A former Google employee who teamed up with a childhood friend to launch a startup specialising in interactive online documents has secured $1.5 million in venture capital to get the platform into the hand of more users worldwide.
The investment comes from global venture capital firm Point Nine, which focuses on early-stage Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) startups and online marketplaces.
“A lot of venture capitalists will come and say they are smart money,” Qwilr co-founder Mark Tanner tells StartupSmart.
But in most cases it’s not true, says Tanner, who previously worked for Google in the US and Australia. That’s the reason why the investment from a credible venture capital firm like Berlin-based Point Nine is “just amazing”.
Point Nine, co-founded by Christoph Janz, has invested in some of the world’s leading SaaS and marketplace ventures, including Zendesk and Couchsurfing.
Tanner says he and Qwilr co-founder Dylan Baskind had been avidly following Janz’s blogs for years before meeting him.
“When we were first pitching him, it almost seemed surreal [so] to have him join our board and be quite active in our company [is] just fantastic,” says Tanner.
Qwilr was founded in 2014 and previously raised $500,000 from Sydney Seed Fund and Macdoch Ventures. Three months after it closed this round in May 2015, Qwilr was being used by thousands of companies from over 40 countries.
The problem Qwilr’s tackling
Tanner says the global market for document software, which is dominated by players such as Adobe and Microsoft, is worth $US20 billion ($26.4 billion).
“It’s a gigantic space,” Tanner says.
“The area that we sit is in is predominantly around how do you communicate with clients in an effective way.”
Tanner says the startup, which lets users easily create “beautiful” interactive web pages, is aiming to replace old static document files such as PowerPoint and PDFs, which he believes are out-dated and “inefficient”.
“The web is just such a superior way of communicating than the old file way,” he says.
He says Qwilr lets users create proposals and presentations on a cloud-based system with features “developers take for granted”, such as easily embedding video, survey functions and advanced security.
The idea for the platform developed from Baskin’s work as a freelance designer when he would send client proposals as interactive websites instead of using standard document files to show off his skills.
“Five years ago that was an incredibly painful thing to do,” Tanner says.
“Qwilr started out as a way for Dylan to make these web pages really easily [but] more and more customers started asking, ‘how did you pitch us in morning and send us a website a few hours later?’”
After seeing what Baskind had built and realising the burgeoning demand for it, Tanner says he knew they had to develop it into a real market solution.
“That just struck me as being an incredibly obvious path,” he says.
Tanner says Qwilr is now used by more than 40,000 businesses from around the world. Its latest funding will be used to grow its product, engineering, sales and marketing teams.
“We knew that we wanted to continue powering that growth,” he says.
And the journey for Qwilr is just beginning.
“While we’re incredibly proud of where we are today we think only one percent of the job is done,” he says.