Three secrets to how Sydney start-up Canva raised $3 million

For our start-up Canva, raising funds was like being a hitchhiker on the side of the road; knowing where we wanted to go and being prepared to jump in any vehicle that would take us in the right direction.


It meant learning to kite surf in the freezing cold San Francisco Bay area, preparing a speech for a roomful of the most influential people we had ever met in just a few hours, and sleeping on the floor of my brother’s San Francisco apartment for three months while I networked with every investor and tech person I could find.


Every founder will have their own journey and story to tell, but one thing is for sure – you need to be ready for the adventure and be prepared to seize every opportunity. Here are my top three tips.


1. Build momentum


As a start-up founder, your job is to be the continuous advocate, visionary and, ultimately, company storyteller.


You need to capture the excitement or energy surrounding what you’re doing and amplify it. Investors don’t want to miss out on something that could be big.


Lots of people will say they like your idea but far fewer will sign on the dotted line.


Your job is to convince investors there is a huge problem that needs to be fixed, and that you have the best solution with a team to deliver it.


For us, the MaiTai kiteboarding and entrepreneur conference provided a wonderful opportunity to introduce our idea to a roomful of influential investors, media, and entrepreneurs.


You need to generate buzz about what you’re doing so that investors want to get in on the opportunity. Within a period of three months, we went from an unfunded and unknown start-up to one of the hottest start-ups in Silicon Valley, trending number one on AngelList.


The hardest part was closing the deal. My co-founder, Cliff Obrecht, and I spent three whole months with phones in one hand and a giant spreadsheet in front of us.


We kept track of every investor we met, whether they were interested, what they liked about us and what their hesitations were.


When we did get an investor on-board, we got them to help generate further momentum for us. One of the best things we did was ask all our investors to post a recommendation for Canva on AngelList.


It created a sense of social proof for other potential investors, and helped us create enough buzz to become the number one trending start-up in July 2012.


We pulled some really long days during this time and were absolutely unrelenting in our efforts.


2. Continuously revise your pitch


Our pitch deck (the presentation given to potential investors) constantly evolved. Following each pitch, we took note of every question an investor asked and worked out solid answers.


Sometimes it was just a matter of articulating the strategy we had already developed, other times it required days of brainstorming.


Each time we pitched we were able to communicate our vision more clearly and the tough questions started to dwindle.


When we first started trying to raise money our pitch deck was a five page document, and took 10 minutes to present.


Story continues on page 2. Please click below.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments