How many times over the last year and a half have you been on a webcast with someone who didn’t know how to use the technology necessary for their own presentation? You probably heard the phrase, “next slide, please,” more times than any phrase related to the presenter’s actual presentation.
Brothers-in-law Jeremy Clark and Joshua McClure certainly had that experience. Between the two of them, they were on webcasts like this almost every single day. For their own sanity, they realized that they needed to create a tool that would stop people from ever needing to say, “next slide” again. That’s how their SaaS solution NextSlide was born.
NextSlide: The Beginnings
When I began my interview with Clark and McClure, I would’ve never guessed the two passionate entrepreneurs were brothers-in-law, video-conferencing in from two separate cities in North Carolina. Clark has a production background and McClure has a tech background – their skillset (and their connection via Jeremy’s sister) brought them together as an unexpected dynamic duo that worked on various projects over the years, including a project management software called Unmanage.
Around October of 2020, Clark started to put together an idea for an app that streamlined presentations, but let it sit on the shelf for a while. It wasn’t until March of 2021 where he produced an event with C-Suite presenters ranting about wishing they had a software to streamline and simplify presentations that he knew he was onto something unique.
“You might be good at doing your own presentation but there are like ten other people presenting at this event. Not all of them are comfortable with it and they don’t all have multiple monitors. It seemed someone always shared the screen incorrectly or you would see their notes or the slide wouldn’t come up when it needed to,” Clark said. He noticed that the presenters would always call “next slide” which aggravated not only him but the entire audience and the presenter as well.
“I picked up on the fact that people were wanting to find something out there that would let them be in control of their own presentations. I started to think to myself, you know, someone should build this,” Clark added, “So, I started researching and didn’t find anything up to par with what I was imagining.”
Clark knew there were online platforms for creating decks but most people would create their presentations using PowerPoint. He knew that something had to be done about this gap in the market.
Discovering a Process that Works
Clark let the idea ruminate in his head a little longer until one night he was in bed and had an epiphany.
“I jumped out of bed, went to my computer and spent the next hour and a half hammering out an outline. I began mocking a couple of things and sorting through wireframes and specific features, trying to see where this idea could really go.”
The next day he reached out to McClure to run the idea by him since he had experience with product development and running presentations.
They also spoke with Clark’s wife who works at a large SaaS company. Clark noted, “My wife runs into this all the time. We talk about this frustration a lot, given our shared experience.”
Clark went on to conceptually pitch NextSlide to McClure. He knew it wouldn’t be hard to put together a proof of concept so they put together a concept that they could roll out quickly. They let a few people in corporate America try it out and started receiving exciting feedback.
Speed of Development Process
The project quickly came together. In less than four weeks, the pair had a product that was working. They had small refinements here and there to work out and bugs that they needed to fix but people were starting to use NextSlide and were pleasantly surprised with how well it worked and solved their presentation issues.
McClure and Clark didn’t focus on marketing the product too much. They utilized Facebook ads and Google ads a bit but they focused much of their attention on responding to Reddit threads and other support forums that discussed frustrations that NextSlide could solve.
“Joshua and I work in production”, said Clark, “So, we built this tool and actually one of our biggest referral sources has been our outreach on support forums. We didn’t want to come across spammy by any means just because we were trying to promote our app. We genuinely built this to solve a problem we knew most people in the corporate world were facing.”
“There was a problem, we built a solution and we want other people to have that solution because we know how much it has helped us,” added Clark, “We’ve had sign ups coming in each day and as of now we have people in the UK using it as well as people in Malaysia, the Middle East and all-over continental Europe.”
“Jeremy and I experienced an immense amount of learning and growing during this process. We’ve known each other for going on 15 years now and everything we learned in our time knowing each other has helped lead us to this point,” said McClure, “We’ve learned some very hard-hitting lessons over the year, especially in our initial proof of concept with Unmanage, but we are grateful now because it has really paid off while building NextSlide. The lessons we learned were absolutely crucial.”
“Our focus for NextSlide was to create something that was simple. We didn’t want to get into every feature or develop everything fully,” said Clark, “We wanted to make sure we could get the product out there to make sure that it works and to get user validation—we didn’t want to go too deep.”
How it Works
At the top of my screen there was an icon and a couple of buttons. I was immediately able to transition the presentation along seamlessly at the click of a button without any lag time in between.
Clark proceeded to show the first couple of slides, pretended to transition to me as if we were presenting to an audience and I was immediately able to present my portion of the presentation.
The transition is entirely seamless. You do not have to download any software and if you are coming in as a presenter, there is close to nothing that you must learn in advance to operate the app well. All you do is click left or right on the arrow keys—and you are presenting a presentation flawlessly.
McClure and Clark created a product where you could virtually show up anywhere that you needed to present and be ready to go with in seconds. All you must do is upload your deck and it takes a few minutes to process and you are ready to go.
“We are really into people demoing the product because we typically find that once we are done explaining it, it isn’t until the customer demos it that the light really turns on,” said Clark, “We want people to get a feel for it as they use it and we are trying to get as many people as we can to demo it while they can during the free trial phase.”
I didn’t understand just how amazing their concept was until I had the tool at my fingertips.
They reached out to a few developers to get some quotes for NextSlide but decided that since it was only costing them a little bit of time, they wanted to focus their money on a different project they were working on. They weren’t hitting many roadblocks with NextSlide so they saved their funds and used their knowledge to build out NextSlide as best they could.
“We decided to see how far we could take this for free. We knew that if we didn’t spend money on concept or development, we would have more money for advertising down the road or anything else that we would run into that would be a roadblock,” said Clark.
At this point in the interview, Clark’s toddler climbed on his lap and wanted to engage with his uncle over the video screen. COVID-19 caused many parents to have to stay home with their kids while also working full time jobs and Clark was no exception.
“Trying to talk technical terms while a toddler is jumping on your lap can be quite difficult, but at the same time it helps you see life in perspective. Family is everything and Josh and I have learned so much about the juggling act between family, a full-time job and building two SaaS offerings all at the same time,” Clark added, “The kids always want to see Uncle Josh’s new puppy too.”
The Next Phase of NextSlide
As NextSlide continues to make progress in making presenting as seamless as possible, they are looking into integrating the software with Microsoft Teams or Zoom to allow for a more streamlined approach. They also are working on integrating presenter notes to allow for a presentation where you aren’t scrambling minutes before your presentation hoping the audience cannot see your notes. This feature will be available in the coming weeks.
Currently, NextSlide is offered for free during their free launch trial. They are currently allowing free trial signups with no restrictions.
“We are focusing to keep the product free because we want to get a feel for how many customers are using it and whether they are using it on a recurring basis. We also want to know what type of customers are using it, whether they are corporate or more academic, because in the long run that type of information is going to inform how we go about our next steps,” said Clark, “Right now, our operation costs are low so we are focusing on getting as many people as we can to use the offering.”
McClure ended the video interview by summing up what I believe every SaaS founder feels when they create a successful SaaS offering, “We feel so fortunate that we were able to see and understand the problem and then have the tools and resources to solve it.”