AirTree partners (from l to r): James Cameron, John Henderson, Elicia McDonald, Jackie Vullinghs, Craig Blair and Helen Norton. Image Credits: AirTree Ventures

The number of software devs in Australia that I have spoken to in 2022 who have been made redundant is astonishing. Due to overseas investment pulling back, it’s been a turbulent time for tech companies in Australia, not to mention the recent drop in the crypto market leading to further layoffs in web 3.0 ventures.

It’s exciting to see an Australian venture capital firm raising more money in 2022 than ever for Australian startups.

AirTree was founded by partners Craig Blair and Daniel Petre in 2014. Petre has since stepped back from active management, but Blair remains at the forefront of the firm’s management.

AirTree now manages a total of $1.3 billion AUD and has more than 80 active investments. 

Out of that number, 23 are valued at more than $100 million and include eight unicorns. The new round was oversubscribed and much of it came from returning investors, including cornerstone LPs, superannuation funds AustralianSuper, Sunsuper, TelstraSuper and Statewide Super.

AirTree’s 2014 and 2016 vintage funds are both performing in the top quartile of US VCs. They include early investments in break-out companies such as ProspaSecure Code WarriorPet CircleCanvaAthenaBrighteJoyousThematicTranscelestialExpert360 and A Cloud Guru | A Pluralsight Company.

Some of its most notable portfolio companies are CanvaGo1, A Cloud Guru and Employment HeroMILKRUNLinktreeMr Yum and Immutable.


Airtree works hand in hand with the founders of these companies from day one, channelling money, support, and knowledge with each of these companies – as each begins to come into its own within tomorrow’s technology arena.

AirTree Ventures has had 9 exits so far including:

Prospa is an Australian owned and operated online lending service provider for small businesses within the region.

Xplor is a leading Australian software (SaaS) platform for managing child care administration and communication.

Paxata is an adaptive data preparation platform built for the analyst to turn raw data into ready data for analytics.

AI-powered data insights meets interactive storytelling in real time.

Notiv is the intelligent meeting assistant that turns all your important voice conversations into clever business outcomes.

Elevio is a user education and onboarding platform, allowing companies to upskill their user base with ease

A Cloud Guru is a social learning platform for cloud computing.

DesignCrowd is an online marketplace that offers logo, website, print, and graphic design services.

The best quality cleaning marketplace in Australia

Investment Funds

In total, they have raised over a billion dollars in investment across 6 funds, their latest being AirTree Growth. This fund was announced on Feb 2, 2022 and raised a total of A$450M.

  • Feb 2, 2022 – AirTree Growth – A$450M
  • Feb 2, 2022 – AirTree Wed3 – A$50M
  • Feb 1, 2022 – AirTree Seed – A$200M
  • Oct 21, 2019 – AirTree Ventures Fund III – $275M
  • Sep 12, 2016 – AirTree Ventures fund II – $250M
  • Jul 29, 2014 – Fund I – A$60M

Key People

Aside from Craig BlairJames CameronJohn HendersonElicia McDonaldJackie VullinghsHelen Norton, their staff now includes the following executives:

  • Aisling McGettigan – Financial controller
  • Anna Tyndale – Portfolio Success Manager
  • Bree Fedele – Content Marketing Manager
  • Dan Lombard – Investment Operations Manager
  • Ed Gregory – Legal Counsel
  • Jess Heffernan – Head of Investor Relations
  • Jess Walker – Community Relations Manager
  • Linkle Liao – Financial Controller
  • Victoria Lowe – Operations and Compliance Manager

Airtree also has several Investment Managers, multiple partners, venture capital managers, and other community-directed management employees. Their management staff is committed to directing a team that can empower new technology companies.

Their strategy with new companies is to provide valuable management information and help companies recruit the right team members. They share marketing strategies and help companies find the most competitive pricing plans. They also provide a community forum to educate and help all their companies network and share solutions with each other. 


This will be quite an interesting company to follow. Very exciting the work they are doing, especially for Australia. 

I will be taking a closer look at a number of companies they have invested in and the various partners involved. Their company growth according to LinkedIn is 304% in the past 2 years. That predominantly looks like various founders and people working with Airtree, nevertheless they are making waves and expanding rapidly. 

