"This series is a extraordinary development. It represents a completely student-initiated and student-run initiative. Our MBA students are clearly assuming major responsibility for their own professional development, and in the process they are also contributing to the entire community. We are very proud of what they are accomplishing." - Mel Horwitch, Dean of CEU Business School
CEUBTalk with Prezi
There are some tell-tale signs that make a successful startup stand out from the rest. And those who participated in the latest edition of CEUBTalks got a unique opportunity to observe this first-hand when they visited the Prezi campus in Budapest and interact with its co-founder and chief technology officer, Peter Halácsy.
The Prezi office is a quiet space located in the midst of the city’s bustle. It has drums, guitars, space for a band, a somewhat eclectic canteen and ideas room, and other features that give it a distinct personality. Halácsy himself is very much the geek or nerd but doesn’t fit any stereotypes. He’s dressed rather unremarkably and if you passed him on the street you probably wouldn’t remember him but when he starts talking he makes a deep impression.
“It’s not what you are good at but what you are ambitious about, what I can do for the next five years,” he says. The idea is original, radical and inspiring and it resonates with almost everyone. In today’s age, when re-inventing yourself is almost a given, it is perhaps not as radical, but still, it takes time for everyone to relate this to their own lives and let it sink in.
Like many successful startups, Prezi didn’t follow a ‘recipe for success’ but made its own choices. While Twitter and others were burning cash, Prezi decided it would be cash positive. “We are not Syrian or American -- we were Hungarians with this accent. We decided we have to generate revenue – we have been cash positive for six years,” says Halácsy.
Not anymore though. Prezi has proven itself and -- Halácsy says Prezi has 65 million users and has been adding approximately 1.5 million users every month. Its growth has almost been exponential and it is now investing heavily, thanks to funding it has recieved.
The founders of Prezi – CEO, Peter Arvai, from Sweden with Hungarian parents, an artist, Adam Somlai Fishcher, and Halácsy himself who was an engineer by training and professor with an interest in social sciences and communication – had no intention of starting a company but they were passionate about the product and solving a user problem. Thus, while several firms had taken aim at Microsoft's office suite even earlier, no firm had specifically targeted its presentation software or transformed the user experience as thoroughly as Prezi.
Halácsy is critical of old style management and its obsession with KPIs (key performance indicators) and of the ability of such firms to survive in a crisis and continue to be successful. He also doesn’t care about definitions like if Prezi is still a startup.
Only the creative can survive in a crisis, he says. Other organizations go into command and control mode. “Creativity is not something you are born with -- creativity, courage and risk-taking I learnt from the environment,” says Halácsy. Successful firms are about creating this environment. Not too many organizations dare to try, according to Halácsy who swears by ambition and collaboration.
The key is to trust people, he says. Every relationship has conflicts but if you find people you love so much you will resolve them he says about the founding team staying together and about recruiting te right people.
Prezi solved a communication problem with its software but today, the problem is not so much communication but noise, says Halácsy.
Watch out for more interesting events coming up on CEUBTalks and mark your calendar!
by Shivapriya Nagarajan
CEUBTalk with Gábor Bojar, CEO and Founder of Graphisoft CAD
At the CEUBTalks, Bojár entertained and inspired with his candid answers on building company and taking it an IPO and then back as a private company.
Graphisoft enjoyed a near monopoly in the Hungarian market when it started because there was no competition but search for competition pushed Graphisoft to seek markets outside and set up offices in San Francisco and other cities. "It's human instiinct to compete. When there are no others how can we compete?" The fall of the Berlin wall also put Graphisoft in the US media spotlight as a firm that started in a communist regime and grew to become a category leader.
written by Shivapriya Nagarajan
CEUBTalks with Robert Byssz, Philips CEE
Robert Byssz is from Phillips Co. and is responsible for leading the sales transformation globally. He shared with insights of these global transformation:
- Expand your view: long term commitment to satisfied customers vs the immediate sale.
- Looking at problems and solutions rather than results.
To illustrate these 2 points, he shared a story of when the Croatian Prime Minister, concerned about the waiting time of patients to receive an MRI reached out to several big companies saying “I have this money, who will give me the machines?” That the Phillips sales team did not go for the immediate sale but instead asked to meet with him to find the problem and discovered that is was not a lack of machines as much as it was a lack of technicians that they were able to build a loyal customer. Instead of going for the easy sale they spent time uncovering the problem and giving them advice and means to change.
Solid Companies will be those willing to look at this broader perspective and who are agile enough to adjust accordingly. Who knows what the future will hold but a dynamic company will change as need and who knows maybe this product based company will become a service based company.