What I learnt at Prezi HQ: Dare to Challenge

Earlier this month I joined Yes for Europe for their 5th European Youth Entrepreneurship Conference. It took place in beautiful Budapest, Hungary and I shared my experiences in a post here.

Today I'm sharing what I learnt during a fantastic visit to the Hungarian Headquarters of Prezi. Please take a moment to understand how big a deal this is. Prezi is one of Hungary’s most successful tech companies of all time!

So how did an artist, a computer scientist and an entrepreneur come together to launch one of the most successful companies to come out of Hungary?

Prezi’s three Founders are Adam Somlai-Fischer, Peter Halacsy and Peter Arvai. Artist Adam created a new way to present his work by zooming in and out of a large canvas. Computer scientist HP saw Adam present at a lecture and offered to help him improve the software and make it available to the public for free. Then HP met entrepreneur Peter who decided Prezi was just thing to put Hungary on the map and challenge negative stereotypes.

Prezi’s start-up story sounds like a modern day David & Goliath!

The three ‘Davids’ struggled to sell the idea of zooming presentation software to investors. With no initial financial backing they agreed to follow their intuition and take the software public. This meant going straight up against the ultimate Goliaths in their industry - Microsoft and Google.!

This is a pertinent point for entrepreneurs struggling to secure initial investment or funding. Ask yourself do you need external investment to get going? Can you plough on without it? Is there a leaner model to try on for size?

Since official launch in 2009, seven (lucky?) years on, they’re still winning:

Today Prezi has 65 million users worldwide and over 200,000 Prezi presentations get created every single day. They now have a global team of 240 staff and offices in Budapest, San Francisco and Mexico City.

Prezi is a great example of how creating a different answer to an already answered question - using zooming frames rather than slides to present- can disrupt a market.

What a strong challenge to the old accolade “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Looking for your next big idea? Ask yourself what works just fine in your day to day life or routine. How can you improve it with a little bit of blue sky thinking? Get your hack head on! How else can you solve a problem? What would make existing solutions even better?

At Prezi HQ we learnt that asking the 'What if?' and 'Why not?' questions can be powerful when challenging the status quo. It’s not only healthy, exciting and exploratory to ask what else is possible, Prezi proves it can also be revolutionary.

The counter-cultural 'Dare to challenge your manager' ethos gets celebrated even when challenges fail. This is because Prezi believes that failure is where the best new ideas come from. This even more impressive when you acknowledge the 'paternal state' culture that Prezi was born into in Hungary.

The company values are printed on their office mugs and staff get encouraged to live them and to challenge others when they are not honoured. The values are also painted all over the cafe in beautiful infographic style posters for all to see. It's uplifting and inspiring.

Total internal transparency means they share up-to-date company financial documents with teams often so everyone understands the motives behind big decisions.

Prezi's no location policy means staff are not obliged to work in the office and can work wherever they fancy as long as they deliver. This autonomy is respectful and refreshing - treating adults like adults makes complete sense to me.

Free healthy food is available in the well-stocked cafe all day (a-la Google) and the noticeboards feature staff benefits tips and staff depicted as superheroes (see above!).

Staff can order work-related books whenever they like without the need to seek managerial approval. There is a generous annual conference budget for each employee to take charge of their own learning. The thinking behind this is the greater the sense of agency amongst your staff, the greater their loyalty and the lower attrition.

They also have a fellowship programme were employees can exchange with colleagues in the San Fran or Mexico offices. Freedom of movement in full effect!

We got a tour of the building which feels rather play-focused, complete with a tree house and bright coloured plastic furniture.

I was so pleased to spot Emotional literacy guidance posters on the walls. Complete with clear advice on how to have difficult conversations and how to connect with others despite differences. We need more of that here in the UK!

I left Prezi feeling inspired and motivated to ensure that I continue to create an open, inclusive company culture at A Life Less Ordinary Wanted. I feel like we're on the right track with our values of freedom, creativity and positive challenge. There is definitely room for more play and curiosity! It's time to think about how to get some more of both of those embedded into the working week.

“Everything great about humanity starts with people sharing ideas.”

The full story of how Prezi's three Founders met is illustrated using Prezi beautifully here.

Thanks to Bridge Budapest for the fantastic opportunity to visit Prezi as a part of Yes for Europe's 5th European Youth Entrepreneurship Conference. You can read more about the Conference here.

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