Interesting to note, co-founder Craig Blair is also Founding Chairman of Pet Circle. Pet Circle is the leading Pet e-commerce player in Australia. Review coming soon…

We often hear and read about the successes in the startup world, but don’t often hear about the many failures. 

It’s inevitable that most businesses fail in their first 3 years. Taking a look into why some succeed and others don’t is invaluable research in potential pitfalls, hurdles, and realistic challenges associated with starting a business.

After reviewing the journey and eventual acquisition of Omny Studio, let’s look into the other three companies that were selected for the Melbourne Accelerator Program in 2012.

What is MAP?

MAP (Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP)), with the help of the University of Melbourne, aims to train startup companies to grow and become the best in their field. Yearly they select teams into their program to undergo extensive training and mentoring under Australia’s best business leaders. 

They also offer global access to investors. In total, they have been able to help 200 startups which has led to a $250 million investment. As a result, revenue of $200 million has been generated, and 1500 job opportunities.

Where Are They Now?

The first intake for the program was in 2012, and they announced four winners/companies to be selected. Alongside 121cast, startup companies VenueMob, Remote Area Power System, and were selected.

1. 121cast

121cast went through a few iterations to eventually create Omny Studio which was acquired by Triton Digital in 2019. They raised $1.7 Million in funding over the 7 years.

Details of the deal with Triton haven’t been fully disclosed. The founders have gone in various directions and even into tech venture funding themselves creating Startup Galaxy

2. VenueMob

VenueMob is an online booking system that helps customers search spaces available for booking. Whether it is birthdays, parties, engagements, or weddings, you’ll find a number of venues you can search through and book online. The company was founded in 2012 under founders David WeiJames Giang, and Ying Wang.

Apart from MAP, they secured partnerships from other investors like Sydney Angels, Artesian VC, and Optus Innov 8. 

In summary, they have raised a total of 1.5 million dollars from 5 funding rounds. In addition, the startup has secured partnerships with Accor Hotels, Mantra and Rydges who have added their event spaces to the platform.

VenueMob was acquired by Spare Workspace in 2020, under Jake Dimarco and formed VenueNow.

3. Remote Area Power System

Founded by Braden Kidd, his project “remote area power system” received recognition in engineering circles. With his master’s degree in electrical engineering, he aimed to create a company that gives power systems to places in remote locations. After joining MAP in 2012, he was given recognition by the Australian Institute of Energy. He received 1st prize with a $750 monetary gift and sponsorship from the Department of Primary Industry.

From then on, this project led to the creation of his company, New Waved Power System. Unfortunately, it did not survive. It was deregistered on 2017 February 23 and still dissolved and inactive for the last 5 years.


This startup company was considered to be the next-generation social media platform for students in university. Its goal is to help new students access information from the university they are going to and connect with other students.

As a run test, a beta website was published in 2012. With their innovative idea, they were chosen to be part of MAP. Unfortunately, the company did not survive. On February 29, 2013, the company released a statement of closure. Today, the website domain is still for sale and waiting for someone to purchase it.


Overall it’s important to recognise that not every company accepted into an accelerator is going to be successful, but also keep in mind it could be a stepping stone for the founders that moves them onto bigger and better things too. We’ve all heard it, “If you are determined, each failure brings you one step closer to success”.

Interesting to note the type of companies here that received funding, gained traction and moved forward. 

A few questions come to mind and are part of the reason for exploring these startups and investor profiles:

  • What types of founders and personality types eventually achieve success? 
  • Does starting with multiple founders provide better support for growth?
  • Which business types and models are more attractive to investors?
  • Is it a coincidence of luck, right time and place that achieves investor interest?

Of course, all of these questions will get varying responses from different people, but the real answers will come from looking at the data, statistics, and track record of multiple companies over time. 

More to come. Stay tuned…

Four years to build a company that has attracted $100 Million AUD in total funding. Incredible. This isn’t some AI, military, or space-age techno gadget invention company either.

Mr Yum is a tech-hospitality service startup that makes marketing, payments, and ordering easy and seamless for events, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses. 

You wouldn’t believe they survived through COVID-19 with the devastating impact on the hospitality industry but they did, and now have the goal to become “The Shopify for Restaurants”. 

The widespread adoption of QR codes throughout the pandemic actually provided a boost to company growth and transition to digital menus.

