Entrepreneurs

Canva co-founder Melanie Perkins on the one essential ingredient to courting investors

Emma Koehn /

Startup giant Canva has raised another $19.8 million (US$15 million) in funding, with venture capital firms doubling the company’s valuation, but the design firm’s co-founder says the one fundraising lesson for businesses owners is to not ask for capital.

“One of the most important things you can do is not ask for investment,” Melanie Perkins told SmartCompany .

“We found that early on every time we would ask to meet [potential investors] to ask for advice, and then go away and do things for the business.”

Perkins is no stranger to the cut-throat world of raising capital, and is eager to impart that Canva is the result of a decade’s worth of planning. She says startups regularly go for funding too early and that small operators should try to take their businesses as far along as possible before reaching out for funding.

“When you raise money, it’s like a ticking time bomb – you have higher expenditure when you have more capital,” she says.

The latest funding round was led by Blackbird Ventures and Silicon Valley operation Felicis Ventures. In an earlier 2015 round these venture capital firms valued Canva at $218 million – this year the valuation hit the $458 million mark.

While investors were lining up to pitch themselves to the graphic design operation, Canva is well acquainted with battling for funding – and looking back, Perkins says the company pitch has evolved to include the way the company is trying to capitalise on changes to the entire workforce, across all sectors.

“We started looking at things from a very macro perspective, and saying that every time we’re transitioned to a new era, since the typewriter, we’ve had new market leaders,” she says.

This also means the company is looking to grow across all markets – a move to capture internet users in general, rather than a particular sector. From accountants to teachers and “people making big, long business plans”, Canva is looking to capture multiple workers at once. This means the company is sectioning off into smaller teams that work on specific tasks in the business, under what Perkins calls a “little startup” model.

“For instance, one of our goals is to get to 20 languages this year, a team is on that. Another was responsible for developing our iPhone app,” Perkins says.

The app looks to tap into yet another relatively new profession – the social media marketer. “They need to build things, especially on the go, so it makes a lot of sense for the social media industry,” she says.

Eight new staff members started in the Canva Sydney office on Tuesday, but while the team is expanding, there’s still cash in the bank; the company says it hasn’t spent a cent of the last US$15million it raised in an earlier funding round with Blackbird Ventures and Felicis Ventures.

The expansion will be a change for the once-small startup team, and Perkins says her role going forward will be to check in on the development of projects, as well as communicating with investors.

“The thing I like to do most is work with each team to refine things,” she says.

“I spend a bit of time with each of them, in particular on product design.”

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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  • Alex Rich

    Well done Canva on the new raise – we certainly agree with your advice here at http://www.desygner.com being bootstrapped and having to compete with you in this huge market!l! It is truly fantastic to see Aussie companies raising big series rounds successfully at these mile high valuations but I guess the proof is in the pudding and the end winners. We just exceeded 1 million designs/projects with no external investment in only 7 months with our small team of 5 people and have iOS and Android apps now in over 182 countries ;-). Hopefully we can be at your levels of cash in the bank soon, as the market is definitely hotting up which is great for all of us. Awesome job guys.