AWS Startups Blog

Leave Boring Presentations Behind with Powtoon

“Death by PowerPoint, yeah? A phenomenon known to all of us,” jokes Sven Hoffmann, Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder of Powtoon, a cloud-based service that allows users to create their own professional-looking videos. But what other option do you have, if you want to present information in a visual way? According to Hoffmann, video is the way to go. Specifically, animated video. “[It’s] better to grab people’s attention and get your point across than a long, boring presentation.”

Most people don’t have the skills to make an animated video, or the $25,000 laying around to hire a production company to make a 90-second video. That’s where Powtoon comes in. It allows users to make a free video and upload it to YouTube (with the Powtoon logo attached), or purchase a subscription that starts at $49/month. And it’s fast—with ready-made templates, live-action video backgrounds, images, characters, music, and built-in voiceover capabilities, you can create a video in as little as 20 minutes. Whether you want to make an explainer, a work presentation, a video ad for an E-Commerce site, a product catalog, material for the classroom, or impress a loved one with an animated birthday tribute, Powtoon makes it easy.

Powtoon’s success—they have more than 25 million registered users, and a new Powtoon is created every second—was built one step at a time. The most important thing was getting the right people together, which happened at a café in Jerusalem, in 2012. When Hoffmann joined the team, the company consisted of three guys: one animator, one person with a background in digital marketing, and one finance specialist/online entrepreneur. But they didn’t have a technical person on board. Hoffmann, whose background is in art and computer science, had worked for 15 years at different software companies. In fact, as a university student in Berlin, he had built a program that allowed users to animate the bodies of politicians and make them dance. He had exactly the skills they were looking for.

Before a single line of code had been written, Powtoon put up a website that explained why a video creation tool would be useful and featured a video in the style of the animation that Powtoon would offer. Then the company collected email addresses. Within a few weeks they had a list of 20,000 people who were interested—“the best validation you can have,” Hoffmann says. After Powtoon launched the platform, it didn’t focus on marketing itself, because it didn’t have to—viral videos that included the Powtoon logo sold the product. Now Powtoon is used by “virtually every Fortune 500 company,” and they even have a second product, Powtoon Enterprise, which provides advanced team management capabilities and enterprise-level security.

Hoffmann explained that on AWS, Powtoon has two workloads—one for the synchronous request response-type processing, and one that runs asynchronous processing. (There’s a lot of media involved in Powtoon, so the platform creates HTML5 animations in the browser, and if the customer wants that as a video, they render it on the backend.) Powtoon’s creative team is always adding new features, like voice dubbing, sound effects, Photoshop-to-video and one-click PowerPoint-to-video conversion, and is working hard to figure out not only what users want their videos to look like, but how the users of the future will prefer to make video. “I strongly assume that in a few years’ time, people won’t want to drag and drop much anymore,” Hoffmann says. Powtoon is already focusing on next-generation video creation tools.

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung currently works in startup content at AWS and was previously the head of content at Index Ventures. Prior to joining the corporate world, Michelle was a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, the founding Business Editor at the Huffington Post, a correspondent for The Boston Globe, a columnist for Publisher’s Weekly and a writer at Entertainment Weekly.