Canva CEO Melanie Perkins reveals her secrets to success during COVID-19 pandemic

Australia’s youngest billionaire has unveiled the secrets to her digital design platform’s $6billion valuation – and how learning to kite surf helped her get the business off the bottom.

Melanie Perkins, 32, this year became the country’s third richest woman after her and her business partner fiance’s stake within their Sydney-based company Canva rose to $2.5billion. 

The Perth-born entrepeneur now only trails mining magnate Gina Rinehart and the founder of TPG Telecom Vicky Teoh in Australia’s female rich list.

Canva raised $USD60million ($AUD87.6million) in its latest investor round despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – a resilience Ms Perkins puts down to the company’s ability to adapt to the job from home market.

Australia’s youngest billionaire Melanie Perkins, 32, pictured at Web Summit 2019 in November in Lisbon. She has unveiled the secrets to her business’ success during the coronavirus pandemic

‘I think something I’m most proud of is seeing all of us rallying through this crazy period – in one day we realised we had to shut down work and cancel my wedding at the same time. It was a large few hours,’ she recently told the How I Built This podcast.

Her Canva co-founder and partner Cliff Obrecht had proposed to her in Turkey last summer before the pair suspended their nuptials as a result of COVID-19.

She added the company had pivoted to the changing demand of consumers as Canva’s customers changed to a work-from-home environment.

‘It has been incredible seeing the transition. There are less event invitations and flyers but what they are creating is such things as presentations and zoom backgrounds so that was a huge swing almost over night,’ she said.

‘Everyone had to transition on a dime – people are designing more but completely different things to what folks were doing before.’

Ms Perkins said her ability to ‘learn on the job’ and being open to lessons ‘every single day’ helped her business grow in early days.

‘At each and every stage there is things to learn. Some things never get easier.’

‘One thing I’m pretty good at is just over time learning, and over the years there is certainly been a lot of things to learn.’

The interview also reflected on early beginnings of Canva – when Ms Perkins learned how to kite surf to help lure investors.

Ms Perkins and her co-founder and fiance Cliff Obrecht (pictured together) now have a stake in their digital design business Canva worth $2.5billion

Ms Perkins and her co-founder and fiance Cliff Obrecht (pictured together) will have a stake in their digital design business Canva worth $2.5billion

Ms Perkins pictured with her fiance on a holiday to Turkey's Cappadocia region last year

Ms Perkins pictured with her fiance on a vacation to Turkey’s Cappadocia region last year

While still trying to find investors in the business’ early days in 2012, the Western Australian taught herself the water sport to gel with investors at the MaiTai event in Hawaii – a gathering of entrepeneurs centred around kite surfing.

Through the event, Ms Perkins crowd funded $21million with contributions from Hollywood stars Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson.   

Despite her overwhelming business success in recent years though, Ms Perkins and Mr Obrecht have stressed they need to hand out their money to help others. 

Her social networking profile boasts of her lavish trips to international countries – most recently sharing a photo of her ingesting the Rio de Janeiro skyline in Brazil.

Last July, she and her fiance shared photos of the pair enjoying a trip to Cappadocia in central Turkey.

The pair have jetted off to Richard Branson’s luxurious privately-owned island Necker Island in the Caribbean’s British Virgin Islands.  

Mr Obrecht said the couple plan to donate their billions to the ‘greater good’ as opposed to spend it on themselves.

The 32-year-old's social media profile boasts of her frequent trips to far-flung countries - including Rio de Janeiro in Brazil (pictured)

The 32-year-old’s social media profile boasts of her frequent trips to far-flung countries – including Rio de Janeiro in Brazil (pictured)

‘Mel and I are committed to giving out all our money to make the planet a better place,’ that he told The Australian.

‘I think with running such a large company with such a significant valuation now, it’s an obligation on us to use that to be described as a force permanently and make the world a much better place, as opposed to just hoard s**t.’

Mr Obrecht said that he proposed to his wife with an gemstone worth just $30, and the couple were alternatively focusing on spending their money on causes like reforming the worldwide health system.

In 2013 the pair jetted off to Richard Branson's luxurious privately-owned island Necker Island in the Caribbean's British Virgin Islands (pictured on the holiday)

In 2013 the pair jetted off to Richard Branson’s luxurious privately-owned island Necker Island in the Caribbean’s British Virgin Islands (pictured on the holiday)

Perkins said she hoped to bring more equality to the world through her position of power as CEO of Canva

Perkins said she hoped to bring more equality to the planet through her position of power as CEO of Canva

‘We live pretty modestly and we don’t really see the need to just accrue wealth. The priority for the organization is education, because we really feel educating underprivileged people gives them the opportunity to break the cycle,’ he said.  

His fiance added she hoped to bring more equality to disadvantaged communities through her position of power in the business world.  

Ms Perkins previously told Daily Mail Australia she dreamed up the theory for a  graphics design business from her mother’s sofa while studying a first-year digital media subject at university in 2005. 

She fell deeply in love with graphic design and developed skills far exceeding those of her peers, to the stage where she was invited to teach graphical design workshops to students in other characteristics.

Ms Perkins, originally from Perth, founded the Sydney-based digital graphics business Canva with her fiance in 2014 after dropping out of university

Ms Perkins, originally from Perth, founded the Sydney-based digital graphics business Canva with her fiance in 2014 after dropping out of university

Ms Perkins found most people struggled to make use of the clunky computer software, so she developed a small business idea.

‘It really was complex and difficult, plus it would just take the entire semester to just learn where in fact the buttons were on the application,’ she said.

‘At the same time frame Facebook was taking off, plus it was really easy to use and individuals were on it. 

WHAT SETS THE CANVA OFFICE APART?

 Ms Perkins wanted to create the perfect workplace for her employees.

