Prezi Secures $57M Growth Round From Spectrum And Accel, Passes 50M Users

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Prezi, the cloud presentation platform that has been gradually eating away at Microsoft’s Powerpoint market share for the last few years, is poised to become a far more mainstream product than some might have previously thought. It’s making two major announcements today. The first — announced today on stage at Slush in Helsinki — is that it has secured a $57 million growth investment from Spectrum Equity, a growth equity firm, with participation from existing investor, Accel Partners, to accelerate its growth.

That growth is evident in the second piece of news it announces today, which is that it’s passed the 50 million users mark, nearly doubling its user base in the past twelve months, and is attracting roughly 55,000 new users every day. Those users have now created 160 million ‘Prezis’ to date, allowing it to justifiably call itself the world’s largest publicly available database of presentations. By contrast Slideshare has only 15 million uploads (according to their site).

CEO and co-founder Peter Arvai says Spectrum has “a long term perspective, just like we do” which hints at his plans to take the platform to the next level.

Victor Parker, managing director at Spectrum Equity says they were attracted to the platform because it’s “quickly becoming the preferred application for businesses, entrepreneurs and educators” and were attracted for its “growing user base and content library” as well as its “compelling business model”.

Underlying Prezi’s success to date has been its growing reputation amongst businesses which are using it to persuade clients, woo customers and train internally. Devised originally by co-founder Adam Somlai-Fischer, Prezi infinite canvas plays on our fundamental spacial awareness, something which the chronological nature of Powerpoint simply cannot touch.

Prezi has thus won fans at companies such as Salesforce, Lufthansa, Marriott and IBM.

A disruptive product for presentations, training, education, an organically-diven international brand, a content library growing like a hockey-stick, and a low-friction business model with a strong revenue upside is the dream investment for most growth investors, and Prezi ticks all of these boxes.

In its latest announcement, it cites Robert Duffner, director of mobile strategy at Salesforce, who says he has seen customer satisfaction increase by “nearly 30 percent— since switching to Prezi for my presentations 18 months ago.” For a company like Salesforce to sign off on such a quote is a marked indication that Prezi has turned a significant corner.

Prezi is highly unusual in Silicon Valley because it’s been run — heavens above! — like a real, sustainable business. Indeed, it has yet to even touch the $15.1m it’s raised to far as it’s — take a deep breath — been running on revenues and spent its money very carefully. Most Valley startups would be having palpitations at this thought, but the sweat refuses to break out on the Arvai’s brow.

“We want to help make two billion people make better decisions,” he says. It’s not often you meet entrepreneurs quite so focused on their product, but Arvai is the archetypical product-focused startup founder, who delights in talking about his product, his team and his company.

Humans don’t just think in a logical, chronological order, they also think spacially. It’s so much easier to recall information if you can remember where it sat in relation to something else, whether that be location or by spacial association within the context of a story.

So it was that Prezi’s interactive, zoomable canvas which could show the relationships between a big story and the finer details, created such waves in 2009.

Admittedly, for a while, the jury was out on whether this would be a niche product or something which could appeal to a wide audience.

But with this latest growth funding round, it’s clear that Prezi is not going to be niche at all. All the evidence suggests, that when people start using it, and get the hang of it, they don’t go back to the usual slide scenario. Indeed, Prezi is now amongst those quintessential cloud software startups disrupting the desktop world as we know it today.

There is equally a fascinating European story behind Prezi.

In 2008, Peter Arvai joined with Somlai-Fischer, an artist and designer, and Peter Halacsy, a computer scientist and former university professor, to create in Budapest.

Somlai-Fischer, an artist, had wanted a presentation tool to showcase his work, so he coded it himself. Halácsy, had seen it and wanted to use it himself.

The two initially conceived of it as a service business – creating Prezi-style presentations for clients – but it was Arvai – who had previously created, a medical data firm and developed one of the world’s first mobile newsreaders – who realised the concept had a future as a cloud software platform.

It became part of a movement of startups out of that city, from Ustream to LogMeIN.

It’s success has in large part relied on its frugality – building a team in cheap but talent-packed Budapest, while aiming at the juicy markets of Western Europe, the US and Asia. Prezi’s first office in San Francisco was a simple two bedroom apartment.

Pitched at The Next Web conference in Amsterdam – and oddly not winning the competition – startups started using the platform themselves which led VC firms to start to notice the company.

The company now employs 70 people in its San Francisco office, and 180 in Budapest.

It’s certainly been a fascinating company to watch over the last few years and will – with its new war chest – be equally fascinating to watch in the future.