Founded in 2018 by the team of Kim TeoAndrei MiulescuKerry Osborn and Adrian Osman 🚀, the Melbourne based company now has $73 million USD in funding and offices across Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States. 

According to their website, Mr Yum has been serving leading brands such as Sydney Airport, Live Nation, Strings of Life, Wayland’s Yard, and Magic Mike Live throughout the lifespan of the company.

I love this little story from an interview between Airtree’s James Cameron and Mr Yum’s founder Kim Teo:

What was your thought process and plan like for international expansion?

The reality of being an Australian company is you can’t build a very big business with only local customers and networks. And it’s difficult for a business like Mr Yum to go international without people on the ground.

We were deciding between the US and UK for our international expansion, and we chose LA for a whole bunch of different reasons. Because of COVID, we either had to go for three months or stay in Australia. We applied for an exemption to travel and were lucky that it got approved pretty quickly. We’re lucky that Kerry and Andrei could stay in Australia and continue to build the team there.

We weren’t vaccinated and it seemed like the most insanely ridiculous thing to do — LA was one of the biggest COVID hotspots at the time. Adrian and I booked a one-way ticket and there were 10 people on the flight. We looked at each other and said, “This is either the best thing we’ll ever do or the most ridiculous thing that we’ll ever do”.


When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the team built out a delivery platform for its customers in a matter of days, providing an alternative to the likes of UberEats and Deliveroo, and allowing the startup to turn a profit for at least parts of the year.


  • Feb 1st, 2019 – Pre Seed Round – Rish Chaudhuri
  • May 31, 2019 – Seed Round – Australia Venture Co. – $1.5M
  • April 20, 2021 – Venture Round – TEN13 – $11M
  • November 29, 2021 – Series A – 12 Investors – Tiger Global – $89M

Worthy note: Mr Yum achieved the largest Australian Series A funding round for a female-led company, and the third-largest Series A in Australian history.

Investors in the round, led by Tiger Global Management, include Skip Capital (the private fund of Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar and Kim Jackson), Tennis Australia’s Wildcard Ventures, Broadsheet founder Nick Shelton and Kogan founder Ruslan Kogan. Existing investors TEN13 and AirTree also followed-on in this round, making their largest investments to date into the company.

Other investors in Mr Yum include US-based Australian NBA star Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs and Grammy Award winning artists Rüfüs Du Sol.

Investors & Financials

While Teo doesn’t share any revenue growth figures, she does point out that the team has grown to more than 120 full-time employees, up from a team of 12 pre-pandemic.

Mr Yum has more than 1500 venues on the platform, with a total of 13 million users.

AirTree partner James Cameron said it’s rare to see consumers adopt a new behaviour as quickly as they have with Mr Yum’s products.

“Their QR codes have now become ubiquitous in Australia, and it’s happened pretty much overnight,” he noted. “They’re now helping hospitality venues all over the country bounce back from a very tough period through COVID, and with this new funding they are able to double down on their international markets, where they are already growing faster than they were in Australia.”


Airtree is a venture capital fund focused on investing in the best Australian and New Zealand technology founders. AirTree’s mission is to back founders from the very start with strong conviction. They’ve partnered with over 80 of the fastest growing and most impactful tech companies that are transforming a wide variety of industries. In 2022, Airtree launched a new fund with $200 million dedicated to seed stage companies and $50 million to Web3 projects.


TEN13 is another Australian-based venture capital company that focuses on companies in their early stages. It currently has 33 investments and has invested $7.59 million in Mr Yum during a Venture Round on April 20, 2021.


Tiger Global Management, a US-based investment firm that acts as a hedge fund, a private equity firm, and a venture capital company. Tiger Global is Mr Yum’s biggest investor, investing $65 million in the Series A funding round last November 29, 2021.


Mr Yum has also made one acquisition, picking up MyGuestlist – a reservations and marketing management tech company – last May 3, 2022.


As of writing – they recently laid off 44 employees (17% of its 260-strong workforce).

According to a blog post by Teo, inflation has hurt the business, which led to this decision. They do, however, have solid investors and a good amount of money on their war chest, so time will tell if they come out of this stronger.

For a startup you may never have heard of, this story spans ~7 years and shows the incredible opportunity in Australia to persevere with an idea/goal and see success.

