HOW SYDNEY STARTUP CANVA DISRUPTED DIGITAL DESIGN

HOW SYDNEY STARTUP CANVA DISRUPTED DIGITAL DESIGN

THE Australian start-up scene, although growing rapidly, is still relatively immature and venture capital funding is difficult to come by. Therefore, it is no small feat that in just over three years, Sydney start-up Canva has built an online design platform which now services more than 10 million users across 179 countries.

To date, Canva has raised over $55 million in capital. The company's most recent round of funding was in September this year, where Canva raise $15 million from Australia's Blackbird Ventures and Silicon Valley's Felicis Ventures bringing the company's valuation to $458 million. 

But co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins (pictured centre with fellow co-founders Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams) tells Business News Australia that this is just the beginning. She says that what Canva has achieved to date is all but one per cent of the way into her plans and vision for the future of the company.

Perkins took some time from her busy schedule to share her insights on how Canva has been able to achieve international success. 

1. A genuine solution 

As with most of the world's most successful start-ups, it often begins with an idea and a genuine solution to a real problem.

Noticing that people often struggle with technical graphic design programs such as Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, Perkins and her team set their sights on building an online graphic design solution which was tailored for the everyday person. A solution built on ease of use and simplicity.

"There are lots of factors involved in scaling a business and the most fundamental is solving a genuine problem a lot of people struggle with," says Perkins.

"For too long, graphic design was too complex and expensive for most people, even though almost every profession benefits from beautiful designs. So when we launched Canva, there were already millions of people who needed a tool just like it, so word of mouth spread like wildfire."

2. Power in its people

When Canva was founded, the team was, as Perkins describes it, "five people sitting around a table". Since then, the team has grown to more than a hundred people working across two offices in Sydney and the Philippines.

Despite the rapid pace in which the company has grown, Perkins believes it is important to continue to instil empowerment within the team.

"Late in 2015, as we were getting closer to one hundred people, we shifted from one big team into a model of small, empowered teams," she says.

"Each of these teams operate like their own start-up - they have their own goals and missions, but we all celebrate together when a team hits their goal.

"This structure enables each team to be nimble and move quickly, and also gives each team ownership over their work so they can be as effective and creative as they can be."

3. A never say die attitude

Although Canva has raised in excess of $55 million, Perkins tells Business News Australia that getting buy-in from investors did not start off easy.

"Our first round of investment was raised after a full year of meeting investors, six months in San Francisco and 100 revisions to our pitch deck," she says.

"I did everything I could, including learning to kitesurf in order to attend a kitesurfing and entrepreneurship conference where I knew a lot of investors would be."

Evidently, the persistence paid off as the tables have now turned. Impressively, during the last round of raising, five firms flew from San Francisco to Canva's headquarters in Sydney to learn about the company and pitch to Canva why it should take them on as an investor.

"It's been a long journey. I find it a little bit amusing that it's been the same vision for many years, from the days we were struggling to find investors and pitching our hearts out, until now where investors were literally pitching us. One firm even created an impressive pitch deck!"

She adds, "You have to believe in your vision for a long time before anyone else will."
 

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