How Canva became an unexpected pandemic winner—and a $15 billion business

June 24, 2021, 8:32 PM UTC

Everyone knows about the COVID Zoom boom and the record-busting years recorded by quarantine-friendly companies like Amazon and Netflix. But among the pandemic’s lesser known winners was Canva, the online design platform developed to help even the most inexperienced designer create projects ranging from logos and social media marketing materials to pitch decks.

In the past 16 months, the nine-year-old Australian startup—valued at $15 billion, up from $3.2 billion in late 2019—has seen its tools quickly adopted for online education, public health presentations, and by the scads of workers, now remote, needing to create online presentations to communicate with colleagues. (The platform is used by 85% of Fortune 500 companies.)

“We’ve had a crazy number of presentations created. I think we’ve had over 6 billion designs [created],” said Canva CEO and cofounder Melanie Perkins, speaking at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference on Wednesday afternoon. While demand for résumé, business card, and invitation designs declined and much of the world’s activity abruptly moved online, Perkins explained, the company “transitioned to really support our community,” creating tools and templates to help businesses and individuals adapt to the new reality. 

Perkins, who says the whole point of her platform is that “it’s really simple and easy,” doesn’t expect demand for Canva’s tools will dampen, even as the pandemic ends: “Visual communication isn’t just reserved for a few people. It’s becoming a really critical competency for everyone across most professions,” she said. 

For that reason, the company has focused on creating a platform—which has 500,000 templates and a library of 100 million images—where amateurs are comfortable to jump in, “play,” and design themselves. Canva, which is free to use, makes money through subscriptions and add-ons.

Perkins’s ambition for Canva, which was initially a tool for creating yearbooks, is straightforward, but considerable: “Our goal is to empower the entire world to design,” she said, adding that her “simple two-step plans” for achieving that was to “build one of the world’s most valuable companies and do the most good we can do.”

Her company may have a $15 billion valuation, but she still sees Canva as a startup: “I think a company is a startup when their dreams are much bigger than the size of the company…We are squarely in that category. We’re only 1% of the way there.”

This story has been corrected to reflect the number of designs Canva users have created.

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