Birthing An Especially Rare Unicorn

One Hungarian is helping innovators come together and get started.

Péter Halácsy has the distinction of having created Hungary’s first tech unicorn, one of the few from the entire CEE region.

Prezi, the presentation-software giant he helped found, had its origins in 2008, in a personal tool hand-coded by co-founder and artist Ádám Somlai-Fischer, who wanted to be able to zoom in on key concepts when presenting his work. Halácsy, then an academic at the prestigious Budapest University of Technology and Economics and co-founder of innovation lab Kitchen Budapest, saw Somlai-Fischer’s homemade presentation software and set about to improve and commercialize it.

The two budding “technopreneurs” brought Hungarian-Swedish business figure Peter Arvai on board and incorporated Prezi in May 2009. Two months later, the company became the TED Conferences’ first ever investee. By November 2009, it had opened an office in San Francisco. Prezi has been scaling like one of its trademark zoom-outs ever since. In April 2018, Prezi announced that “the company now has more than 100 million users worldwide,” and that “Prezi presentations have been viewed over 3.5 billion times.”

Halácsy remains a pillar of Hungary’s start-up and venture scene. With Arvai and others, he co-founded Bridge Budapest, a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting local entrepreneurship and the domestic start-up culture.

Halácsy’s commitment to fostering talent and positive values ranges far beyond technology and entrepreneurship, though. Through his Budapest School platform, founded in 2015, he is building “a network of community-funded microschools,” with a curriculum emphasizing critical thinking and creativity to nurture future citizens and leaders. Halácsy also helped create the Heroes Square Project, which offers training, workshops and other programs to instill a culture of social and civic responsibility in Hungary.

“I don’t want to change people anymore, but I want to help them to change themselves,” Halácsy says. “I decided to connect people to help them to achieve what they want. That’s why I call myself a change agent.”