Interview with Peter Arvai, CEO and founder of Prezi a presentation software
Briefly introduce yourself and the company Prezi to our readership.
Peter Arvai: Presentations can be a powerful tool. However, they can also be quite boring and we forget everything the moment they are over. My cofounders Péter Halácsy and Adam Somlai-Fischer and myself wanted to tackle this issue. And we revolutionized the way how to communicate information by creating Prezi, a presentation platform that lets users arrange content on a single canvas, using dynamic movement and spatial context to increase engagement and understanding. Since its launch in 2009, our company has become a global leader in visual communication tools. Despite the competition of Microsoft, Apple and Google, Prezi has amassed over 100 million users that in turn created the world’s largest database of public presentations.
What led to the creation of Prezi?
We believe that open and clear communication is the key to an impactful conversation and efficient collaboration. New opportunities to communicate and the current use of technology create a vast amount of information. Short attention spans and a reduced level of understanding are the consequences – and that’s what we wanted to fix. My co-founder Adam Somlai-Fischer was a renowned media artist, in addition to being an architect. He found slide-based presentations limiting for his art, so he designed an open, zoomable canvas to showcase his work. My other co-founder Peter Halácsy is a computer scientist and revolutionized the code, and I brought the product and user experience mind-set. I’d worked on the world’s first mobile phone newsreader app and a healthcare comparison site that gave Swedish patients and doctors access to treatment outcomes. Combining our experience, creative spirit and entrepreneurial mind-set, creating Prezi was the logical consequence for us.
My co-founder Adam Somlai-Fischer, who is an architect and artist, had previously used zooming for artwork. He created the tool as a necessity to be able to explain and share his work, which consisted of creating installations in which interactivity was mixed with technology and art. When we founded Prezi together with Peter Halacsy, we wanted to make it possible for anyone, not just Adam, to make beautiful zooming presentations.
What is the vision of Prezi?
Peter Arvai: Prezi is not just a presentation software – Prezi is a presentation resource, aiming to reinvent how people share knowledge, tell stories, and inspire their audiences to act. Visual thinking allows us to be more creative. We can use it to understand each other and solve problems more effectively. We practice the art of visual communication to maximize the power of ideas, to nurture curiosity, and to harness the benefits of information shared. At our core, we promote the spread of good ideas. Therefore, our vision is to become the preferred application for businesses, entrepreneurs and educators, to create and deliver distinctive and engaging visual presentations, videos and interactive charts/infographics. Our goal is to give people tools that help them imagine things, collaborate around ideas and make better decisions.What roadblocks or failures did you encounter along the way?
What did you learn from the challenges along the way? How did you raise the money to build the company?
The toughest part was to believe in ourselves against all odds and just get started with Prezi. We knew that the idea behind Prezi was great. However, we started back in 2008, when the deepest recession of the past 70 years shook the world economy. Another difficulty was the fact that we were starting from Hungary. Besides being one of the most severely hit countries, Hungary is not a country many globally successful companies had emerged from so far. Another factor rendering the situation more complicated was the strong competition of the three giants of the IT industry: Microsoft, Apple and Google. More than a few investors have turned us down because they did not believe that we would ever have a chance to succeed – even if they agreed that Prezi was a great idea.
In the end, I managed to get a meeting with the creator of TED Talks, Chris Anderson, and spent all the money I had to fly to New York for a 20-minute meeting. TED became an early investor and since then, we have raised over $72 million in funding from a variety of partners, including Spectrum Equity and Accel Partners.
What is the target group of Prezi?
Peter Arvai: Prezi is designed for people who have something to say. Prezi can be used in any context that benefits from an improved way of how information is transmitted and understood. From business professionals over entrepreneurs and educators – Prezi helps a wide range of people to reach their audience more powerfully. We want to enable a high level of engagement when sharing content, whether it concerns a meeting within the company, a pitch to persuade investors and customers or a lesson to inspire students and pupils.
How does Prezi work? What are the benefits? How does Prezi differentiate itself from competitors?
Peter Arvai: Prezi offers different visual communication tools that help to engage your audience. Our core product is a presentation platform that has reshaped presenting into a more intuitive, interactive audience experience. Unlike slides, which literally box you in, Prezi gives you a limitless zoomable canvas and the ability to show relationships between the big picture and fine details. Even complex topics can be displayed in an easily understandable manner. All of the content essentially can be dropped into a 3-dimensional map with different ideas serving as destinations. The added depth and context makes your message more likely to resonate, motivate, and get remembered – even “dry” figures or tables can be transported more vividly and engaging.
With Prezi Video, the newest addition to our product family, we also provide the first video recording software that puts a person on the screen alongside their visual content in real time. Meaning, you can literally hold the presented information in your hands. With Prezi Video, we achieved another step in revolutionizing the way we communicate, which puts us one step ahead of providing the means to visualize great things. Prezi Video is also perfect for remote meetings for businesses and for the remote classroom.
Looking ahead, what is your goal? Where do you see yourself in five years?
The future of our digitally-anchored world depends on dialogue and understanding. Our goal is to give people tools that help other people to tell compelling and visually moving stories. While we do not comment our next step here, we can share how we make these decisions. We compare them opportunistically: the best option is the one that will best sustain our mission of helping people share or collaborate around ideas and make better decisions.
Finally, what are the 3 tips you would share with people who want to found a company/organisation?
Probably the biggest lesson I learned was that in order to scale and grow the business, you need to surround yourself — early on — with seasoned advisors and contributors who know what “great” looks like. Although I had a large learning curve in figuring out how to run the business, it would have been smarter to hire experienced people who can help to grow your business faster than yourself.
Invest in your people. Every beginning is difficult and keeping good people in a challenging environment can be quite the struggle. Create cross-functional teams, where your engineers, UX researchers or designers work on a problem together and it is possible to leverage the reciprocally shared inspiration. Combining expertise prevents knowledge silos that might slow down the company’s growth.
And of course: believe in your product!
Picture Peter Arvai, Copyright: Prezi Inc
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Thank you Peter Arvai for the Interview
Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.