An Aussie Tech Startup Sensation – Canva, now one of the world’s leading web based design platforms actually started with humble beginnings.
Today Canva averages 120 new designs being added each second and more than 7 billion designs in total.
Anyone with just a little graphic design expertise has likely come across this easy-to-use online tool to make stunning graphics. Canva’s intuitive drag-and-drop interface simplifies creating professional-looking graphics, social media, and advertising campaigns.
Canva has skyrocketed in popularity since its 2012 debut and now does business with some of the most significant companies in the world, like Coca-Cola, Nike, and Virgin, and over 10 million consumers have used it to make beautiful designs.
“As a leader, I feel my job is to set the vision and the goals for the company, and then to work with everyone to empower them to dream big and crazy,”
– Melanie Perkins.
From Humble Beginnings – Canva Founders
Melanie came up with the idea in 2007, when she was just 19, teaching graphic designing to a batch of students at a University in Perth, Australia.
Melanie and Cliff Obrecht, her Co-founder and to-be spouse, started by creating an online school yearbook design business, “Fusion Books,” to test their idea. Fusion books helped school students collaborate and design their profiles and articles. The yearbooks would then be printed and delivered to the students across Australia.
This initial proof of concept became quite successful and the launchpad for Canva.
It’s important to note that despite Canva’s now huge success, Melanie was turned down by over 100 investors when pitching her initial idea.
Melanie’s first breakthrough happened in 2011 when a longtime Silicon Valley venture capitalist named Bill Tai came to Perth to judge a startup competition. A skilled kitesurfer who had backed TweetDeck and Zoom, Tai was in town mainly to play in Perth’s killer waves. Perkins and Obrecht sniffed out a dinner Tai was hosting and ambushed attendees with a pitch for something called Canvas Chef: a metaphorical pizza, with design elements as the toppings and document types—flyer, business card, restaurant menu—as the dough. “It wasn’t the most stylish analogy,” says Rick Baker, an investor who saw the pitch that night.
They didn’t secure funding initially but left a mark on Tai. With the help of common connections, Melanie succeeded in getting Cameron Adams, on-board as a Tech Co-Founder and Dave Hearnden as a Tech Developer.
First Capital Investment
Now with a credible Tech Lead, they managed to raise $3 million in seed funding in two tranches in 2012 and early 2013, including a crucial matching grant from the Australian government.
The trickle of sign-ups grew to 50,000 users in the first month; by 2014, when Canva raised another $3 million from Thiel’s Founders Fund and Shasta Ventures, 600,000 users had made 3.5 million designs.
Essentially, Canva’s success can be due to its ease and versatility. The company’s revenue came from a freemium model with the option to upgrade to a $10-a-month premium version with snazzier features.
In 2019, Canva raised an $85 million funding round led by Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital, which valued Canva at $3.2 billion.
After 7 years of building towards a grand vision, their growth happened fast:
- 1 million users in 2014.
- 6 million users in 2015.
- 2 billion+ designs made in 2020.
- On track for $1 billion+ annualised revenue in 2021.
Canva’s quick expansion may be attributed partly to the company’s dedication to improving the user interface and attracting new customers. The business has spent a lot of money on advertising and new product creation, which has paid off in the form of a sizable customer base. The income goals that Canva has set are aggressive yet realistic. With its healthy growth rate and customer-centric approach, the firm is in an excellent position to achieve its objectives.
Canva has grown exponentially since its start in April 2013. Expanded to over 300 people in Australia, the US, and the Philippines serving over 10 million customers in 190 countries.
It’s incredible to see how far it’s come as a business when looking back at initial staffing levels. Canva has grown from a small group to a staff of over 300 employees.
The Canva team is now 2000+ and continues to grow as Canva expands to new markets in China, Dubai, and the Philippines.