Omny Studio is a Melbourne-based enterprise podcasting software-as-a-service startup. Founded in 2012 by Andrew ArmstrongEdward Hooper and Long Zheng, the company has a rich history in audio software and services, formerly developing SoundGecko text-to-speech and Omny personalized radio, before launching the Omny Studio platform in 2015. Today the platform is actively used by thousands of podcasting and broadcasting clients, powering world-leading publishers internationally.

There’s a number of articles online about the evolution of Omny Studio and even blog posts from the co-founders. The team originally started with an app called 121cast, then SoundGecko launched in July 2012, a TTS (text-to-speech) app. They originally saw success from promotional posts from The Verge and Techcrunch.

“121cast” began as one of four companies chosen for Melbourne’s Accelerator Program.

The first hire for 121cast was Rob Skillington, a software engineer who stayed with the company for 7 months. Clive Dickens also joined as an advisor and helped secure investment from SingTel.

The team progressed to building Omny Radio, and hired Jarrod Robins in April 2013 to lead mobile development. He stayed with the company for 2 years, 10 months.

Later came the pivot to Omny Studio, an idea from their content producer Matt Saraceni who saw a more technical and functional need of the software for content producers to be able to easily get their audio online, track performance etc. This involved focusing resources and shutting down SoundGecko on March 1st, 2015.

After many months of development, their major break came after launching Omny Studio at the Radio Days Europe Conference. From there, hundreds of radio stations signed up to try the platform. Throughout the rest of 2015 their user base and profits came more from B2B than the consumer app and pushed them to seriously consider pivoting strategy.

Sharon Taylor joined the team in early 2016 to run operations and later took over as CEO.

Late 2016, with the help of Romesh Wiss, a Swiss management consultant who was keen to get startup experience while visiting Australia on sabbatical, they made the call and doubled down on Omny Studio. From there on Omny Radio would be decoupled from the platform until it could be shut down.

Triton Digital got heavily involved in 2017 and formed a strategic partnership becoming the exclusive reseller of Omny Studio in the U.S and Canada.

In 2019, Triton acquired Omny Studio and integrated it into their own service offerings. The addition of Omny Studio’s comprehensive CMS and hosting capabilities into Triton’s preeminent portfolio of streaming, advertising, and measurement technologies provides the world’s audio publishers with a one-stop-shop to increase their reach and revenue while simultaneously streamlining workflows.

While details of the deal made haven’t been revealed publicly, the business has raised at least $US1.7 million ($2.4m) in capital since its inception, according to investment tracking database CrunchBase, which would have put its valuation well into the millions.

Success didn’t come easy, Zheng said, and the business originally “struggled” to build significant traction with its personalised radio consumer mobile app. It was only after it pivoted to an enterprise podcasting service that it started seeing significant growth and notable traction.


  • May 1, 2012 – Grant – University of Melbourne – $20,000
  • November 13, 2012 – Adventure Capital, SingTel Innov8. Optus – $250,000 
  • January 2, 2013 – Melbourne Accelerator Program 
  • May 1, 2013 – SingTel Innov8
  • June 2, 2013 – Seed Round – $170,000
  • January 2, 2014 – Seed Round – $300,000
  • August 26, 2014 – Series A – $1M
  • 2019 – Triton Digital – Acquisition

Omny Studio raised a total of $1.7M in funding over 7 rounds.


Triton Digital® is the global technology and services leader to the digital audio and podcast industry. Operating in more than 40 countries, Triton provides innovative technology that enables broadcasters, podcasters, and online music services to build their audience, maximize their revenue, and streamline their day-to-day operations. In addition, Triton powers the global online audio industry with Webcast Metrics®, the leading online audio measurement service. With unparalleled integrity, excellence, teamwork, and accountability, Triton remains committed to connecting audio, audience, and advertisers to continuously fuel the growth of the global online industry. Triton Digital is a wholly owned subsidiary of The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP).


Omny Studio still has a company page on LinkedIn with 9 employees listed. Triton Digital has 198 employees with 4 listed in Australia. Tritons employee growth over the past 2 years is 25% with most being engineering roles.

We’ll see what the future holds for Omny Studio in Australia. Very interesting to browse through the profiles and see the progress and career direction of the co-founders and early hires of the business.

