Long before Budapest was the title of British pop sensation George Ezra’s smash hit, it was known for a history all on its own. The capital city of Hungary has been admired far and wide for its luxurious geothermal baths, for the third largest, and perhaps most elaborate, parliament building in Europe and for the iconic chain bridge that links the historic cities of Buda and Pest.
In fact, Budapest is often recognized as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and yet only a few years ago, some still considered the city to be doomed. One resident in particular vocalized this exact opinion. He was the uncle of Prezi co-founder Peter Arvai, and, after picking up Arvai from the airport, he had delivered a rant about the state of the nation, ultimately arguing that nothing good would come from the country.
Arvai, who is of Hungarian descent and living in Sweden at the time, took his uncle’s perspective to heart. “By the time I got out of the car, I was fuming,” he told Small Biz Technology. “I thought about how important it was to show positive role models of entrepreneurship who had their starts in Hungary. So when I sat down for dinner that night, I happily declared that I was starting a company in Hungary.”
The company, Prezi, was a joint venture between Arvai, Peter Halácsy (affectionately nicknamed HP) and Adam Somlai-Fischer. Before Arvai got involved, HP and Somlai-Fischer had already begun working together on the presentation platform following a conference where Somlai-Fischer spoke about software he designed with zooming technology. HP, who saw potential in Prezi, joined forces with Somlai-Fischer to launch Kitchen Budapest (KIBU), a self-described “new media lab for researchers, developers and artists who get funding and technology to work together on their own experimental telecommunications projects.”
What the design duo was lacking, however, was the startup know-how, for which HP turned specifically to Arvai. They had met previously on a job interview, and HP consulted Arvai as a respected entrepreneur for advice on one of KIBU’s first projects, a zooming user interface (ZUI) prototype of Prezi. Arvai, who was as interested in the platform as its Hungarian presence, convinced HP and Somlai-Fischer to quit their jobs and make Prezi available worldwide.
Why is it called Prezi?
As described on the company website, the point was – and still is – “to reinvent how people share knowledge, tell stories, and inspire their audiences to act.” Its values also maintain a deep connection to Hungarian culture, both literally and figuratively. The proof is in the name itself, as the word Prezi is the short form of presentation in Hungarian, according to Daily Brink. In addition, the company also operates dual headquarters in San Francisco, CA and Budapest – thanks in part to Arvai’s unwavering dedication to Hungary.
Another sure sign of the founders’ dedication is the more than $71 million dollars raised in four rounds of funding, as reported by CrunchBase. It has since given rise to a successful cloud-based presentation software known especially for its zooming user interface, despite occasional criticism for inducing nausea. “Unlike slides,” the about page reads, “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. The added depth and context makes your message more likely to resonate, motivate, and get remembered.”
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Perhaps the more than 160 million active presentations, all built through a freemium model that requires users of the public license to publish work on Prezi and allows paying users to remain private or edit offline, are a testament to the claim. Whether free or paid, one thing is for sure: Prezi proved that there are continuously good things coming out of Hungary.
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Annelise Schoups is a contributor at Rewind & Capture. With a degree in journalism, experience in public relations, and an education in travel, she is passionate about cultivating knowledge and storytelling.