Drew Banks is the Head of Marketing at Prezi — after treading across NC State’s “Brickyard” plaza and down MIT’s infinite corridor, Drew cut his entrepreneurial teeth within game-changing companies such as SAS and Silicon Graphics. Hooked on disruptive innovation, Drew co-founded Pie Digital in 2005 to make home networking easy as pie! At Prezi, Drew returns to his SGI-spawned passion to change the world through visualization. Drew also writes. He’s published a couple of business books on communications and social media, as well as a couple of novels on … life.
In this conversation, Drew discuss how Prezi evolved — and what sets it apart.
Geetesh: Prezi now has 20 million registered users — what does this large user base mean to the folks at Prezi — can you share some thoughts?
Drew: Our 20+ million users — and growing at over a million users a month — are a vast source of inspiration. They inspire through the ideas they share through Prezi and through their feedback that helps us continually evolve our product. They also inspire us through their passionate evangelism of Prezi. This viral user advocacy has been core to Prezi’s success and proof that Prezi has a deep value that is worth sharing. That’s how great ideas spread.
Geetesh: Many people know little about how Prezi originated – can you share some history?
Drew: The first Prezi prototype was built by Adam Somlai-Fischer, an architect and designer in Budapest. Adam’s urban art installations were receiving international acclaim and he began speaking at conferences around the world. He needed a way to showcase his work so he hand-coded a ZUI (zoomable user interface) that enabled him to show an overview of his various projects and then zoom in and out of details.
A professor at Budapest University of Technology, Péter “HP” Halácsy, saw Adam’s tool and approached him about using it for an upcoming lecture. Soon after, Adam and HP partnered to work on a commercial editor so anyone could create zooming presentations and share their ideas. They sought some business advice from an entrepreneur, Peter Arvai, and Peter convinced HP and Adam to quit their full time jobs and form a company around this concept. Soon after Prezi launched in 2009, Peter persuaded Chris Anderson of TED Conferences to invest and the company opened its San Francisco office. The combination of Prezi’s disruptive product and shrewd model resulted in immediate financial success; the company has cash-flow positive since year one.