SlideShare Grows Up, Launches Pro Accounts For Business Users

Updated: SlideShare, which allows users to upload and share PowerPoint and other presentations and slideshows, today launched a series of premium Pro accounts that bundle together some of the service’s premium features for businesses, including the ability to generate leads from within a presentation and to create a custom-branded channel on the site. The plans start at $19 a month for the Silver level and go to $249 a month for the Platinum level, with additional charges on top of that for certain extra features. SlideShare said it’s also close to launching support for HTML5, which would remove the need for users to have Adobe’s Flash software in order to view presentations.

SlideShare CEO Rashmi Sinha says launching a “freemium” package was a natural evolution of the service, but that the impetus for Pro accounts had also come from corporate users of the site, many of whom had asked for a subscription option. Certain features — such as the “LeadShare” feature — were available previously on a fee-per-service basis, but many business users said they would be more comfortable paying monthly charges automatically for a suite of features, since it’s more predictable, and they already pay subscription fees for many other business tools and services. The White House has a branded channel, as do major corporations like Dell (s dell) and Microsoft (s msft).

In addition to removing advertising from corporate-level accounts, Pro features include enhanced analytics, such as the ability to see whether users have posted links to your presentation on Twitter and Facebook using the URL shortener. And the lead-generation feature — which brings up a form within the presentation that allows viewers to contact the individual or corporate user who uploaded it — works even when the presentation is embedded in another site or on a service like Facebook, says Sinha. The SlideShare CEO says Platinum account holders can also remove the ability for users to comment on a presentation, a feature certain corporate users such as Pfizer (s pfe) had requested because of corporate disclosure requirements.

The SlideShare branded-channel approach gives companies the ability to engage with customers and others through their presentations, and to pull in Twitter and YouTube (s goog) and other content as well, says Sinha. So why wouldn’t a company simply use its own website, since SlideShare presentations are all embeddable? Most companies “can’t get that kind of engagement through their own websites,” the SlideShare CEO says. “On SlideShare they are part of a community, where people are already used to sharing content.” Sinha compared it to a Facebook fan page, but said that SlideShare doesn’t compete directly with Facebook because “we are much more content-centric.”

In the next several weeks, the SlideShare CEO said the service will also be adding support for HTML5, so that Adobe’s Flash software is no longer required in order to view presentations. The site currently gets 30 million unique visitors a month, and more than 3 million users have uploaded content. The company, which competes with other embeddable-content services such as Scribd, is based in San Francisco and has received $3 million in venture funding from funds such as Venrock, as well as individual investors including Dave McClure and Mark Cuban.

Update: Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein of Startup Lessons Learned have an interesting post that looks at how SlideShare tested and refined its Pro offerings over time.

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