What a year it is to become a first-time CEO!
The charming and energetic Jim Szafranski became the CEO of Prezi earlier this year when Péter Árvai, co-founder of Prezi, retired from the position to focus more of his time on activism. Jim is honored to have this new role and said he was surprised when it was offered because he never planned on being a CEO. When he sought advice before taking the job, someone wise offered, “Be yourself, I’m pretty sure they chose you to be you, not for you to be someone else.” Spending time with this humble and caring leader amidst the backdrop of election politics’ ego-driven world was a welcome respite.
This values-driven company dedicated to forming human connections through technology was founded in 2009 in Hungary, and its user base is now over 100M globally. Jim joined the team in 2015, steering the company’s strategic expansion into video and led the company’s integration of acquiring Infogram, resulting in Prezi’s new visual suite of Prezi Video, Prezi Present, and Prezi Design. Jim has engineering and management degrees from MIT and Stanford.
During this time in history, leading a tech company was an opportunity to be inventive while honoring the strong culture already in place. For example, Jim and his team temporarily suspended having traditional OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as they weathered the global changes and concurrent growth. Also, they leaned into the process they already had in place of translating their simple values of “We Picture. We Care. We Team.” into concrete actions that supported the team and drove results.
Many of Prezi’s users are teachers in over 175 countries. Thanks to Prezi Video, they can now all provide interactive virtual presentations, like a newscaster, as they virtually teach their students. Here is Jim proudly demonstrating this timely technology:
Prezi video lends itself to live or recorded presentations. As he looks at his education users trends that will be translated to business this winter, Jim has two predictions:
1. Teachers will lead a mainstream recorded video-message revolution. The one-to-many nature of live classroom management creates the need for giving assignments and feedback through recorded video messages, two-thirds of teacher videos are recorded, and one-third are live to maintain the pace. Jim suggests that, after picking it up from teachers, parents will quickly bring video messaging into the workplace as a way to have fewer live meetings.
2. With teachers leading the way, the future virtual workplace will emphasize interacting with your content. Teachers have always been super-influencers because they reach students/families/and other teachers, but now they are bringing their influence to tech tools and mainstream tech companies will want to be included in their tech stack.
These teachers/influencers are moving the edtech concept of the flipped classroom into the world of work. At Prezi, Jim records content for his weekly Monday team meetings on the Thursday of the prior week. When the team meets, they can focus on connecting rather than delivering information. He is practicing what he preaches using his platform internally with excellent results.