Featured Profiles

The LGBTQ+ Role Model For Future Entrepreneurs

Peter Arvai is a Swedish Entrepreneur of Hungarian parentage. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Prezi, a cloud-based presentation software company. As an entrepreneur, he has previously founded omvard.se and co-founded Prezi along with two co-founders Adam Somlai-Fischer, a designer and Peter ‘HP’ Halacsy, a computer scientist and university professor; and officially launched it in 2009. Peter was also the first openly gay CEO in Hungary. He turned his coming out in 2015 into a Forbes article to position himself as a gay role model for young LGBTQ+ looking to be entrepreneurs.


Peter Arvai is originally from Karlskoga in Sweden, while his parents were of Hungarian descent. He attended Stockholm University in 2001 and graduated with a master in Business Administration. At Stockholm University, Peter participated in the 12 months Vulcanus in Japan programme, established by the Japanese Ministry of Economic, Trade and Industry and the EU.

While there, he studied Japanese and completed a training program at Fuji Xerox in Japan. Peter studied economics in Singapore for an exchange semester as part of his business program. He was one of the first students to attend the newly introduced Master in Media Technology and Engineering program (1999-2005) at the Royal Institute of Technology. After graduating, Peter co-founded the program’s alumni group that gave him a jumpstart into the world of entrepreneurship.

Peter says, “Since University I’ve been interested in how to combine storytelling with technology in a way that will help people make better decisions. Before Prezi, I co-founded omvard.se, a company that aggregates data on treatment outcomes for hospital patients. I also developed the world’s first mobile newsreader so people could follow TED talks from their mobile devices.”

Soon Peter was onto his next project, along with his co-founders, the trio recognized a problem with traditional presentations – they convey the data in a dry, hum-drum manner. Peter explained, “My Co-Founder Adam Somlai-Fischer was a renowned media artist, in addition to being an architect. He found slide-based presentations limiting for his art, so he designed an open, zoomable canvas to showcase his work. My other co-founder Peter Halácsy is a computer scientist and revolutionized the code, and I brought the product and user experience mindset.”

Prezi was officially launched in 2009; the following year, with sheer determination, Peter set up a meeting with Chris Anderson, the creator of TED Talks, to secure funding. The organization had previously never invested in another company. But with the ambitious speech of the three founders that changed, they received $1.5 million in investment from TED and Sunstone Capital in Copenhagen.

After that, there was no looking back; Prezi achieved several firsts and soon had over 100 million users. Their company was backed by research conducted by Harvard that showed Prezi was more engaging and persuasive than traditional presentations that gave the platform leverage.

However, his success does not end there; Peter has achieved tremendous feats as an LGBTQ+ leader and advocate – and continues to work hard for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace.

LGBT rights were still a rarity when Peter was a kid in Sweden. He explained, “I didn’t have any true role models. I wanted to start a business, but it didn’t seem like that was something you could easily mix with being publicly homosexual. But, during my undergraduate years, Sweden underwent a major transformation, and I felt supported in being out gay. Because I had witnessed that shift in my lifetime, it gave me the guts to be Hungary’s first openly gay CEO.

Peter went on to explain his move: “I think it’s an important way of indicating the type of culture you’re setting with the company and, whether it’s a sexuality or not, leaders can be open or closeted with their personal lives. It’s really worthwhile to be open and to share who you are with people if you’re wanting to develop authentic relationships, candid conversations, and creativity.”

In 2010, Prezi became the first-ever company to march in the Budapest Pride Parade that was soon followed by some of the biggest corporations in the world. Peter described the event saying, “As I entered the march there were these big fences so that you could hermetically seal off the marchers. You had an empty spot in between and then you had sort of the extreme right on the other side. I would be lying if I didn’t say that was a really scary march and in some ways it also made it clear to me how difficult it must be in that environment to be openly gay, to just receive so much hatred for who you are.”

After the pioneering move, Prezi has continued to work hard to cultivate an open, diverse and inclusive work environment. His company Prezi has “coded diversity in from the beginning”, said Peter. “Being inclusive is not just the morally right thing to do but it has a lot of benefits. You think more creatively, you see things from varied perspectives.”

To take this notion ahead, in 2013, Peter and the team at Prezi co-founded the NGO’ WeAreOpen’ with Google and ESPELL. The NGO was set up with a clear intention of promoting and helping organizations understand and experience the benefits of openness at the workplace. Since its launch, more than 1000 companies have publicly joined WeAreOpen. As a result, this created a wave of openness with several well respected public figures sharing videos and stories on transparency; a quality society should value.

Talking about the NGO, Peter said, “I am really grateful that teenagers growing up today struggling with accepting themselves for being gay, can see diverse role models who they can relate to.” He wants to show young LGBTQ+ individuals that it’s possible to be openly gay and have a successful career in technology.

In conclusion, his advice for budding leaders is, “The core here is to get to know yourself. Once you know who you are, then you know what’s important to you. And often, this entails being able to connect the dots from where you’re coming from and how your talents, interests and expertise can be useful for the world. When all of these pieces come together and create something that excites you, your purpose will be clear. For me, this understanding, combined with the insight I gained about how the world and our decision-making is suffering from poor communication, provided a clear picture of what can be purposeful and meaningful.”