- October 25, 2019
If you’ve ever labored over a presentation for a meeting, conference or sales pitch, struggling to create and format slides, Shufflrr, a New York tech company that recently located to Tampa, might be the answer.
Co-founded by the brother-and-sister team of James and AlexAnndra Ontra, Shufflrr is a Software-as-a-Service platform that thoroughly organizes and catalogs slides created by programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint, allowing users to build slick presentations in minutes as opposed to hours.
“We call it presentation management,” the 55-year-old James Ontra says. “It’s an enterprise communication strategy. When you implement it, everyone in your organization speaks more fluently, more concisely and more on point. You might have 10,000 people in your organization all saying the same message slightly differently, but just imagine if you had everyone singing off the same sheet of music. That’s the basic premise of Shufflrr.”
"There was no presentation management before Shufflrr. So to create something that no one's heard of, that’s really hard when you're a small company — it's like screaming in a forest." —James Ontra, CEO and co-founder of Shufflrr
The concept has won the business of some high-profile clients, including Charter Communications, Comerica Bank, NASA, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Starbucks and US Bank. Customers pay $15-$30 per user, per month, to use Shufflrr, and says Ontra, some of the firm’s clients have thousands of users.
That adds up to a lot of revenue, though Ontra declines to specify exactly how much, citing, in part, the firm’s recent transition from the Big Apple to Tampa Bay.
“I wound down my New York operation and started up this one,” he says, “so I had minimal revenue last year. This year, I have plenty and by next year it’ll be a better story. Basically, we’re taking steps from being a lanky teenager to a mature company.”
So why did the Ontras leave Manhattan, home of some of the world’s wealthiest companies, for the more modest environs of Tampa? How will the change of scenery help grow Shufflrr, which officially launched in 2014 but is the end result of a series of other companies the pair started, dating back to 2000 when they first began working together? And more importantly, what has made the company an essential service for so many enterprise-level clients?
“COVID made it a challenge to keep growing in New York City, and we were actively searching for a tech hub,” Ontra says, “a real support network that could give Shufflrr, what we call a category-building company, a chance. There was no presentation management before Shufflrr. So to create something that no one's heard of, that’s really hard when you're a small company — it's like screaming in a forest.”
The Ontras found exactly what they were looking for in Tampa’s Embarc Collective, a tech hub and community founded by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. They also strongly considered Houston, where, in the early 1990s, James Ontra went to college, owned a bar and founded a high-tech catalog company that was an early adopter of CD-ROM-based touch-screen technology. In Florida, they weighed the pros and cons of numerous cities, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, before ultimately choosing Tampa.
Embarc, Ontra says, “provides the hard costs and soft benefits that are required to support a SaaS company.” In other words, it takes care of all the little things — a kitchen, security, cleaning, waste collection, etc. — that can get in the way of innovation and productivity.
“All of the mental effort it takes to operate a small office is is a tax on a budding company,” he says, “but Embarc provides for that beautifully just by being a member.”
Shufflrr has attracted a devoted following among Fortune 500-level companies not only because it provides a high-tech way to catalog slides. It also has a data analytics function that allows clients to take a deep dive into the use and effectiveness of material being deployed in presentations.
“For every slide, you know who’s using it, when and where, as well as how much time was spent on it,” Ontra says. “You know if they went through slides one, two and three and then jumped to seven, eight and nine. You can tell who makes the most amount of presentations and who makes the least, and how many get downloaded by your clients. It’s no different than looking at the details of a web page.”
He adds, “Clients says it’s like finding gold in their backyard when they start hunting for all these presentations and putting their library together. They’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, we used that slide last summer and everyone applauded. That’s excellent; let’s bring it in.’”