Now valued at $300 million while still pre-revenue, per a source, Tome says it’s the fastest productivity software maker to ever reach 1 million users since its September release.

IN a chat box below a black and otherwise blank canvas, Tome cofounder Henri Liriani types a request for a fundraising pitch for a telescope startup.

In less than a minute, Tome’s software unfurls the presentation he requested: eight slides organized by a table of contents, complete with intro text, business model and sales plan — even cyberpunk themed images, all generated by AI. It’s not a camera ready pitch deck, but it’s clearly a starting point for one. No sifting through templates, text boxes and image sizes in PowerPoint or Google Slides required.

“There’s a degree of randomness to the output that I think is actually fun,” Liriani says. “It’s an interesting way to think of this sort of tool as a thought partner.”

Liriani and CEO Keith Peiris, both former Meta managers, tinkered with Tome for two years, before launching a free beta test version in September and integrating AI models from OpenAI two months later. By early February, San Francisco-based Tome passed one million users, 134 days after launch. That would make Tome the fastest productivity tool to ever reach that milestone, the company believes, ahead of the likes of Dropbox, Slack and Zoom.

Now, Tome is looking to capitalize. The company has raised a fresh $43 million in a Series B funding round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and including a bevy of other investors including Coatue, Greylock, Stability.ai CEO Emad Mostaque and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The round values Tome at $300 million post-investment, up from $175 million at its 2021 Series A round, according to a source with knowledge of the raise – all without making a single dollar in sales.

“We set out to build a company that can help anyone tell a compelling story,” Peiris told Forbes in an interview. “Storytelling is the elementary building block of productivity for humanity, from cave drawings to stories around the fire to PowerPoint.”

Frustration with PowerPoint, the iconic slide presentation program first released by Microsoft in 1987, was part of of the inspiration for Tome, which developed out of pandemic lockdown brainstorming sessions between Peiris, Liriani and another ex-Meta product manager, Greylock’s Seth Rosenberg, in 2020. It, and Google Slides, didn’t work well on mobile, they believed; and including images of prototypes, customer data or other artifacts often meant sharing and embedding static screenshots. The development of large-language models like OpenAI’s GPT series, meanwhile, could do for pitch decks what it was doing for text prompts. Just like many Pixar films follow a similar hero’s journey, an AI tool scanning 10,000 pitch decks could learn their typical structures, too.

“You can’t just weld AI onto the outside of a product.”

After fellow product managers said they’d pay for a fuller version of a mock-up he’d quickly whipped up, Peiris and Liriani began work on what was originally called Magical Tome, with billionaire Reid Hoffman, Rosenberg’s Greylock colleague, leading a seed round and joining its board. In March 2022, after raising a Series A funding round led by Coatue, the company announced itself in a TechCrunch article that made no mention of AI just yet.

Tome’s software rethinks the PowerPoint system of slide-friendly, uniform tiles through software that can automatically place and size text and images dropped onto its canvas. Unlike a traditional presentation, Tome tiles are modular, with changes to one dynamically updating others. Since its AI integration, Tome also uses multiple large-language models to make a number of queries behind the scenes to fulfill a user’s presentation prompt. First, its software generates a framework for the output, setting its length and style; next, smaller queries to the AI models fill out corresponding images and text. Users can then fine-tune the results or ask the AI to generate more pages via additional prompts.

Tome can generate everything from children’s bedtime stories to 3D prototypes, but it has resonated most as a PowerPoint and Slides killer. AI meeting notes startup Supernormal raised a funding round using a pitch deck built in Tome; others have made sales presentations or visual blog posts.

Investor Michael Mignano, the former cofounder of podcast startup Anchor and now a Lightspeed partner, spotted Tome’s announcement video demoing its AI tools on Twitter and immediately asked previous backer Nakul Mandan, founder of Audacious Ventures, for an introduction. After a call with Tome’s founders on a Thursday night, he flew to San Francisco the next morning, and offered a term sheet for its Series B within days. “It floored me how quickly this high quality asset could be created, and it was a format that just seems to me so much more modern than any other presentation format that’s come before it,” Mignano said.

In conversations for a magazine feature on the current generative AI boom, investors told Forbes one of the biggest questions for startups looking to build with AI tools will be whether they are building defensible products and user experiences, or ones that will be easily copied, more or less, by incumbent companies.

Tome, which plans to charge about $10 per user for a monthly subscription when it rolls out its enterprise version this year, will face such skepticism. More than thirty years after its debut, PowerPoint is still a force, with millions of decks created each day, and a parent company in Microsoft that has invested heavily in OpenAI with a plan to integrate its models across its products. Google, which released Slides more than fifteen years ago, squandered an early lead in AI but has made shipping new products a priority. Then there’s established design and collaboration software unicorns like Canva, Coda and Notion, all of which have announced AI features with more expected soon.

Peiris is unperturbed. PowerPoint, with its large user base trained on many years of use, won’t be able to revamp its product too radically, he said. “When people would say you had to build mobile-only, or mobile-first, products to do mobile, I think the same is going to be true in AI,” Hoffman, its first backer, agreed. “You can’t just weld AI onto the outside of a product.”

Tome has also actively sought out allies: besides Schmidt, investors from productivity software backgrounds include leaders from Airtable, Notion and Zoom’s venture arm; in AI, Tome has already had early GPT-4 access through its investor ties to OpenAI, and brought in Mostaque and the CEOs of Adept AI, Copy.ai and Weights & Biases as personal investors. After a recent OpenAI outage kept Tome users — including this reporter — from generating presentations for a time on Tuesday, Peiris said he planned to meet with Stability AI and OpenAI rival Anthropic next week to discuss using their models in an enterprise solution.

“I don’t see a world where you press a button and your pitch deck is done.”

In the months to come, Tome’s founders envision building and maintaining their own specially-trained models, too, to make its generations more advanced; they describe a future in which teams can embed live, auto-updating Figma files or user metrics straight from a customer’s database, while allowing for collaborative live feedback to change outputs by color scheme or tone. Human input will remain crucial, Peiris argued: “I don’t see a world where you press a button and your itch deck is done, and you send it to VCs and they wire you money.”

Not everyone will welcome Tome-assisted projects, however, as at least one early user found the hard way. In January, Liriani tweeted screenshots of emails, with permission, from an unnamed high school student whose teacher discovered they had generated a class presentation in Tome. At the student’s request, Tome provided logs to back up their claim that they’d only used Tome’s AI generations as a starting point. The teacher allowed the student to redo the project — for up to 70% credit, and in the required Google Slides.


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