Fil-Aussie Tech Co-Founder Becomes Australia’s Youngest Billionaire

SYDNEY, Australia — Filipino-Australian Melanie Perkins is the third richest woman in the country, making her the youngest billionaire in Australia at the age of 32 years old.

Canva CEO Melanie Perkins | Forbes

In 2014, together Cameron Adams and her fiance, Cliff Obrecht, Perkins founded “Canva” — a graphic design and publishing tool, used by millions of people around the globe, including the manila journal. It offers a wide range of tools needed for design, such as photo filters, icons and shapes, fonts, templates to help design presentations, social media graphics, websites, cards, proposals, and many more. It also offers short courses for graphic design, social media mastery, business branding and presentations to impress.

In its latest funding from Australian venture capital fund Blackbird and Chinese firm Sequoia China and participation from previous investors — Bond, Felicis and General Catalyst — the start up is now valued at US $6 billion, double its previous valuation made from US $3.2 billion last October. It is believed that Perkins and her fiance’s stake in the business is currently at $2.5 billion. This latest round of funding has made Canva the largest privately-owned company in Australia.

Canva cofounders Cameron Adams, Cliff Obrecht and CEO Melanie Perkins |

With more than a thousand employees, the Sydney-based company operates on a “fremium” model which allows users to conveniently access the software for free design products. Offices outside the headquarter in Sydney include Manila and Beijing. With the new funding, Obrecht told Forbes they hope to expand and launch a new office in Texas which will serve as a U.S. enterprise hub. The funding has also been allocated to provide Canva with more cash reserves amid the uncertainty of the COVID 19 pandemic.

According to Obrecht, the startup unicorn chose to raise from previous investors because of the company’s trust in those relationships. “With the amount of capital we brought on, we were well over ten times over-subscribed,” Obrecht says.

According to forbes, the company says it remains profitable and is doubling its paid user base, which has topped 500,000 organizations and 1.5 million paid subscribers to Canva’s paid account type, Canva Pro. The company said that over 30 million people each month use Canva overall with over 90,000 schools and universities, 55,000 non-profits, and boasts larger-sized accounts including American Airlines, Hubspot and Warner Music.

As the pandemic has been detrimental to several industries, shutting down offices and leaving millions of people unemployed, Canva wasn’t initially sure if its software would see a boost. “To use a ship analogy, we had no idea what storm was coming,” Obrecht says. The company shut down its offices but continued to pay contractors and cleaners and started delivering take-home boxed lunches to staff; while it slowed down hiring, Canva didn’t conduct layoffs. Some customers asked for discounts or to pause their subscriptions, Obrecht says, and print products temporarily dropped in sales by 75%, as reported by Forbes.

“Moving into COVID, we were initially quite cautious because we thought that the business would be hit quite hard with lots of small and medium business really struggling, and we thought that would impact business metrics.”

Cliff Obrecht, co-founder of canva

Canva’s overall business, however, held up in a work-from-home environment, particularly as usage of its collaboration and video tools soared, and small businesses turned to making designs to reach customers over different online platforms. “That led us to say, ‘Hey, collaboration is a real thing,’” Obrecht says. “‘We should lean into this a little bit.”

“Small businesses were pivoting and needed to communicate to their customers that they were changing the way they do things, restaurants were moving to deliveries, and then a lot of large were using Canva extensively to communicate with their teams and create marketing material for social media. We really hit the mark through this period and saw growth.” 

CLIFF OBRECHT, CO-FOUNDER OF CANVA

According to Womensagenda.com, Perkins told Vogue Australia this month, she believes in the essential role technology education plays in the future of this country.

“Earlier this year, we launched Canva for Education and opened it up to all students and teachers worldwide for free,” she said. “Education is just one example of how we are using the best of Canva to support our future leaders with much-needed digital literacy skills.”

Melanie perkins, ceo and co-founder of canva

Author: The Manila Journal Editors

Editor-in-Chief

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