Prezi CTO Halacsy: Silicon Valley is a Good School But Lacks Extra Sense of Purpose

Whether you’re at a startup hub like Silicon Valley or a small community overseas, building a successful startup is challenging. Launching a product requires much more than just finding smart people, hustling, and inventing something new. You need a team who can help you solve the hardest problems and advice you.

Peter Halacsy, CTO of Prezi, a Hungary-based startup, advised struggling startups at Startup Grind Europe:

The Tragedy of Talented People

Historically, schools have been a great place to train factory assembly line staff - that was their purpose. But for training entrepreneurs? Not so much. Young founders-to-be get vague indicators of progress as they pursue, but aren’t often challenged by, traditional education.

Without real world experience of building a business or leading a team, their true talents don’t shine through and their performance drops, often due to sheer boredom.

But young founders can break away from the trend, just like Halacsy did: “Focus, channel your talent, and fight back: it will break the downward curve and you can go on to change the world…. I never had any big decision in my life, and I never had more than one direction.”

Slightly Crazy

“To practice growth you need slightly crazy ideas. If you are really crazy nobody will get it, but being just slightly crazy will help you break away.”

When Halacsy started Prezi, he dreamed of changing how the world communicates ideas. He dreamed of becoming as successful as the founders of Google, Apple, and Microsoft.

“We have 70 million users, and we have the largest database on the Earth of presentations. A company from Budapest, with this accent, with a scientist, with an artist, and with a guy who doesn’t know about presentations.”

Success only comes when you're willing to swim against the current and find your own voice. Success is never guaranteed but with determination, you have a chance to make it.

Switching Your Mindset

“A startup is like a puzzle. We solve it.”

Solving a puzzle offers fascinating insights about the differences between ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets. Peter illustrates this point with a study from Carol Dweck, a social psychology experiment of children solving puzzles.

Her results: those with a fixed mindset seek validation for their success, while those with a growth mindset look for acknowledgment for their efforts. People who can switch from one mindset to the other aren't ignorant of failure; instead, they welcome it because they aren't satisfied with being content.

The Only Success Is Your Own

Halacsy says that while studying others is a great source of learning, it's also all too easy to fall into the trap of mimicking them. Finding your own voice is a key component of success.

Silicon Valley is a good school. But what is good about Budapest is what I call the extra sense of purpose.”

Given the chance, most startups would permanently move to San Francisco. Prezi opted to stay in Europe and establish a brand in both Silicon Valley and Hungary. They decided to build the company around their cultural uniqueness.

Always Better, Never The Best

Peter closes his presentation with this note: “If you want to be the best, you compare yourself to others. But the only thing that matters is if you can do better, better, better, and better.”

The more concerned you are with your competition, the less attention you pay to your own business. Being the best can involve always looking at others; instead, you should primarily focus on building and maintaining your own momentum. 

The world already has a Google, an Uber, and a Prezi. It needs your originality, not a replication of something else, so the world can keep making progress and moving forward.

Watch the full chat with Peter Halacsy from Prezi: