Peter Arvai, Prezi: “Creativity outweighs experience”

Original author: Andrii Degeler
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[The translation used parts of the interview that weren’t included in the text on Venture Village.] Prezi, an

online service for creating presentations with scalable effects, with headquarters in Budapest and San Francisco recently presented new statistics: as of September, 29 million people used it , and by the end of 2013 the company plans to attract 36 million users.

A month after that, CEO and one of the founders of the company Peter Arvay arrived in Kiev at the IDCEE conference . I met him among hundreds of startups, participants, investors and mentors in the corridor of the NSC Olimpiysky to find out a little more about what the service expects and what drives its creator.





- Please tell us a little about yourself.

- I was born and raised in Sweden, studied as an engineer. After that, he was an employee of number 4 in a startup, and then he founded his own company, which provides information about hospitals. With this service, the user can compare the hospital "A" with the hospital "B" for all procedures and indicators such as mortality, infectious diseases, etc.

The reason I became interested in healthcare was sad: my father died of a heart attack, and then my mother fell ill. And then I saw an amazing thing: I could go to the store for toothpaste and compare its types right there, at the counter, by price, effects, composition and manufacturer. However, when I went with my mother to the doctor, I had no idea about him and the hospital in which he worked. It seemed to me wrong that society made every effort to ensure that the toothpaste producer was responsible for his product, and that healthcare providers were not.

- Did the work in this startup give motivation for Prezi?

- We thought that the main users of the site with a comparison of hospitals would be patients, but it turned out that most often doctors and nurses came to us. Those who were smarter adopted the experience of other hospitals and were able to optimize their processes. This experience has shown me that I can really move society in a positive direction through entrepreneurship.

The same idea motivates me in my work on Prezi. I believe that when we help people share ideas, we accelerate the development of the whole world. I believe that everything good and important in the world at a fundamental level depends on the dissemination of ideas. For example, if you are a researcher who is looking for a cure for cancer, and you need to talk about your work over the past two to three years, you will need Prezi (or PowerPoint) to describe your research. And today we know that Prezi in such a situation helps such researchers to be heard and understood.

- Do you think you and your team are the most professional users in the Prezi community?

- We constantly learn from our users. When we first started the service, we had no evidence that it was a good tool for creating presentations - except that we liked it. But in the last couple of years, with the help of a real scientist, we have been able to learn much more and understand that the Prezi mechanism is largely consistent with the mechanism of human thinking.

Let's say this is a simple question: what kind of kitchen utensils do you have?

- Uh ... Frying pan, forks, microwave, stove, coffee maker ...

- Here. I think that you just imagined your kitchen, and then consistently focused on its individual parts. This happens exactly because our brain understands and remembers information based on visual and spatial information. Prezi works the same way: presentation objects are visually and spatially dependent on each other.

Now I can say that with a good presentation made at Prezi, listeners better understand and remember your story; moreover, they like her more. This format corresponds to the basic principle of human thinking, because the narrative thus uses visual and spatial thinking.

What I am telling you now is the principles of cognitive science, the science of thinking. I communicate with researchers from Harvard and Stanford; they explain that spatial visual signs are otherwise simply called landmarks. You need to leave the cave, turn right behind the stone, then left to the tree, and there will be edible berries. If our brain could not perceive landmarks, we would not have survived to this day. Accordingly, it was in this way that a person remembered information for millions of years.

- So, you created Prezi, not knowing all this theory?

“We had no idea about that.” We and many other people just liked this format, but without knowing the scientific part, it is difficult to explain the reasons for the positive emotions about this.

Prezi presentation might look like this


- When you added the ability to download audio tracks to presentations in Prezi, you said that this was done based on the wishes of users. How much do users and their requests affect the new functionality of the service?

- Pretty much. We are rolling out new Prezi features and capabilities every two weeks (in fact, several versions of the service with different sets of functions work in parallel inside us) and look at the feedback. If users like the innovations, we leave them. The user community is very important; We, of course, have an internal vision of the product and its prospects, but without users Prezi would never have become what it is.

- In a previous interview, you mentioned that users started using Prezi as a tool for brainstorming.

- Yes, that is right. One of the important trends that we see is that planning horizons are getting shorter and shorter. Say, if you had a five-year plan 25 years ago, it was a sign of professionalism. Now, on the contrary, if you plan only a week in advance, you will be considered a professional - flexible and dynamic. This, in particular, means that people simply do not have time to conduct separate “brainstorming” sessions, and then also make presentations.

- Do you somehow help such users, make Prezi a more convenient tool for them?

- Oh sure. We gave them the opportunity to work together online: even if you access the Internet from different places (or from one room, but from different devices), you can connect to one common workspace and quickly add your ideas.

- Last year you rolled out localized versions of the service in Spanish, Japanese and Korean, this year - the Portuguese version. How important do you think localization is in a product like Prezi?

- Very important. There are many people in whose local cultures English is not sufficiently accessible and convenient. A good example is Korean localization. Korean users were so interested in Prezi that they started sending us Korean fonts because we knew nothing about this language. And it was they who primarily helped us launch the localized version.

- Speaking of languages. I know that you are fluent not only in Swedish, Hungarian and English, but also in Japanese, and are generally passionate about the culture of this country. Does this affect your work and specifically Prezi?

“Now my Japanese is far from being as good as before.” But in general, this language and culture greatly changed my worldview. Japan has a very strong culture of caring for others and their interests to a greater extent than about themselves. It helped me to shift my point of view in order to focus on the people around me and what I can learn from them, rather than shutting myself down. It was a very rewarding experience.

There is one more thing, more practical: thanks to the Japanese language, I understood a lot about visual communication. In Japanese, as in Chinese, hieroglyphs are essentially images. For example, the hieroglyphs for the word “love” are mother and child. Compare this to the letters, "L-B-B-O-B-b." I remember returning from Japan to Europe and thinking what dry and uninteresting languages ​​we have.

- Do you plan to launch Russian localization and learn other languages ​​of Eastern Europe?

- I think that gradually we will enter more and more large markets, it is exclusively a matter of resources. Unfortunately, this takes a lot of time; if it were my will, we would already have all the localizations. But over time, we will come to this.

- Do you have any ideas how to apply Prezi to Google Glass and generally wearable computing trends?

- I have a lot of ideas. I never discuss the planned features of the service, but I can say that I thought about it.

- Thanks, Peter. What else would you like to add to what has been said?

- There is one really important and interesting thing that we again learn about from our users. People who use Prezi today understand that creativity is more important than experience these days. We see how many companies invest huge amounts of time and money in new processes and new ways to solve old problems.

Today's economy is steadily accelerating. Life expectancy for the most successful companies has already decreased from 60 to 18 years. The only way to survive in these conditions is to constantly re-invent who you are and what you do. And in this situation, we see from our users that in many cases creativity outweighs experience, and I think this is one of the main reasons Prezi is popular.

They understand that it is not so important to make another presentation, how to come up with an idea that people will want to share with others. And in this field Prezi is very strong, because such presentations are easy to remember and understand, moreover, this format can make you rethink the ideas that you work with. This is a key trend that no one can afford to ignore. You should seriously think about this if you are building your business.

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