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SketchDeck YCombinator Application

SketchDeck successful YCombinator application from 2014 winter batch (YC W14).

Operating system for creative agencies
SketchDeck is your always ready design team. We give you 24/7 access to high quality, on brand design for all your marketing, sales and communication needs. We're built for the quality, scale and speed modern teams demand.
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What is your company going to make? Please describe your product and what it does or will do.

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Some of the highest paid people in the world spend more than 20 hours a week making PowerPoint slides. Chris used to be one of them. There are many inefficiencies in this process. We tackle the two most important: 1. Creating slides in powerpoint takes a lot of time and people loathe doing it 2. Creating good looking powerpoint slides is important, but hard to do SketchDeck is an iPad app that turns sketches into slides: this saves time and delivers better slides. Our long term vision is to become the de-facto platform for presentation creation on touch devices.


How long have the founders known one another and how did you meet? Have any of the founders not met in person?

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Chris and I have known each‐other since undergraduate at Cambridge. We met (unglamorously) in the college bar.

Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together.

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We spent the last year building a tech startup together ‐ Datoral (rapid data visualization with natural search) We secured pilots with 5 blue‐chip companies, raised a £150k round at a valuation of £1.5m and built a tech platform that wowed many clients and investors. We sadly had to close the company due to the hostile actions of a third co‐founder. We hugely enjoyed working together and found ourselves a great pairing

Please tell us in one or two sentences about something impressive that each founder has built or achieved.

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Chris Finneral - Led the design team for a 1,500 person Cambridge Ball. Themed Wizard of Oz, it contained a 500m long yellow brick road and a dilapidated Dorothee's house that people entered through and a giant 6 meter fireplace, amidst fairground rides, music stages, bars and food. David Mack - Parallel to work I am a theatre designer ‐ I've been Technical Director of England's oldest University playhouse, designed and worked internationally (America, Europe and Japan) and in some of England's most prestigious venues (Divinity Schools Oxford, V&A museum, Christie's Auction house, Windsor Castle, Great St Mary's Cambridge)

Please tell us about the time you most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.

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I've been on holiday most weeks this summer, thanks to micro‐adventures. A micro‐adventure is an adventure between 6pm and 9am. Head out of work, grab friends and jump on a train, in one hour reach wilderness. Hike, make a fire, cook, watch the stars in your bivi as you fall asleep beside the glowing embers. Arrive at work on time next morning. You're a tiny bit disheveled, but are relaxed, triumphant and feel you've just had a whole weekend.


How far along are you?

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We're in week two of our business, but we already have our first paying client. They are paying £5 per slide we create for them and we are learning a lot about there needs. We've also had meetings with some larger consultancy firms to measure there interest for rolling out SketchDeck across their business. Feedback has been good so far. We are working towards letters of intent with them. Currently, Chris is the product. We will have a rounded tech beta in March. We make all our technology demonstrable from the start, so we can test and grow lean ‐ ensuring we are building something people want.

How long have each of you been working on this? How much of that has been full-time?

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We have paying clients, for whom Chris manually converts sketches to slides. David is coding an iPad interface to automate this ‐ it's currently a small codebase (< 1,000 lines) David has previously worked on a number computer vision projects before with applicable technologies. David also wrote 15,000 lines of code last year for our previous startup, Datoral.


Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you're making?

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We've both worked in strategy consultancies, and created around two thousand slides for big corporates. Chris (whilst at McKinsey) has used their internal human powered service that converts sketched slides into powerpoint files. David has turned many people's sketches into powerpoint files whilst at a strategy consultancy and at Barclays Investment Bank. We picked the problem because we know it well and the current solution is very slow and expensive ‐ many of the highest paid members of society spend 20+ hours a week doing it!

What's new about what you're making? What substitutes do people resort to because it doesn't exist yet (or they don't know about it)?

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What is new: Our solution combines modern computer vision techniques with the proliferation of touchscreen devices. Substitutes: People either build the slides themselves manually, or pay someone else to

Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?

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Microsoft powerpoint, Google docs, Apple Keynote, Slide design outsourcers, OCR companies might become competitors, Tablet note taking companies might become competitors, Startups of the future. We'd say our closest current competitor is the low cost slide design outsourcers. We most fear other startups due to their speed and innovation. Overall though, we focus on our clients rather than our competitors.

What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don't get?

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We combine real‐world experience of the problem with a deep knowledge of computer science, cutting edge technologies and interaction design. All of competitors have just one of these.

How do or will you make money? How much could you make?

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Revenue stream: For low volume clients we charge on a per slide basis. For higher volume clients we have per user subscriptions. Company size: £100m revenue in five years. We are testing a price point of £5 per slide or £100 per user per month. If we look just at the management consultancy segment, there are estimated to be more than 0.5m consultants worldwide. There are many adjacencies to expand to from here.

How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-and-egg problem in the sense that it won't be attractive to users till it has a lot of users (e.g. a marketplace, a dating site, an ad network), how will you overcome that?

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1) Our extended networks are revealing a large a number of people working in consultancies, banks and other corporates who want our service 2) From this, we are getting introductions to relevant decision makers in big consultancies and MDs at small consultancies to set up pilots which will convert to subscriptions 3) Our delighted clients will provide good references for our service which will help us to extend from our network. 4) From here we will grow further in two ways: 5.a) For large clients: Prove the value proposition at a company level and then sell into consultancies, banks and large corporates at a senior level. 5.b) For small clients: We will have a low friction sign up process and free trials to encourage smaller companies to sign up directly through our site.


If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, please list them. One may be something we've been waiting for. Often when we fund people it's to do something they list here and not in the main application.

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Pulse: A lightweight employee engagement/happiness gauge that measures and advises managers how to improve their workplace SnapBet: Take a photo, choose a bet (e.g. "I'm better looking", wager £5) and be pitted against a random stranger. Third person judges, and one photo taker wins the bet (e.g. £10) Nobox: An inbox that tracks what is unread / what items are flagged as 'being worked on' and rejects further mail until you've had time to deal with the current load. This forces senders to take responsibility rather than overload their colleagues Work for Change: Connecting up homeless people with Amazon Turk and Virtual PA work, to empower them to generate an income and change their lives for the better ‍A platform that radically evolves an entire website's design, through A/B testing for core business metrics Shazam for calories ‐ Snap the menu, get the nutritional info Automated corporate communication advice ‐ it gives an effectiveness measure against target demographics and suggestions for improvement An easy way to short bitcoins in the UK/Europe Automated personal finance advisor ‐ pulls your current account and savings account information, then provides cashflow suggestions throughout the month

Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered.

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It turns out that if you vaporize alcohol into fog, it becomes a lot more fun. From inhaling just milliliters of the fog, one becomes light headed and tipsy. Furthermore, you can create flavored aromatic cocktails by crushing herbs into a glass, then passing the vapor over them and inhaling. I plan to incorporate this into a piece of immersive theatre.

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