Entrepreneur Success Story: How Canva Reached a $15 Billion Evaluation and Made Its Young Founders Billionaires

Human beings are visual learners. They always have been, and they always will be.

A big part of this has to do with the way the human brain works. According to one recent study, when people hear information, they generally only remember about 10% of it. If that information is paired with relevant visuals, such as a video or static content like a photo or infographic, they remember an average of 65% of the information. In fact, it’s estimated that between 51% and 80% of all businesses in every industry will rely heavily on visual content in 2021–a trend that shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

That, in essence, is what Canva is all about.

Canva is a graphic design platform which can be used to create visual content like social media graphics, presentations, posters and more. The app includes templates that make it easy to create the stunning content you need.

The platform itself is available for free, although it does offer paid subscriptions through its “Canva Pro” and “Canva for Enterprise” tiers that unlock additional features. Not only can users create content that immediately exists online, but they can also pay for physical products to be printed and shipped to customers, allowing brands of all types to make meaningful connections with their target audiences.

In April 2021, Canva reached a $15 billion valuation, simultaneously making its co-founders Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht billionaires. This came less than a year after securing a $6 billion valuation in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what may seem like an overnight success was, for those co-founders, anything but. The development of Canva wasn’t easy, but it is an inspiration to entrepreneurs and businesses professionals everywhere.

Canva: The Story So Far

The idea that would go on to become Canva began in January 2012 in Perth, Australia. It was then that Perkins, Obrecht and a third co-founder, Cameron Adams, saw a market that was in desperate need of being filled.

The company began simply enough: They wanted to “make design accessible to all.” It didn’t matter what you needed those design services for–logos, business cards, presentations or something else entirely.

When Perkins and Obrecht were in college in Perth, the duo would earn side income by teaching other students various design programs. After determining that some of the platforms offered by companies like Microsoft and Adobe had too much of a learning curve, they thought there had to be a better way.

But when they couldn’t find it, they decided to create the “better way” themselves.

The duo–now a couple–started an online school yearbook design business that was then called Fusion Books. They immediately launched a website that let users collaborate and build their profile pages, articles and other content for those online school yearbooks. Perkins and Obrecht would then print the yearbooks, after which they would deliver them to schools across the country.

The business was a success, but the pair didn’t want to stop there. They wanted to go bigger, and they had ideas on how to do it.

In 2010, Perkins had an encounter with an investor from Silicon Valley who saw the potential in such an idea. That investor introduced her to a few contacts, at which point they began to develop their idea even further. With the help of a few technology advisors, and after the close of their first funding round, Canva was born.

One year after launching, Canva had more than 750,000 active users. Now focused on marketing materials, its revenue increased from an already impressive $6.8 million to an enormous $23.5 million during the 2016-2017 fiscal year alone. In 2018, the company had raised more than $40 million from various investment firms and was already valued at $1 billion.

The takeaway from Canva’s story is there is truly no idea too small (or too niche) to make an impact. Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht were tired of spending time teaching complicated graphics programs to fellow students, so they decided to create a platform of their own to eliminate as much of the “hard work” as possible. That simple idea turned into something much larger than either of them could have imagined.