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Prezi CEO expects video communication platforms to thrive beyond COVID-19

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Prezi CEO expects video communication platforms to thrive beyond COVID-19

SNL ImagePrezi CEO Jim Szafranski
Source: Prezi

Prezi launched its virtual presentation tool Prezi Video as a small hobby project in late 2019, but usage skyrocketed in 2020 amid the pandemic.

➤ The company expects usage of video platforms to remain elevated even after schools and offices reopen, as users incorporate hybrid teaching and training models.

Prezi executives have no immediate plans for the company to go public, focusing instead on continuing to cultivate strategic partnerships.

Founded in 2009, Prezi Inc. is a cloud-based presentation software company that saw its business skyrocket amid the pandemic as schools and commercial organizations discovered Prezi Video, a tool that facilitates virtual presentations within live or recorded video on various communication platforms, including those from Zoom Video Communications Inc., Microsoft Corp., Google LLC, SLACK Inc. and Facebook Inc.

S&P Global Market Intelligence caught up with Prezi's CEO Jim Szafranski to discuss the company's explosive growth and its outlook for the future. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

S&P Global Market Intelligence: How does Prezi stand out in the increasingly crowded video communication and collaboration software space?

Jim Szafranski: It's important to note that we are not a replacement for platforms like Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams. We are actually a partner of all those platforms. Prezi Video greatly enhances the screen-sharing aspect in both live and recorded video, allowing the presenter to bring their content onto the screen similar to how newscasters or weather people do. This makes the entire process more engaging, which is the key thing that everyone is trying to figure out in the remote work and hybrid office debates.

Did Prezi also benefit from the growth that video communication and collaboration platforms such as Zoom experienced due to a surge in demand amid the pandemic?

I can't say if our growth is on par with Zoom, but we're on the backdraft of that wave. When we launched Prezi Video in November 2019, we thought it would be a hobby project that would take a little time for people to figure out use cases for. Then COVID happened, and we suddenly went from being a new product to something that was used in April alone in 175 countries, over 20,000 organizations and 60% of U.S. school districts. We very quickly got over a million users, and this growth hasn't stopped for us. We don't release our financials, but the health of our business has mimicked the growth of the usage of this product, and we've never been in a better, healthier position to be growing and investing in our company.

Do you expect business to slow down as more schools and offices reopen in the coming months?

On the education side of our business, usage did change in parts of the world that went back to school, but it flattened a little bit instead of going down. I think this will continue going forward because teachers have learned this model called a "flipped classroom," which is the concept of recording lectures for students so they can watch them on their own time and at their own pace as a form of homework. When everyone is together in a classroom, the focus can then be on working together and solving problems. This increased reliance on recorded video is why we think educational usage will not go down.

On the commercial side, the problem we solved initially was essentially virtual selling. Salespeople had to continue selling their products online during the pandemic, and how better to do that than to have them appear onscreen along with the product information at the same time? We don't see virtual selling slowing down; we see the ability to continue to grow because companies are now adopting technologies more broadly.

Are there any plans in the near future to go public through an IPO or [special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC]?

Our business is in a position where we can expand off our balance sheet in the existing growth and that makes the investors happy. Our main focus for growth is really about these partnerships and working very closely with our partners like Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams. They continue embracing us and providing us with the ability to snap into their ecosystems and their platforms. As long as that's there for us, I think we have the right strategic underpinnings in place. So no, right now there isn't a need yet for an IPO conversation or SPAC conversations. We're focused on user growth and strategic partnerships.

Do you see any obstacles that still need to be addressed to maximize growth in the sector?

Workplace communication and collaboration apps did take off during COVID, but a lot of the growth was forced in some ways. The space has enough momentum now that it's going to be hard if not impossible to stop, but there are still a few things that can be addressed. We still spend a lot of time trying to convince people to turn their cameras on, which I think is the main adoption barrier, which can relate to a variety of things such as privacy or the user's confidence levels. What we've seen is people are more comfortable with live video because that's one and done, while with recorded video, they can go back and look at themselves. Overall, I think keeping the camera on is going to be a topic for a while and we need more solutions, whether it's privacy, like blurring the background or coming up with new ways to help people become more comfortable.