How Melanie Perkins could make Canva the next Microsoft Office

Baker asked Perkins and Obrecht to delay closing their initial capital raise until the newly minted VC had finished raising its first fund.

Canva became the first investment for Blackbird, which put in $250,000. It is indisputably one of its most successful.

“Even in those early stages there was something really special about the way Mel in particular spoke about the graphic design industry and her insights into what Canva could be and how it would bring a fragmented industry together,” Baker says.

Having co-founded Blackbird in 2012 with Bill Bartee and Niki Scevak, Baker says that if Canva can become the size of Adobe, which is valued at $US121 billion ($170 billion), that would be a remarkable achievement. But he does not rule out the possibility that it could go further and be the next Microsoft Office.

“[With the top 20 tech companies in the world], the magic behind them … is a very strong core product that creates very strong cash flow, and then they have the ability to use the cash flow and expertise created around that to widen out their tech,” Baker says.

“Google is a conglomerate of tech products, and Facebook have done that too, but to a lesser extent.

“If it can do that, we then start talking about products like Microsoft Office or Google apps, and it can become a platform based on a strong, cash-generative engine in its core graphic design product.”

Canva was born in Perth out of Perkins and Obrecht’s experience running school yearbook business Fusion Books, and to date has raised $US83 million from funds such as Sequoia Capital and Felicis Ventures, Hollywood actors Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson and Google Maps founder Lars Rasmussen.

Perkins says that during Canva’s first capital raising she “knocked on every investor’s door and not many were keen”. Now investors fly to Australia to ask Canva to let them invest.

The company has also been the subject of acquisition offers, but Perkins will not reveal from whom.

In the past 12 months the business added more than 200 staff and completed its first acquisition, presentation software company Zeetings. Its most recent financial report filed to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission reveals it made its first profit in the six months to 31 December, 2017, and revenue surged by 186 per cent to hit $25.1 million for the period.

Perkins’ two big visions are to create one of the world’s most valuable companies and to do the most good that she can along the way. But she is still figuring out how she wants to contribute to society beyond Canva.

She already offers Canva for Work free to non-profit entities, an offer taken up by 25,000 organisations, and has started hosting community meet-ups that range from encouraging women to get into coding to helping Indigenous entrepreneurs. But she believes there is more she can do.

Blackbird Ventures’ Rick Baker recognised Canva’s potential after meeting Perkins and co-founder Cliff Obrecht.  Daniel Munoz

“The thing I’m most interested in is how we can utilise the world’s resources to achieve the world’s goals more effectively,” she says. “There’ are millions of non-profits, so how do we help them be more effective in reaching their goals?”

Perkins now has investors travelling from overseas to pitch to her when they do a capital raise. Jessica Hromas

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