The future start-up dossier: how Canva was founded and three lessons from Canva


“Our goal was to take the entire design ecosystem, integrate it into one page, and make it accessible to the whole world. This is how Melanie Perkins, Co-Founder and CEO of Canva, described the idea of ​​Canva. Founded in 2012 by three co-founders Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams, Canva is a free graphic design platform based in Australia used to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and more. . visual content.

Melanie Perkins started working on the idea for Canva in 2007 in Perth, Australia. The idea came to her mind as she was teaching her classmates the basics of computer design as part of her studies in Communication and Business at the University of Western Australia. Back then, designers had to use multiple tools including Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Word, etc. to create and print a design. That’s why Melanie thought of a platform where graphic designers can find everything in one place.

She started working on the idea as soon as she could with the help of her boyfriend Cliff Obrecht and hired freelance developers to create a website targeting a niche she found underserved: school directories. The couple started Fusion Books, a school directory design company in 2007, to test their idea and they quickly became able to reach around 400 schools around the world.

The beginning, however, was not that simple. Raising money was not easy. At first, no Silicon Valley venture capitalist wanted to invest in the business. In fact, the founders say they were turned down by more than 100 investors. They eventually met Cameron Adams, an ex-Googler who founded a startup in Sydney and was supposed to meet with Canva’s co-founders as an advisor. He later joined the team as a third co-founder. Having a technician on their team helped them raise $ 3 million in two-tranche start-up funding, which includes a grant from the Australian government. After that, the company was officially launched on January 1, 2013.

Currently, around 50 million monthly active users from 190 countries use Canva for their designs. Users can use a wide range of free templates to create banners, business cards, posters, flyers, YouTube channel artwork, Facebook cover, etc. Presentation is the fastest growing Canva use case, according to the company, and so far, 250 million presentations have been completed using Canva. The company claims that 85% of Fortune 500 companies use Canva. The company is a team of 1,500 people and has positive EBITDA. Canva uses a freemium model with a monthly subscription of $ 10.

Canva has raised more than $ 372.6 million in funding over 15 rounds. After the last round of funding in April 2021, where Canva raised a $ 71 million investment, the company’s valuation reached $ 15 billion, making it one of the fastest growing software companies. fast to the world. The company said it will exceed $ 500 million in annualized revenue this year.

Canva web screenshot


Canva: How Melanie Perkins Created a $ 3.2 Billion Design Startup: Perkins was only 19 when she was first struck by the idea. It was 2006 and she and Obrecht were studying at a university in Perth. The teenager would earn a small income by teaching other students design programs. But the students found the platforms offered by Microsoft and Adobe “crazy” and she felt there had to be a better way.

Canva Uncovered: How a young Australian kitesurfer built a $ 3.2 billion (profitable!) Startup phenomenon: Besides an unbeatable price (millions of users pay nothing at all), Canva’s main advantage over competing products from tech giants like Adobe is its ease of use. Before Canva, hobbyists had to put designs together in Microsoft Word or pay through the nose for confusing business tools. Today anyone, anywhere can download Canva and get started in ten minutes.

Interview: Melanie Perkins, Canva: “I think anyone who wants to achieve big goals will face challenges, it’s just important to keep persevering. Starting a startup is full of challenges. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of refusals. Rejections from investors, rejections from potential team members, rejections from first clients. To create a startup, you have to run against the grain for years. said Melanie Perkins, co-founder and CEO of Canva.


Canva: She started a unicorn when she was 30. Now she’s taking on the tech giants: Melanie Perkins’ $ 3.2 billion design platform Canva is one of the most valuable women-led startups in the world. CNBC Make It’s Karen Gilchrist sat down with the 32-year-old Australian entrepreneur in Sydney to find out how she’s taking on tech giants Microsoft and Adobe.

How Canva cracked Silicon Valley: Melanie Perkins knows the power of having a clear vision and sticking to it, no matter what rejection you face. That’s how she made Canva a multi-million dollar global company, all in her twenties.

Canva Lessons

Start early: Many potential entrepreneurs fail to start their business on time or have to give up on their idea because they are hesitant about whether it will work or not and take too long to execute the plan. Melanie Perkins, co-founder and CEO of Canva is certainly not one of them. From the start, Canva had a simple plan to win over Microsoft and Adobe by integrating all the features of graphic design in one place.

Melanie Perkins started working on her business idea immediately after realizing its potential and dropped out of college to make the idea a reality. One of the reasons she started immediately was because she feared that if she didn’t make it happen, someone else would. As this was the time when the number of users on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter was increasing along with which the demand for graphic design was also increasing, it was the perfect time to launch a free graphic design platform like Canva. , and needless to say, if Melanie Perkins was hesitant, maybe someone else would definitely take home the winner’s trophy.

Seize the Chinese market: One of the feathers of Canva’s crown is to capture the Chinese market which is often seen as the mad rush for Western companies. Canva has proven that by localizing the user experience, even a market like China, where most Western businesses fail, can be supported. Canva hired the former head of LinkedIn’s China unit to open its office in mainland China. Then Canva created a first Chinese version from scratch with features like deep integrations with Chinese messaging apps and easy-to-create QR codes that made Canva popular in China.

Never give up : It is probably one of the most used phrases in a person’s life. But Canva’s co-founders proved why people should never give up. Before becoming successful, Canva was rejected by 100 Silicon Valley investors. One of the investors wrote, “I’m not sure that makes sense yet.”

Canva co-founders Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht even ambushed attendees of a dinner party hosted by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Tai to pitch their idea. Although the Canva co-founders left with no capital that night, it then helped them reach investors who were eager to invest in tech startups. Later, the integration of a technology leader, Cameron Adams, helped them finally raise investments and launch Canva in January 2013.


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