Payrix Payments Technology (Payrix) provides marketplaces, SaaS businesses and ISOs a flexible payments platform that enables them to unlock more revenue potential. The company provides the tools to create a seamless, embedded user experience and offers clients the choice of payment facilitation-as-a-service (PFaaS) or a full payment infrastructure (payment IaaS) product based on business appetite. Payrix is a cloud built, API-first platform that is highly flexible, customizable and scalable.

Founded in 2015 by Boruch Greenberg who has focused most of his career on commerce, credit and payments having previously founded Benchmark Merchant Solutions & Splash Payments. With Greenberg’s goal to change the conversation around payments providing vendors with a truly flexible embedded payment option, it looks as though Payrix are on track to compete with the likes of Paypal and Stripe.

Some of Payrix published clients including Real Green Systems, Storable, Perfect Gym, SimplySwim and ResMan.

Investments & Acquisitions

  • 2015 – Founded, $0 revenue
  • December, 2018 – Payrix received $22 million in funding led by Blue Star Innovation Partners and PSG. 
  • October 1st, 2020 – $50 million Series A – Blue Star Innovation Partners, PSG
  • October, 2020 – Payrix acquires Integrapay – Brisbane, Australia
  • February, 2022 – PSG and BSIP sell Payrix to FIS – Undisclosed amount.
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Investor Profile


BSIP is a Dallas based investment fund founded by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones alongside Rob Wechsler, an experienced entrepreneur and investor. Founded in 2017, BSIP has invested in 13 platform companies, and facilitated over 100 tuck-in acquisitions.BSIP operates out of the Star in Frisco, Texas.


PSG is a growth equity firm that partners with middle-market software and technology-enabled services companies to help them navigate transformational growth, capitalize on strategic opportunities, and build strong teams. Having backed more than 95 companies and facilitated over 375 add-on acquisitions, PSG brings extensive investment experience, deep expertise in software and technology, and a firm commitment to collaborating with management teams. Founded in 2014, PSG operates out of offices in Boston, Kansas City, London, and Spain.


FIS is a leading provider of technology solutions for merchants, banks and capital markets firms globally. Headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, FIS ranks #241 on the 2021 Fortune 500 and is a member of Standard & Poor’s 500® Index.

Key Comments

“It has been a pleasure to work alongside the talented team at Payrix and witness their extraordinary growth throughout our investment period,” said Marco Ferrari, Managing Director at PSG. “We thank the Payrix team for their partnership and look forward to their continued success.”

“We’re proud of our team at Payrix and excited for their future growth at FIS,” said Rob Wechsler, Founder and GP of BSIP.

“Since acquiring Worldpay in 2019, FIS continues to expand its strategic payments capabilities and offerings in global e-commerce,” said Stephanie Ferris, President, FIS. “Bringing the Payrix capabilities inside FIS enables us to continue our journey of serving e-commerce as well as platform companies.

Australian Opportunity

October, 2020 – Payrix officially acquired IntegraPay, and as a result has launched into the Australia and New Zealand market. Payrix now has an office based in Brisbane, Queensland.

IntegraPay CEO John De Stefani says, “We are delighted to have found a partner that shares both our growth ambitions and core values for serving clients.”

Following the company’s Series A extension, this merger positions Payrix as an independent payment technology provider supporting clients as part of a global strategy, and will add an additional $1.75 billion in processing volume to the Payrix Platform, the company states.

Payrix CEO Eric Frazier says, “We’ve listened to our clients and many have exciting plans to expand globally – it became clear we needed to eliminate blockers that were holding them back.”


September, 2022 – With ~208 employees globally, the company has seen 60% growth over the past year and 204% growth in the last 2 years according to LinkedIn data insights. With ~17 people based in Australia presently, I’m sure we’ll see that number grow significantly.

Having recently seen company ads for local software developers in Australia I’ll be watching this company to see future growth and opportunities. Stay tuned.

Bluestar Innovation Partners was established in 2016 to provide direct funding and mentorship from both the Jones Family and top executives on a variety of topics including operational guidance, strategic intent, access to capital, expert mode-marketing, branding, and go-to-market strategies.

Private investment funding is the focus of the company, which has its headquarters in Frisco, Texas. The company makes investments into a number of businesses that are active in the areas of technology, games, as well as health and fitness.

