Building a startup is never easy, and rarely an instant success – but Canva CEO Melanie Perkins has the determination and smarts to do it twice in a row!
I managed to get this quick interview with Melanie to find out what’s happening with Canva and their new hire – Guy Kawasaki.
Tell me a little about yourself?
I’m the CEO and co-founder of Canva, an online platform that makes graphic design amazingly simple for everyone. Since launching eight months ago, we’ve grown to 400,000 users and have had 1.6 million designs created using the platform.
I grew up in Perth, which is where I started my previous company, Fusion Books.
I last met you at eGroup talking about Fusion Books, how’s that going?
We have a great team in place which is seeing Fusion Books continue to have strong growth throughout Australia, France and New Zealand.
How did Canva get started and subsequently raise a $3m investment?
The Canva journey began back in 2007, while I was still studying at the University of Western Australia. At the time I was teaching students how to use programs like InDesign and Photoshop. They were programs that people always found hard to learn, and harder to use.
After bouncing around the idea for Fusion with Cliff Obrecht, who ended up becoming a co-founder, we decided to take out a loan and bring in an external team to build our product. We didn’t really know what we were doing, or what we were in for, but thankfully we learnt a lot in those early days; how to sell, how to recruit great people, how to build a business. I was 19 at the time, and had deferred from uni to focus on the business. We’re in a very different position now with Canva.
Fusion Books is still going strong. It’s now the largest school yearbook publisher in Australia and has expanded into France and New Zealand. However, we believed our technology was much more powerful than the yearbook market alone and wanted to pursue the bigger vision.
After a year of searching for a technical co-founder we found Cameron Adams, a hardcore Googler, who’d worked on Wave and a few other projects. He was someone who shared their vision and culture, and he is now Canva’s Chief Product Officer.
We now have a great team of designers, developers, artists, marketers, investors, and advisors. It’s been an incredible journey so far, and it’s only the beginning.
Why did you leave Perth to grow Canva? What’s your advice to other Perth startups?
I first met an investor Bill Tai in 2010 at a conference in Perth. He said he was interested in my startup and if I went to San Francisco he would have a meeting. Six months later I jumped on a plane.
We were able to raise a seed funding round to launch Canva, and moved to Sydney in order to access talent. We have a team of 20 people now and are continuing to grow.
My advice is to make sure you’re solving a big problem that people care about. That’s the most important thing for a startup.
What was the best advice you ever got about your startup, and who from?
Lars Rasmussen, founder of Google Maps and Google Wave told me to wait to find the perfect technical co-founder and team. It took over a year, but it was well worth the wait. The team we have now is incredible.
Who are the other founders in your team and what do they do?
Cliff Obrecht is our Chief Operations Officer and Cameron Adams is our Chief Product Officer.
Tell me about Guy Kawasaki. How did you get him and what will he do?
Guy was using Canva and tweeted one of his designs. Someone asked him if he designed it in Canva and we saw the tweet. Cliff and I had a few chats with Guy over Skype and then went to San Francisco. He really liked our vision and he has a vast amount of experience bringing products to market, so it seemed like a perfect match for him to join our team.
Guy is our Chief Evangelist and is helping to spread the word about Canva to the world.
Thanks Melanie, it’s great to see you making a great product and taking it to the world.
Use Canva right now for free ,it’s a simple way to create beautiful graphics for web and print. Perfect for startups!