Systems Ltd, which meant a lot of travelling round, preparing my own presentations and presenting face-to-face.
What prompted the creation of VisualBee?
It started with frustration – my frustration. I found myself spending a huge amount of time building the presentation and looking on Google for the right images, because I believe the best presentations are those that are customized for the opportunity. I had standard slides, and I could customize the text and messages in about 10 or 15 minutes, but would then be spending at least half an hour on each slide just trying to make it look good. I came across a lot of people who were experiencing the same thing; spending less time crafting the essential content than on the design. So I thought, why couldn’t a piece of software do this part for me?
What was VisualBee really designed to achieve? What was the ultimate aim?
If you want a professional-looking presentation you probably have to go to a graphic designer, either in-house or from an outside agency. It still takes time, and can cost a lot of money. We thought we could produce a really cost-effective and user-friendly piece of software that approached the level of design you’d get from a real human designer, but without the waiting and the expense. We also wanted to keep it all within PowerPoint. There are lots of companies that have the capability to make presentations better, but they tend to do it by forcing the user to abandon PowerPoint and work on other platforms. Our philosophy has always been to let people continue to use the software they’re familiar with, but still allow them to create really professional-looking presentations.
What were the challenges when it came to creating VisualBee?
We spent about 2 and a half years developing the software and there are two main technologies we had to work on. The first is the text analysis engine (that recognizes text and pairs it with layouts and images from the database). We didn’t invent text analysis, but we took well-known algorithms that were used for large blocks of text (like essays and articles) and adapted them to handle short bullet points and recognize text positioning within the slide.
The second, which proved much harder to develop, is object analysis. A presentation is a very chaotic system – the variations of input that can come into VisualBee are essentially limitless. Object analysis has to recognize images, shapes, text boxes and everything else that could be on the slide, in any combination and position, so that the software can rearrange them into the most attractive layout. We started by testing the software engine with very simple layouts, and gradually fed it more and more complicated presentations over a period of about 8 months, fine-tuning it as we went. This is an ongoing process and it’s how we continue to improve and develop the program.
What are you particularly proud of about the software?
I’m very proud and very happy when I get feedback from users and see that VisualBee is helping so many people with their work and their careers. The other day I was passing through an education centre and I could see one of the teachers in a class using one of our templates – that kind of thing makes me realise how we’re able to reach people and save them time and effort. People tell me it’s making their lives easier and that’s very rewarding. It’s also why we decided to go with a ‘freemium’ model, so that we can reach as many people as possible and help them get professional-looking results, especially those who can’t pay for a professional design agency.
What’s on the horizon for VisualBee in terms of development?
There are two ongoing development strategies – first to continually refine the engine to try and understand more and more complex slides, and secondly to keep updating the content database with new templates, styles and images so that there is more choice. We’re also starting to work with partners to develop and roll out custom graphics libraries at enterprise level. Employees could use a customized VisualBee that contains logos, templates and images that are preapproved by their Marcomms department, so that everyone in the company can easily create presentations with the right look and feel and within the corporate guidelines.
Finally, what’s with the Bee?
Well, when we started up, we wanted to call the company BeVisual, but the domain name was already taken! So we switched it round to VisualBe, and then someone in the company suggested we add another ‘e’ to the end, which would then give us an avatar and the start of a graphic identity. So that’s where the bee came from!
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We were delighted at the reaction we saw from prospects. To have a group of potential clients comment hugely positively on the difference between our presentation and the competition’s proved that a well designed and delivered presentation really is the difference between winning or losing a pitch.