“Solve a real problem that many people experience. If you find a problem that people care about, then it will make every other aspect of running a business much easier.”
This was what Melanie Perkins had in mind when she started building the core concept of a design platform that would make graphic designing easier and more accessible to more people.
She was only 19 back then, and it was in 2006 when she shared this idea to Cliff Obrecht. Later, she became a part-time instructor teaching graphic design to students, and part of the lessons she gave was about working with various design software.
The problem that needed solving
There was never a shortage of good graphic design software that you can use. Whether you can afford premium software and are okay treating your program as an investment or working on a budget and would rather go for a free or open-source program--there will always be a choice for you.
However, there was a problem: although the popular graphics design programs by Microsoft and Adobe were not short in power and function, a lot of people were having a hard time learning it. IN the experience of Perkins, some students even take a long time to have a working knowledge of it.
“People would have to spend an entire semester learning where the buttons were, and that seemed completely ridiculous,” Perkins told CNBC Make It. “I thought that in the future, it was all going to be online and collaborative and much, much simpler than these really hard tools.”
From there, Perkins and Obrecht started working on making their “small idea” into a reality. This was the early days of what we know now as Canva.
Building it up
Perkins and Obrecht tested the concept of making a design software that is targeted to be easier to use and easier to collaborate on. They started out with a yearbook design business called Fusion Books.
“Go niche before you go wide,” Perking said in an interview with Entrepreneur magazine. “We tested the idea for Canva with our first business, Fusion Books, which was the idea of Canva but for the very niche market of high school yearbooks in Australia. Once we’d learned a lot and proven the idea, we decided to tackle a much larger problem.”
A chance encounter then linked her and the idea she had to Silicon Valley investor Bill Tai, which would later bring her to his other major contacts as well. They worked on winning over more and more investors and in 2012, the main team for their major software was completed.
Through the help of Google Maps co-founder Lars Rasmussen, the duo found Cameron Adams. Adams, who shared their vision of a more accessible design software, became the third co-founder and will eventually become Canva’s Chief Product Officer. They then found Dave Hearnden who later became their first tech developer.
A year later, their first site went live and was able to offer its features for free for its subscribers.
A billion-dollar, worldwide family
So far, Canva has helped its millions of users create more than 2 billion designs, is available across over 190 countries, and has been recognized by multiple prestigious bodies.
An $85 million funding round by Silicon Valley investor Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital gave the company a big boost and made its approximate value as a company to be at around $3.2 billion.
To date, Perkins had expressed her desire to expand their team behind Canva by building up teams from Australia, China, and the Philippines.
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Published by: Agnes Zang