Canva staff are offered free overseas trips with the complete office and therefore are allowed to work the hours they wish to work.

Other extravagant incentives for more than 80 staff members include ‘elaborate celebrations’ when the team hit their target goal, free gymnasium and yoga membership cards and free meals.

Lucky employees treated to freshly-made meals cooked by top chefs and Ms Perkins strongly believes siting down with the entire team in a lunch room is a great way to bond over work.

‘One of the Canva perks people hear about a lot is the chef cooks lunches every day,’ she previously told Daily Mail Australia.

‘The chefs have become talented obviously, but the real value and exciting the main lunches could be the team sits down with a changing range of people every day and connect as people.

‘That feeling of community and connection is really essential for any business that wants to decide to try to achieve big things, because you’re going to need to take risks and decide to try things together, and so trust is very important.’ 

Pictured: The Canva office where employees are treated to an in-house chef who cooks lunch

Pictured: The Canva office where employees are treated to an in-house chef who cooks lunch

Ms Perkins found most people struggled to use the clunky software so she developed a business idea

Ms Perkins found a lot of people struggled to use the clunky software so she developed a business idea

‘And I just had this belief that later on it was not going to be as complex to do design work.’

In 2007, Ms Perkins came up with the theory to create easy-to-use graphical design software allowing schools and students to make their very own yearbooks.

CANVA TIMELINE 

2005: Melanie Perkins found her love for graphical design at university.

2007: She created an idea to create easy-to-use graphics computer software to help schools make their own yearbooks.

Ms Perkins and her now-fiance developed an agenda for Fusion Yearbook on her mother’s couch in Perth.

2008: Fusion Yearbook makes its first sale to a French school in Sydney.

2008-2010: The couple sold the software to more than 120 schools.

2010: Ms Perkins and Mr Obrecht went to the Innovator of the Year awards in Perth to present Fusion Yearbooks, and met Silicone Valley investor Bill Tai.

2011: The couple travelled to o the united states to speak to Mr Tai and Google Maps co-founder Lars Rasmussen.

2012: Ms Perkins attended a MaiTai Global conference inside Hawaii exactly where she hit with a range of traders.

2013:  Canva shut down its 1st funding circle of $3million and formally launched.

2014: Canva had arrived at one million consumers, and in the past few months the company arrived at four , 000, 000 users in addition to raised $12.6million inside investment.

2014-2020: The company provides raised greater than $400m coming from investors in addition to increases inside value together with each investment decision round.

She experienced no company or advertising experience yet said her inexperience provided her self-confidence that it would not be as well difficult to start an organization from scratch.

‘My sweetheart became the co-founder and started in the mum’s lounge room,’ the lady said.

‘Our naivety in some ways aided us … If That i knew at the time everything I failed to know it could have been intimating.’

The couple featured with a financial loan and a taxes rebate regarding $5,000, which they applied to market online and send out sample yearbooks to institution.

Their first purchase was to a French school inside Sydney inside 2008. 

‘When we have our 1st $100 talon, it was probably the most exciting second ever, understanding people were ready to spend on what we experienced built,’ Ms Perkins said.

‘We in no way took upon external funding but all of us kept adding every penny back into the business enterprise.’

They sold to 15 universities in their 1st year, 30 in their next and 80 in their 3 rd.

In 2010, Ms Perkins in addition to Mr Obrecht went to the Innovator of the Year awards inside Perth to present Fusion Yearbooks exactly where she met MaiTai Global originator and San Francisco trader Bill Tai.

‘He was the 1st investor I’d met who insights in to the whole associated with technology in addition to venture capital. It was a windows to an additional world,’ she stated.

‘He also stated if I actually came to San Francisco he would talk with me.’

Meanwhile, the lady had been possessing ideas concerning expanding the particular Fusion type beyond institution yearbooks.

The pursuing year the lady travelled to the US to meet with Mr Tai in addition to Google Maps co-founder Lars Rasmussen.

She frequency them the concept for her second business Canva, a free of charge online device that allows individuals to style web design, including cards, business cards, in addition to invitations.

A two-week trip converted into a three-month trip because Ms Perkins met with as much investors in addition to software technical engineers as the lady could.

Canva closed its first funding round of $3million in early 2013, and after more than a year of development launched in August of the same year. Pictured: Ms Perkins and Mr Obrecht (left)

Canva closed the first financing round regarding $3million at the begining of 2013, along with more than a year regarding development introduced in August of the same yr. Pictured: Ms Perkins in addition to Mr Obrecht (left)

Mr Tai finished up coming on table as an trader, and he encouraged Ms Perkins to a new MaiTai meeting in Hawaii in 2012 where the lady met many of the people who finished up investing in Canva.

Canva closed the first financing round regarding $3million at the begining of 2013, along with more than a year regarding development introduced in August of the same yr.

By the end regarding 2014, Canva had arrived at one million consumers, and in the past few months the company arrived at four , 000, 000 users in addition to raised $12.6 , 000, 000 in investment decision. 

The company provides since brought up more than $400million from traders and raises in worth with every investment circle.

AUSTRALIA’S WEALTHIEST WOMEN 2020

1. Gina Rinehart, $16.25billion, Hancock Prospecting

2. Vicky Teoh, $2.6billion, TPG Telcom

3. Melanie Perkins, $2.5billion, Canva

4. Prudence Macleod, $2.33billion, News Corp investor

5. Rhonda Barro, $1.5billion, Barro Group

6. Imelda Roche, $1.48billion, Nutrimetics Australia

7. Leonie Baldock, $1.48billion, VOC Group

8. Alexandra Burt, $1.48billion, VOC Group, Voyager Estate

9. Charlotte Vidor, $1.36billion, Toga Group

10. Judith Neilson, $1.32billion, White Rabbit Gallery

Source: The Australian 

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