I had a chance to have a longer sit-down with Peter Arvai, CEO and co-founder of Prezi, at the IDCEE conference. Prezi is located in Budapest, but Peter’s past is in Sweden, being born here (with Hungarian roots). This made for an interesting conversation – about startups, funding and of course Prezi.
How did you become involved in the startup world?
I was born in Karlskoga and later moved to Stockholm where I studied. My first real contact with the startup world was when I was working for Mobispine, which was a startup in the mobile business. There I saw what happened at a startup from the inside.
What did happen after that?
Three friends and I started a site called OmVård – a site where you could compare treatment outcomes for medical procedures. This was a very interesting concept – even in Sweden a lot of people found the idea of open comparison of services unsettling at that time. But I thought that it is strange that you could compare toothpaste between brands, but could not compare doctors or treatments, which means even more for your health… I realized there was need for this info when my dad passed away and mom got ill.
It was very interesting. When we launched, the first calls where from lawyers. But after a while, the doctors started to call as well – talking with us about things like that they did not agree with the score they had or other opinions about our service.
In the long run it turned out that the site is actually used more by doctors and nurses, who want to see how they are doing – to an even larger degree then the site is used by patients!
Why did you move to Budapest?
My co-founders of Prezi where from Budapest, and my own family as well. I also wanted to show that you can create a world class product and startup from more or less anywhere. And Budapest was a place where there already was much talents, but we had few role models.
It was not a quick or spontaneous decision, rather it was the natural thing to do.
How big has Prezi become as a company?
In 2012 we had a total of 10 millions users. Currently, in the first nine month of 2013, we have grown to 29 million users! We are currently 160 people working in the company.
Interestingly enough, quite a lot of companies that offer services around Prezi have been started – consultations, add-ons and other services. Around 50 companies exist that we know of.
Chris Anderson and TED.com invested, how did you make that happen?
The meeting with Chris Anderson was really important for us. I had used my last money to fly to New York and had managed to get an appointment with Chris. The same day as I landed I got an email, saying that he had no time and would not be able to meet me. However, I managed to guilt trip his secretary to get a meeting anyway – so I got, somewhat ironically, 20 minutes with Chris. 18 minutes in I had convinced him to make his first investment to be in Prezi!
We only wanted TED.com as our investors. They are the best presentation conference on earth – I wanted them to be our partner.
Since then, Accel and Sunstone have joined in on subsequent rounds. Tell us about that
We did well too quickly. By taking on more funding, we created more pressure on ourselves, which was good. Also, being in the same portfolio at Accel such as Facebook, Dropbox, Rovio and other great startups, it created healthy comparisons to perform even better. I spoke to a lot of people before I chose Accel.