How 24 Year Old Melanie Perkins Founded and Grew Canva into a $3.2B Startup

When asked, she said she's just getting started
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Canva probably doesn’t need a massive introduction. It’s one of the popular, powerful, and relentless online design tools helping designers and creatives quickly create beautiful graphics online.

No, Canva is not used by only creatives and designers. Virtually anyone who runs or create anything online uses Canva. Fliers, banners, business cards, presentations, logos, Social media content, and even videos.

She, Canva, is a little trick that makes you look pro without having to invest in a big software or a big graphics designer. She lets you do your thing yourself quickly.

In a few years after founding, Canva made it to the top where she sits and disrupts gorilla design companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and Corel.

Well, Canva, as popular, disruptive, and powerful as it is, the origin was not a typical one that has the founders quit from a giant company to start their own sh*t. It was born from the obsession of a 19-year-old Australian girl, Melanie Perkins who founded the company at 24.

How It All Started

Melanie was a girl who loved good designs. Her love made her insanely obsessive with manoeuvring with different design software so early in her life. At 19, the big idea came to her.

She, with her boyfriend, Cliff Obrecht (now happily married in January of 2021) was studying at the University of Western Australia. As students, they were also teaching design programs to interested students. 

But the big design software were a pain in the butt for their learners. They were not only complicated, they were ridiculous.

“People would have to spend an entire semester learning where the buttons were, and that seemed completely ridiculous,”

Perkins told CNBC.

So she picked up herself, and with the help of her to-be husband got to work on creating what would eventually be Canva.

“Our goal was to take the entire design ecosystem, integrate it into one page, and then make it accessible to the whole world”

That was exactly what Canva is today. A free drag and drop design tool that makes it possible for almost anyone to create pro graphics simply and quickly.

But Canva Didn’t Start by Becoming Canva.

Not even something close to what we have today as Canva. It started as an online drag and drop yearbook design tool. She and her Co-founder fiancee would cold-pitch schools in Australia trying to get them to use Fusion books, which was what they called the design tools. 

It’s probably not the sexiest thing to do in the world, but it was a good starting point for both Perkins and Obrecht. Within a few years, Fusion Books became the largest yearbook company in Australia.

But Perkins dream was larger than Fusion books. She wanted a tool that would be used by folks everywhere on the planet. To achieve that, she needs funds, investors, and people with brains.

She started pitching to investors in Australia. No success. Even after pitching up to 100 of them, no luck. The lights came when a silicon valley investor Bill Tai visited Perth and invited her over to San Francisco to pitch their ideas.

With Bill Tai’s help, she was able to connect with a lot of investors and co-founders who would later join her in building the company into Canva.

Canva is valued at $3.2B

The company is still headquartered in Australia but with founders and invesors across the globe. It has helped create over 2 billion designs in 190 countries and won celebrity backing from the likes of Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson.

The company’s valuation increased to $3.2B after a $85 million funding round led by Silicon Valley investor Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital.

This achievement made Melanie Perkins one of tech’s youngest CEOs.

What’s Next for Canva?

According to Perkins, She’s just getting started.

Thanks for Reading

Did you enjoy this piece? Thanks for reading. 
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