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Aussie unicorn Canva acquires Pexels and Pixabay to become the “Netflix of stock photography”

Dominic Powell /

Canva

Canva founders Cliff Obrecht, Melanie Perkins, and Cameron Adams. Source: Supplied.

Aussie billion-dollar startup Canva has continued to grow with a pair of new acquisitions, snapping up free stock photography websites Pexels and Pixabay.

The company has also announced a new “Netflix for stock photography” service called Photos Unlimited, which provides users access to a massive library of stock photography via a monthly paid subscription.

Speaking to StartupSmart, co-founder Melanie Perkins said the stock photography space was an area the design startup has been interested in for a long time, and has been “on the lookout” for more high-quality designs to provide Canva users access too.

“We had our eye on Pexels and Pixabay. They’ve been on our radar for quite some time after we kept seeing tweets and comments from members of the Canva community about how awesome their products were,” Perkins says.

“But things really switched into gear late last year when we started conversations with them.”

Canva is one of Australia’s most promising startups, valued at more than $1 billion dollars after a $50 million capital raise early last year. The founders have told StartupSmart in the past their goal for the business is to eventually be valued at $1 trillion dollars.

The price of the acquisitions was not revealed, but Canva will gain access to an additional one million images, videos and illustrations through the transaction, along with 120,000 contributors from all over the world.

“We’re going to continue to foster that amazing global community, and they’ll have access to a much larger audience now through Canva,” Perkins says.

Canva will also continue to keep Pexels and Pixabay free and independent, with both the sites continuing to run. However, teams across both sites will be merged into Canva’s workforce, an increase of about 25 staff.

In a statement, co-founder of Pexels Ingo Joseph said the announcement was a “huge step” in the right direction.

“There’s a lot of synergy between Canva and Pexels — it’s a perfect match. No other design platform truly believes in the mission of empowering the world to design like Canva, and providing free stock content is central to their mission,” he said.

Being the “Netflix of stock photography”

This swelling of Canva’s stock photography offering will form the basis for a new subscription service the startup is launching, which Perkins believes could knock the likes of Shutterstock and iStock from their market-leading positions.

Photos Unlimited will be available at a price of $US12.95 per month ($18.79) and, as the name suggests, will provide users with unlimited access to a stock photography library of more than 50 million images. Revenue from those images will also be split 50/50 with creators, a larger distribution than other offerings.

“We have over 50 million images in our library from contributors across the world, and while you’d usually purchase them for $50 a pop from other providers, you’ll be able to get them on Canva through an all-you-can-eat-style subscription,” Perkins says.

“This was something our community really demanded, people who require a lot of image content said they would prefer reliable, monthly invoices.”

Canva expects to see similar uptake for Photos Unlimited as their existing Canva Pro offering, which has more than 500,000 subscribers.

Acquisitions a strong strategy

The double acquisition of Pexels and Pixabay brings the total number of public acquisitions by Canva to three, with the first being presentations startup Zeetings in April last year.

Perkins says the startup’s experience with the Zeetings acquisition “really warmed our spirits” and showed it how well new acquisitions could benefit Canva.

“It really encouraged us to acquire amazing companies when they tick all the boxes, it’s a great way to continue to grow and offer more value to the community,” she says.

“That checklist includes making sure our values are strongly aligned, which is critical. The companies we want to work with closely are the ones wanting to do great things in the world.”

“Another key tenet is making sure our models are really complementary. We believe wholeheartedly in being free, so Pexels and Pixabay are definitely checking that box as well.”

Having had some decent experience now in acquiring companies, Perkins says the most critical things startups need to keep in mind is being as honest as possible.

“Being upfront and honest with each other right from the start is critical. Be transparent in what you both want and need,” she says.

“You need to foster trust right from the start in any negotiations with investors or company you’re looking to work with.”

NOW READ: Why one of Canva’s “ambitious” goals is to be a trillion-dollar company

NOW READ: “You can’t copy and paste”: The three steps Canva took to perfect its company culture

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the former features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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