How a product was born, from inception to implementation, and distractions to launch.


Speaker Deck was born in a little Irish bar right around the corner from our offices in South Bend Indiana in May of

  1. I was meeting Steve and John for lunch and they were talking about how much they disliked the slide sharing options currently available. It was of special interest to them as they do a lot of public speaking and at the time were teaching classes at Notre Dame.

They were dreaming (as they do) of a better way to share presentations with the world. Something elegant, simple, without all the mess. Then reality hit and they realized they just didn’t have the time to build it. Life was too busy, family, client work, teaching, and Harmony ate up all their time, there was just no way they could start working on a new product.


This was my opportunity. If I was serious about my dream of becoming a programmer, here was my chance. I said “I’ll do it”, then cracked open my laptop and started hacking around with ghostscript and imagemagick to see if I could extract images from pdf’s. An hour later the core tech (now extracted into a rubygem) behind Speaker Deck was working (in a limited fashion) and a product was born.

June 1st of 2010 was my first git commit, a basic rails app with an already processed presentation so I had images to use as I created the html and css from Steve’s initial mockups. It quickly took on a life of its own at that point, Steve implementing an awesome embeddable slide viewer, so nifty we actually use it on Speaker Deck the same exact way you use it when embedding a presentation on your own site.

The guys taught me test driven development while building Speaker Deck, and over the summer and into the fall I kept working on it. Initially just Steve and John were using it to host their slides, but then an opportunity arose while at Mongo Chicago, and on October 20th of 2010 we had our first beta testers signup and upload presentations!

(my coworker/boss John presenting at Mongo Chicago 2010)

Good Distractions

Almost a year has passed since we started signing up our first beta users and September 26th we launched Speaker Deck to the world! In the past year I ended up going to work for Steve and John and they also hired Brandon Keepers and Matt Graham. In that time our team has been doing a lot of consulting work, making our existing product Harmony better, and we even launched Gauges, a website analytics service.

The entire time we were working on these other projects we were formulating what we wanted Speaker Deck to be and this summer that plan started to solidify and we got back to work on it. The first big thing that needed to happen was moving Speaker Deck to Heroku and S3 for hosting.

This transition only took a few a days to initially implement but gave us an easy & affordable way to grow the service into the future. Meanwhile Steve went to town on some UI & UX improvements that would help set us apart from the competition even more.


The last month leading up to launch was pretty intense, hammering out final details and deciding that we wanted to release the product to our users as a free service.

Then on September 26th we launched it at about 3pm EST. That first day we had over 600 signups and hundreds of presentations were uploaded. It was a rush seeing people use it, getting feedback, fixing bugs, and dreaming about the future.

In the past week since launch we’ve had many more signups, hundreds more presentations uploaded, and such great feedback that has helped us formulate an even better plan for how to move forward.

I’ll be posting more about Speaker Deck later this week, talking about some of the triumphs and struggles we’ve had since launch.