Graphic Design
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Graphic Design Platform Canva Reaches $15 Billion Valuation

Graphic design company Canva announced in April 2021 that it had attained a $15 billion valuation. The demand for collaborative platforms that facilitate visual communication has soared around the globe, and Canva has stood out as a leading platform. The company has over 55 million monthly active users and is used in more than 190 countries.

Canva has surpassed $500 million in revenue this year while remaining profitable. This represents a 130% year-over-year increase in revenue. As a result, it has become one of the fastest growing graphic design software companies on record. It has branded itself as a design platform for non-designers.

Melanie Perkins, the founder and CEO of Canva, commented, “Now more than ever, teams and workplaces around the world need scalable, collaborative and easy-to-use visual communications products to empower them to achieve their goals.”

Teams and workplaces across industries use Canva’s flagship product, Canva Presentations. More than 250 million presentations have been created using Canva Presentations, which is the company’s fastest-growing use case. The company plans to add a suite of new features to Canva Presentation to further enhance collaboration at scale. Currently, 85% of Fortune 500 companies use Canva.

Christian Jensen, a partner at growth-oriented investment firm Dragoneer, remarked, “Canva’s graphic design platform growth is a testament to the company’s deep insight into the creative and communication needs of an ever-evolving workplace and its outstanding execution in delivering tools that help teams collaborate and present more effectively.”

Canva was founded in 2012 in Perth, Australia by Melanie Perkins. It is headquartered in Sydney, a city with an emerging tech scene. Early backers of the company included VC and investment firms such as Dragoneer, T. Rowe Price Global Technology Fund, General Catalyst, and Sequoia Capital.

The inspiration for the graphicv design platform idea behind what eventually became Canva stemmed from Perkin’s college days. Perkins was enrolled at the University of Western Australia, majoring in communications, psychology, and commerce. On the side, she tutored students learning graphic design. She noticed students struggled to learn graphic design using programs such as InDesign and Photoshop. This led her to the belief that graphic design software tools should be more collaborative and accessible to users of all experience levels.

This experience served as the impetus for starting her first company, Fusion Books. Fusion Books is an online platform for creating yearbooks. While visiting San Francisco, she met with Lars Rasmussen, co-founder of Google Maps. She pitched the idea behind Canva to him and other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. When Canva closed its first financing round in 2013, valued at $3 million, Rasmussen was one of the few backers. Former Apple executive Guy Kawasaki joined Canva in 2014 as the company’s Chief Evangelist.

The company’s founding mission was to democratize access to design tools, which eventually led to the graphic design platform Canva Presentations. While most people can figure out how to use Google Slides or PowerPoint, more advanced design software programs can be difficult to navigate for non-designers. Canva aims to simplify the design process while still providing a broad range of sophisticated design tools.

Canva started as a freemium model, allowing anyone to use its design products online for free. As the graphic design platform gained users, Canva began to offer enterprise products tailored to diverse business needs. They also rolled out video and animation editing tools, accompanied by a library of accessible templates.

Melanie Perkins Graphic Design
Melanie Perkins Graphic Design
Image Credit: Melanie Perkins on Flickr

Melanie Perkins is one of only a handful of women who have founded unicorn companies, or those that have attained a valuation of at least $1 billion. She is also the CEO of one of the few unicorn startups that are profitable. According to 2019 data, all-male teams raised 85% of all U.S. venture capital dollars. Meanwhile, over 90% of decision-makers at U.S. venture capital firms were male.

Canva attained a valuation of over $1 billion in 2018, following a funding round by Sequoia Capital, Blackbird Ventures, and Felicis Ventures. Canva currently has over 1,000 employees, approximately 40% of which are female.

The company unveiled a partnership with FedEx Office in mid-2020. The partnership provides customers with easy design-to-print graphic design options. This partnership was part of Canva’s strategic push further into the U.S. market. Customers can pick up their print designs at over 2,000 FedEx locations across the U.S. It also served as a means to increase brand awareness and distribution.

The company launched an educational platform, called Canva for Education, which is free for K-12 teachers and their students. The platform integrates with G Suite, Google Classroom, and Microsoft Teams to give students exposure to design early on. There are thousands of educational templates available across a range of subjects such as Science, Math, Social Studies, and much more.

Canva is looking to continue to increase its reach and expand into new markets. Perkins’ path to growing Canva into a $15 billion startup has not been a smooth ride, and she is up for new challenges. Perkins states, “The things that inspire me most are those which people say can’t be done, are impossible to do, or have never been done. That is when I feel like I have to do it.”

Ryan Carpenter serves as Attorney and Managing Director of Carpenter Wellington. Ryan advises clients across a broad set of corporate and commercial matters.