Melanie Perkins Canva Success Story | Canva Business Casestudy 2022
What if you had a brilliant idea and spent a full year pitching it passionately to investors only to be rejected over one hundred times how long would you be able to last?
This is the story of how Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht founded Canva, an Australian startup that is currently valued at over 40 billion dollars and is perhaps the easiest graphics tool to use for creating social media posts, business cards, and YouTube thumbnails, you name it.
Who is Melanie Perkins?
Melanie Perkins (born in 1987) is an Australian technology entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of Canva.
In May 2021, Perkins was one of Australia’s richest women since she was one of the youngest CEOs of a tech start-up valued at more than $1 billion.
|Born||1987 Perth, Australia|
|Education||Sacred Heart College|
|Spouse||Cliff Obrecht (m. 2021)|
The early life of Melanie Perkins
Melanie Perkins was born in Perth, Western Australia. Her parents are Malaysian engineers of Filipino descent and a Melbourne-born teacher from Perth. She graduated from Sacred Heart College in the northern suburb of Sorrento.
Perkins graduated from high school and went to the University of Western Australia, majoring in communications, psychology and commerce. While at the university, she had also been tutoring graphic design students. Perkins observed that many students struggled to learn design programs like Adobe Photoshop, and it often took them a semester to learn the basics of these complex programs.
Perkins saw an opportunity in making the design process easier; she decided to build a platform that required no technical experience. At 19, she dropped out of university to launch her first business venture with Cliff Obrecht, Fusion Books
How does she get the idea to start Canva?
Melanie Perkins used to work part-time as a teacher at the design university of western Australia and while she was teaching students she was annoyed by how there are so many moving parts when making simple visuals. Her job as a teacher gave her an outsider’s perspective of how unbalanced the learning curve is compared to anyone else’s.
In graphic design, you need to install Adobe Photoshop on your computer, and if you haven’t used Photoshop before, seeing all the options and settings can already be daunting. And it’s not even discussing what the design aesthetics will be like so that’s even more daunting. Melanie Perkins also pointed out that it’s all being done offline, so if you work with a team or if you’re a designer and you need to get a project accepted, a designer would normally send the file to their boss via email, and the boss would send it back with some comments.
Melanie Perkins was wondering how things would be if it worked like google docs where everything was done online, where everyone could see the project being edited simultaneously, and where team members from anywhere could contribute to the same project at the same time.
There was a big opportunity here for Melanie Perkins, but she knew it would be tough to disrupt a giant industry like that of yearbook publishing that is dominated by the likes of Adobe, Google, and Microsoft so she thought, what if we start small and only design it for people to help design their yearbooks?
She and Cliff worked together, borrowing fifty thousand dollars from family members and friends, and for their marketing budget, they used a five thousand dollar grant from the government after the tax year. After that, they began seeking software developers that could build their products.
Melanie Perkins’s amazing plan
What’s incredible is that Melanie Perkins kind of had this 80-page plan on what the software should do and even drew out screenshots of how each button should behave. As a result, the project ended up becoming five times bigger than what it originally anticipated.
This entire process took them around six months to build their first version. As the program was being developed, they managed to secure printers from Fuji Xerox. Fuji Xerox spotted the potential for this project to become a big printing press one day and gave them the printers if they provided the ink. So Melanie Perkins just started with a bunch of printers in their living room, eventually launching their software and getting 16 schools on board by the end of the first year. It grew from there to 50 schools in year two, then 100 schools by year three.
How did Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht come up with the name Canva?
She Decided on yearbooks because, as a child, she observed how much effort and time her mom invested in her yearbooks during her teaching career.
There is often no design experience among the teachers who are responsible for creating these yearbooks, and yet they are expected to create something professional. The initial idea was to create a web app that allows people to create their yearbooks for free, and then when they were done, users could request that the yearbook be printed by the teachers.
At first, Canva was just a printing press and it wasn’t called Canva. At this point, the books were called “business fusion yearbooks” which would eventually become “Canvas Chef”.
One thing that’s funny about the name Canvas Chef is that Cliff Obrecht hated it when the name was first chosen, but one of their french engineers explained that Canvas is pronounced canva in french, so that’s how the name Canva came about.
How did Canva get its funding?
As Fusion Books performed well, Cliff and Melanie were running out of funds for expansion and growth. They sought the help and assistance of venture capitalists but no one agreed and believed in their idea.
At this time, Fusion Books became Canva Inc. Initially, it was hard for Perkins and Obrecht to find investors, but they were able to meet with prominent investor Bill Tai in Perth in 2011.
Perkins and Obrecht hadn’t received any funding from Tai, but they were invited to kite-surfing events where many other tech investors were present. A few of these events were held in Silicon Valley, where Perkins and Obrecht diligently pursued every opportunity, but still didn’t receive any help.
Having struggled for years, Cameron Adams, a former executive at Google, came as a blessing and joined the team along with supporting Canva to get seed funding.
Canva was officially launched in 2013 after two rounds of seed funding, Melanie Perkins was appointed CEO, Obrecht was named COO, and Cameron Adams served as CPO.
At which age did she become a billionaire?
Canva’s CEO and co-founder Melanie Perkins is the youngest female CEO of any tech startup valued at over $1 billion. She is the richest self-made female billionaire under 40. In 2020, Forbes included Perkins on the list of the “30 Under 30 Founders of the Decade”, ranking her 491 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and valuing her net worth at $5.89 billion.
What is the net worth of Melanie Perkins?
Australian Financial Review’s Rich List 2021 estimates that Ms Perkins and Mr Obrecht collectively have a net worth of $7.98 billion.
Who is Cliff Obrecht?
Cliff Obrecht is co-founder and CEO of design software maker Canva.
Are Cliff Obrecht and Melanie Perkins married?
Yes, Cliff Obrecht and Melanie Perkins are married. They both get married in January 2021 on Rottnest Island.
At what age did Melanie Perkins get married?
She was 33-34 years old at the time of her wedding.
What is Canva?
The Canva app is designed to help users create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and other visual content. It provides templates and other resources to help users get started.
What is the current valuation of Canva?
As of 2021, Canva was valued at $40 billion.