24 May 2019
Melanie Perkins, chief executive and co-founder of Canva, said her company provides "graphic design tools for folks who aren’t graphic designers".  Photo: Canva
Melanie Perkins, chief executive and co-founder of Canva, said her company provides "graphic design tools for folks who aren’t graphic designers". Photo: Canva

Graphic design firm Canva becomes Australia’s first unicorn

Canva, an Australian supplier of graphic design software, has raised US$40 million in its latest funding round, with the new investors led by Sequoia Capital China.

The latest investment makes the Sydney-based design firm the country’s only unicorn so far, CB Insights data shows. A unicorn is a privately backed startup valued at US$1 billion or more.

Sequoia China Capital joins the startup’s existing investors Blackbird Ventures and Felicis Ventures in the latest funding round.

Melanie Perkins, Canva’s chief executive and co-founder, said her firm provides “graphic design tools for folks who aren’t graphic designers”.

In an interview with technology news website TechCrunch, Perkins cited the case of Adobe, which “has a suite of incredibly powerful, but incredibly difficult to master, software tools”.

Canva is hoping to simplify the process of creating visual assets for folks who can’t devote their lives to learning the ins and outs of Adobe’s software, she said.

The online design and publishing platform is looking to topple Microsoft’s office suite as well, Perkins said, adding that its first target is PowerPoint.

“PowerPoint has such a stranglehold on the market, but it was designed before the web,” she said.

“We’ve seen this huge trend for visual content… We’re seeing a transition from people creating things that have been text-heavy to those needing to create more visual-heavy content,” Perkins said.

“We’re taking the power of these Adobe products and putting them in the hands of people who have previously been using Microsoft products.”

Perkins told TechCrunch that the company plans to spend some of the raised capital on new product development: the first move would be to improve its presentation creation suite.

Founded in 2012, the software-as-a-service startup provides design tool applications that enable advertisers and companies to create banners, logos and presentations.

It has now more than 10 million users from 190 countries using its service to create designs, according to Canva’s website.

It is turning a profit and has notched 294,000 paying customers, TechCrunch said.

Teams pay US$12.95 per month or a reduced US$9.95 per month for a one-time annual subscription for the ability to save designs to different folders, automatically resize their designs to share on social media, and work and share designs with larger groups.

It also has a design marketplace where designers, illustrators and photographers can share images that Canva users can pay US$1 to use in their own work.

The startup recorded a revenue of US$18 million, more than triple compared with a year earlier, and narrowed after-tax losses to US$2.5 million in the 12 months ended June 2017, Bloomberg said, citing financial records lodged with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

The firm has 250 staffers across its Sydney headquarters and a branch office in Manila.

A tech unicorn is not a common scene in Australia’s tech sector. Only eight of its listed tech companies are worth more than US$1 billion compared with 18 companies in the metals and mining sectors alone, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Showing that it is possible to create a globally competitive company from Australia is awesome,” Perkins told TechCrunch.

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