Financial Times: Prezi: best thing since the biro?

Publicated on: May 3, 2012

Amid the constant political double-talk, the seemingly incessant new and confusing taxes and the background chatter of who is stabbing whom in the corporate back, it’s a pleasant change for beyondbrics to be able to report on a successful – indeed happy – business start-up story in Hungary.

The start-up is Prezi. A few years back, Adam Somlai-Fischer, its co-founder, was asked to give some university lectures on art. He wrote his own software to help reach his listeners as he wanted – flexibly, effectively and with a bit of fun thrown in.

Somlai-Fischer, an architect-turned-entrepreneurial artist from a Budapest housing estate, didn’t just enthral his audiences. Friends wanted in on his novel software, fascinated by his zoom in, zoom out projection system.

Then one suggested he should market it.

On Wednesday, three years after its foundation, Prezi – which is Hungarian IT street talk for ‘presentation’ – celebrated its 10 millionth user. The Hungarian-US firm simultaneously launched its latest add-on, a PowerPoint Import package that makes it even easier for users of the classical slide show facility to jump ship and join the baby zoomer generation.

“The unique integration of non-linear brainstorming and linear storytelling has helped Prezi surpass the 10 million user mark and is fuelling its growth of a million new users every month,” the company said in a press release.

Wow. Maybe that approach will help it overtake the biro ballpoint as the world’s favourite Hungarian means of communication.

Prezi uses a so-called ‘freemium’ model – granting access gratis to anyone provided they do not mind sharing their designs on the Prezi website. Anyone wanting confidentiality has to stump up. Somlai-Fischer insists it is a “viral” product, with many customers migrating to business accounts as they discover its value.

“It’s not expensive either, just $159 a year [for the full professional package]” he told beyondbrics.

Somlai-Fischer is coy about releasing financial numbers. But he says Prezi has been cash positive from the beginning and attracted paying users even in its crudest, clumsy, prototype forms.

Prezi celebrated its third anniversary with a conference on successful entrepreneurship and attracting start-up finance in Budapest, where Andrew Braccia, partner at Accel, the California-based venture capitalist, hailed Prezi as an example of Hungarian “math, technical and innovation skills.”

He also highlighted the importance of diversity, multi-culturism and a collaborative approach to problem solving. Accel injected $14m into Prezi last December.

In light of the multi-cultural approach to building business, it was perhaps fitting that the follow-up party shunned local pickled gherkin, blood sausage and palinka for more international pizza and beer.

It’s an approach Hungarian politicians might do well to ponder.

Click here to read the article on the Finantial Times website.