Bluestar Innovation Partners has gained recognition in a number of different regions throughout the state of Texas. Among these are their recent recognition as a nominee in the Investment Catalyst classification for the 2019 Tech Titan excellence award given out on August 23, 2019.

Key People

The following are some of the most influential people in the company’s continued success.

  • Robert Wechsler, Founder.
  • Jerry Jones, President/General Manager.
  • Stephen Jones, Executive Vice President/Player Personnel Director
  • Charlotte Jones Anderson, Executive Vice President/Chief Brand Officer
  • Chad Estis, Business Operations Executive Vice President
  • Jerry Jones Jr, Executive Vice President/Marketing and Sales Chief Officer
  • Tom Walker, BSIPartner
  • Jason Cohen, BSIPartner
  • Stuart Lodge, BSIPartner
  • Molly Slusher, BSIPartner/Gen. counsel
  • Matt Steffe, BSIPartner
  • Eric Frazier, President/ Business & Commercial Development Leader
  • Randy McGraw, BSIPartner
  • Jessica Jones, BSIPartner
  • Corey Wood, BSIPartner
  • Dan Wechsler, BSIPartner
  • Ben Kauder, BSIPartner
  • Andrew Shofner, BSIPartner
  • Brett Thier, BSIPartner
  • Tom Strachan, BSIPartner
  • Kevin Hughes, BSIPartner

Recent Investments

BSIP has a proven track record of success in identifying companies operating in a segmented marketplace that are failing at one idea that BSIP can improve upon. With this strategy, BSIP is able to add value in addition to the capital outlay.

Businesses located in northern Texas stand to gain a substantial amount of value from invested capital from BSIP. Getting supported by a collective that is deeply linked to the most senior management levels at the most important sports organisation in the universe confers a certain innate competitive edge. Specifically, this incentive comes in the form of the following:

In addition, the leadership team at BSIP is not only one of the greatest powerful professionals of its type in North Texas but also has a demonstrated record of successfully increasing tech firms. In fact, they may even be the most influential group in the region.

April 23, 2019

– Payrix  – became the lead investor with $22M raised money.

July 26, 2020

– received TravelNet Solutions

– had exit in Payrix

October 01, 2020

– Series A Payrix raised a total of $50M.

March 08, 2022

– invested in Stax ($245M)

Bluestar’s Mission

BSIP’s investment thesis is to engage in incredibly creative innovators and companies selling a service or product with an overall income between $3,000,000 and $50,000,000. This enables BSIP to enhance their expertise, access to dispersion and capital systems, and to provide different implementations with exceptional guidelines and value.

Bluestar Innovation Partners is currently working on a strategy to grow their industry by recruiting additional investors and partner organisations who share their commitment to a common goal. The company has held throughout its history the conviction that it is the essential component of a forward-thinking kind of enterprise that is able to appreciate the value of ongoing innovation.

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.

Exponential Revenue

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.

Company Growth

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.

Brand New – This new keyword research tool will help you discover related keywords and build a highly targeted keyword list.

Free Keyword Research Tool

You can also generate a list of modified broad match, phrase match, and exact match keyword variations ready to paste into Google Adwords.

I was using this functionality in other apps but figured it would be useful as a standalone tool. It doesn’t have search volumes or other SEO metrics. At the moment it’s purely for generating keyword ideas.

The idea behind this tool is to discover keyword variations and then paste those keywords into Google Keyword Planner for click estimates. Most people will know the main keywords they need to target, but will be stuck for variation ideas.

If you have some suggestions for useful features or additions, please let me know in the comments or click the Feedback button on the site.

It’s so easy to go overboard with features when developing these tools. I wanted to keep it very simple to start with and build based on user feedback. If there’s enough interest, I will keep developing it, so please let me know your thoughts and suggestions.

The digital landscape is changing so quickly with new technologies, internet speed, mobile device capabilities etc. It can be overwhelming to think of everything you need to keep up to date with when developing a website. 

The more I look at various eComm websites and the marketing strategies vendors are using to acquire new customers, the more I am noticing the importance of good UX design.

Near enough is not good enough when it comes to conversion rates and profitability. Increasing your site performance by just 0.1% is actually a big deal when you are getting a good volume of traffic. As your site traffic grows it can mean the difference between profitability and bankruptcy.

