How Canva Founders and CEO Built a $6B Company?

Canva Founders Success Story: Building Billion Dollar Firm

By Anindita Paul Apr 8 2021 1:06PM 743 Read
How Canva Founders and CEO Built a $6B Company?

Canva started as a desire to make design accessible. Melanie Perkins found it increasingly absurd that one had to learn so much about designing software before one could produce the simplest outcome. While in university, she taught students how to use designing tools like InDesign and Photoshop, and began wondering how the designing process could be made easier.

“We would spend an entire semester learning where the buttons were and that seemed completely ridiculous,”~Melanie Perkins

Fusion Books a stepping stone to Canva:

Canva founders, Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht were just nineteen and studying in university together when they created Fusion Books.

Fusion Book is a simple school yearbook designing tool. It’s software that makes designing and publishing school magazines and yearbooks easier. Their goal was to make these yearbooks a fun and collaborative project between the school and the students.

Perkins said in the same interview:

“[While working on Fusion Book] My mum’s living room became my office and my boyfriend became my business partner.” Emphasizing what a great support system the Canva founders had, and were to each other.

Fusion book was a learning curve for them, but it was a great help when they started working on Canva. They learned “how to sell, how to recruit, and how to build a business,” through working on Fusion Book.

Fusion book did not frizzle out and is still an active business, and the Canva team confidently claims that the business is now the number one yearbook publisher in Australia, and has expanded to France and New Zealand as well.

Canva Founders & Beginning of Company

Like every other ambitious startup, Canva founders struggled with funding, until Venture Capitalist Bill Tai stepped in. He invited Perkins to Mai Tai, a retreat for investors, where Perkins had the opportunity to build connections.

Canva had a positive start altogether, they rose an initial funding of $1.5 million and the Australian government matched this amount in funding to make sure Canva stayed within Australian shores. Australia’s Blackbird Ventures was one of the first Australian investors that showed interest in them.

And finally, on January 1st, 2012, Canva took sail. Canva founders were now a trio, Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht were joined by Cameron Adams, and they established their headquarters in Sydney, Australia.

Canva Founders & their Achievements Timeline:
  • In 2014, Guy Kawasaki joined Canva as a brand promoter. He is from the USA and was one of the marketers of Apple's Macintosh’s first marketing team.
  • Canva grew from AU$6.8 million to AU$23.5 million, in the year 2016. But ultimately ended up with a loss of AU$3.3 million.
  • In 2017, the company grew to attract 294,000 paying customers and finally became profitable.
  • In January of 2018, it was announced by the Canva founders that Sequoia Capitals, Blackbird Ventures, and Felicis Ventures have invested in the company. That year the company was valued at AU$1 billion.
  • Canva acquired Zeetings in the year 2018.
  • In 2019, they acquired a German-based free stock photography website, Pixel, and Pixbay.
  • In 2019, General Catalyst and Bond invested another AU$70 million, increasing the brand’s value to AU$2.5 billion.
  • In December of 2019, the canvas founders announced the project Canva for Education, a free product for schools.
  • In 2020, Canva announced a partnership with FedEx and Office Depot. And as of June of the same year, Canva is worth AU$6 billion.
Canva Services and Products:

Most millennials and gen Z who have ever made a presentation, or a creative project, have used or heard of Canva.

Canva has thousands of templates and designs for different events in different formats & you can easily design posters, logos, graphs, Instagram posts, Facebook covers, pamphlets, and even magazine covers. Canva is available for use both on personal computers and mobile devices; it is also available as an app but is user-friendly on the web as well.

Here are a few things that they offer besides a platform to design collaboratively:
  • You can print your designs professionally. If you have designed a poster, pamphlet, t-shirt, etc, and are not sure about a good printing service, don’t worry you can pay Canva to do that for you. And the bright side is the finished product comes with Canva quality assurance.
  • Canva has countless courses and tutorials on various topics. If you are just getting started with designing, the Canva “Design School” is where you should start to polish your designing prowess. The good news, it’s all free.
  • Canva has a blog space where they upload informative articles about countless topics and up-to-date trends of the designing world.
  • Canva non-profit is a plan by Canva that provides all its services free for non-profit organizations. So, if you are part of one, or starting one you should check out Canva for your designing needs.
Inspiration from the Canva Success story:
  • The Canva founders do not come from the uber elite wealthy families, they had to toil for their investors and connections from the get-go. Goes to prove that good ideas can survive even without a silver spoon.
  • There’s no shame in starting small. It’s natural to have hopes from one's startup, but starting a small endeavor to test the waters is not only smart but necessary.
  • The Canva founders never lost their vision. Perkins hasn’t lost sight of the goal that she had while envisioning a business like Canva, and that shows in their policies.
  • Bouncing back from a setback is a team effort. In 2019 Canva was hacked and the personal information of around 139 million users got leaked, and it brought the company a lot of bad press (and rightfully so). The team of Canva founders and employees struck together throughout this and came on top despite the crisis.
  • Never forget to give back to the community. Canva founders always understood the core of visibility: how important it is to be seen. And they are now a platform that makes visibility easier for schools and non-profit organizations.
  • The sky is not the limit when it comes to how far you can take your business. Canva is now looking to expand in the USA and is looking to start an office in Austin, Texas. Previously hailed as rivals to US-based companies like Microsoft and Adobe, Canva is taking the competition right to their doorsteps.
Final Words

Your ideas without the drive to implement them are not ideas but daydreams, and they don’t have to be a bad thing, but they are also not going to get you results.

What the Canva founders teach us is that ideas that seem crazy are only crazy because no one has tried them. All they need is for you to have the courage to get out there and talk to people about it, ground it in honest hard work, and believe in it yourself.

When in doubt it helps to remember that Canva now has over one million paid subscribers and thirty million monthly users all over the globe, and the seeds of all this were sowed in someone’s living room. So, let’s take a page from Melanie Perkins's book, and keep working.

Anindita Paul
Anindita Paul View More Posts

I’m an avid reader and a wobbly but driven writer, who hopes to make her mark in the world of writing one article at a time. I am passionate about creative writing and storytelling, for me this is where my love for art meets my love for language. I am pursuing my masters in English literature, a course that has equipped me to question, comment and analyse the world from diverse points of views, and writing is how I plan to not let these skills go to waste. In my free time I can be found neck deep in meme culture foraging for my next pop-culture obsession.

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