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Aussie design startup Canva’s valuation balloons to $15 billion

April 6, 2021, 6:58 PM UTC

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Melanie Perkins has come a long way since founding a high school yearbook business in 2007. Out of the seed of that small venture she grew Canva, a white-hot graphic design startup based in Sydney, that she leads as chief executive.

Now Canva is notching its latest milestone. On Tuesday, the nine-year-old company plans to announce that it has raised $71 million at a private valuation of $15 billion, news Perkins previewed with Fortune. The company finalized the deal in November, mere months after it raised $60 million at a $6 billion valuation in 2020. The company has raised a total of nearly $390 million to date.

In an interview with Fortune, Perkins showed off Canva’s latest investor pitch deck—designed using Canva’s own tools, of course—and replete with various business metrics and snazzy-looking graphics. “One of the best ways to understand Canva is to see it,” says Perkins, who appeared on the 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 list.

Finding the middle ground

One of the first slides displays a Venn diagram.

On the left-hand side are icons representing Microsoft PowerPoint and Word, two programs that are relatively easy to use, but which offer “really, really basic things, like clip art and horrible templates,” Perkins says. On the other side is Adobe Photoshop, a software suite that offers professional designers lots of tools to create beautiful visuals but is “highly complicated.”

“We saw this huge gap in the market” between those two ends of the spectrum, Perkins says, as a Canva logo pops up at the intersection of the Venn diagram. “The goal,” she continues, was to create a dead-simple experience “so even if you had absolutely no design experience whatsoever you could jump in and create something that looks really good.”

Perkins’s facility with the design tools she hawks is apparent: At one point, bubbles float across the screen, making it seem as though the presentation is soaking in champagne mousse—an appropriate visual, given the fundraising occasion. With Canva, “you can get something that’s beautiful right out of the box,” she says.

An ever-evolving workplace

Other people are finding the product just as compelling and easy-to-use too.

Canva has 55 million monthly active users who have created 5 billion designs to date. Over the past six months, the company says, collaboration—which refers to members of a team coediting a presentation at the same time—is up 60%, as offices learn to work together remotely amid the pandemic.

Perkins notes that the uptick has helped make the company, unlike many fast-growing tech startup peers, profitable. Thanks to its now 3 million paying customers, Canva’s revenues have soared more than 130% year over year to $500 million for the year ended March 31, the company says. Corporate customers include Salesforce, American Airlines, and the consulting firm McKinsey.

All that growth “is a testament to the company’s deep insight into the creative and communication needs of an ever-evolving workplace,” says Christian Jensen, a partner at Dragoneer, who co-led the latest round of financing.

Presentations shouldn’t put you to sleep

Other investors in the round include T. Rowe Price, Skip Capital, and Blackbird Ventures. The market opportunity presented by Canva’s ambition to “democratize visual communication” is a large one, says Alan Tu, portfolio manager of the T. Rowe Price global technology fund. He calls particular attention to Canva’s “consistent innovation.”

That innovation is on display when Perkins demoes her product for Fortune. She pulls from Canva’s 100 million–strong visual content library and sends images whizzing by, deleting backgrounds in portrait photos and slapping photos onto graphic representations of objects, like mugs, T-shirts, and smartphones.

Some of these tricks Canva picked up in recent months, from acquisitions of two A.I. image-tech startups, including Austria’s Kaleido AI and the Czech Republic’s Smartmockups. The company is interested in continuing to imbue its service with A.I. tools to make visual imagery recommendations easier, for “a more magical experience,” as Perkins puts it.

On Tuesday, Canva released a few more features, including enabling people to embed recordings of people speaking, and giving presenters the option to deliver presentations in real time. “Presentations, they shouldn’t put you to sleep, they should be really engaging and live and interactive,” Perkins says.

Today Canva has 1,500 employees and is available in more than 100 languages.

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