In the next series of articles I’m going to look at various UX elements and the impact they have on user experience and conversion rates. I think there is a lot to be explored in this area and the opportunity for improvement is huge. I believe most vendors would not be aware of what is possible, and are simply confined to what their particular software platform options allow. 

When you push outside of what is the norm, you start to see dramatic results. When everybody copies an idea, it becomes less effective as users get used to seeing it across multiple different sites. 

There is something to be said for keeping to patterns that users are used to though. Simple things like putting the search bar in the top right of your website. Keeping the ‘Go’ or submit button to the right of a search field rather than assuming they will know the enter key performs the same function. When you mess with these patterns, you simply confuse and annoy users and you’ll find your conversion rates drop. 

Good UX increases come by experimenting with new ways to engage users and make their experience with your desired end result as easy as possible. Overcome their objections before they even think of them and test new interaction elements to increase engagement.

I invite you to come on a journey with me as we explore the world of UX for websites and apps on mobile, tablet and desktop devices. As these devices all have their own unique experience, it is crucial to look at your website or app separately on each device and how a user might be interacting with your content.

To be specific, we’re going to look at how we can utilise UX design in conjunction with emotional buying triggers. Fear, time, trust, value, belonging, guilt, instant gratification, leadership, and competition. Humans don’t make choices based on logic, we make them based on emotions. By leveraging UX elements that trigger these emotions you can increase your conversion rates dramatically.

***Disclaimer*** Google has changed the game on this tactic. They no longer publish pagerank scores. The toolbar has been disabled, and ‘follow’ links on Youtube have been pruned to a minimum.

Having said that, it doesn’t mean links from authority sites to your own website or social channels won’t boost your SEO score anymore.

This was a killer strategy back in the day for effectively sculpting pagerank from high pagerank channels on Youtube to your own channels in a very short period of time.

A quick lesson on links and link building:

There is such a thing as “follow” and “nofollow” links. I’m sure you are familiar with hyperlinks so I won’t bore you with the basics, but here’s a quick explanation. In the html code behind a link it can have an attribute tag of rel=”nofollow”. If that is present then the link won’t pass any “link juice” to the url it is linking to.

A quick lesson on “link juice”:

Google gives every url (webpage) on the internet a value. This use to be called “pagerank”. It ranges from 0 to 10. If you have a link pointing to your website from a web page with a pagerank of e.g. 7, that is more valuable than a link from a page with a pagerank of 3.

The great thing about social sites or websites that allow you to create your own page or content on their domain is that they usually already have high pagerank.

The strategy is to then link out to your own domains from those pages or content you created on high pagerank domains.

Youtube for example had a pagerank of 9 on their homepage. Popular channels would have a pagerank of 5 to 7.

If you got a link on that page that pointed to your own website then your pagerank would increase quite quickly and you would be ranked higher.

Thing is… you couldn’t link to your own website. If you put in a url in the comments section it would have the rel=”nofollow” tag on it.


What you could do was leave a comment on a channel page. Didn’t matter what the comment was. The point was that it would automatically link back to your own Youtube channel as the comment author. That link was a follow link.

That meant that you could take your brand new Youtube account channel pagerank from 0 up to 3 in about a week, and if you commented on a few more high pagerank profiles you would be on a pagerank 5 in about two weeks.

Taking it a step further. There was one section on Youtube where you could link out to your own website with a follow link. That was in the settings where you get to specify your own website urls. So if you did the work to build up your channel pagerank then your own website urls would get passed some link juice as well.

The other benefit to this was obviously publishing videos. As your channel was building pagerank quickly, your videos would get priority in the search results. Then if your videos were keyword targeted you would also rank in Google search for those videos. This exponentially increased the views you received. From there if you recommended a url or program in your video, you could link to it in the description and get a boat load of traffic.

See why this was a killer Youtube boosting strategy?

So, now that Youtube has disabled some of the effectiveness of this tactic, what do you do now?

Well, like I said initially there is still merit in finding pages where you can get a follow link. Download this chrome extension which will highlight “follow” and “nofollow” links on any web page. this makes it much easier for you to discover them.

Also…. little teaser. Check out Google+ for potential links.