Canva Credits Newly Acquired Unicorn Status to Key Markets in Southeast Asia

The region remains an important market as demand for a more user-friendly design tool continues to soar

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 12 Jan 2018

Canva Credits Newly Acquired Unicorn Status to Key Markets in Southeast Asia

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Graphic design platform Canva recently raised a $40 million round from Sequoia Capital, along with previous investors Blackbird Ventures and Felicis Ventures, putting the company’s valuation at a coveted $1 billion.

CEO and founder Melanie Perkins credits this milestone to its success in Southeast Asia where the platform is available in nearly all major languages, including Tagalog, Bahasa, Vietnamese, Burmese, Thai, Lao, and Khmer.

“Southeast Asia has always been an important market for us — Indonesia and the Philippines are some of our strongest SEA markets, and on that note, having recently launched Canva on Android has opened up our product to even more people in Southeast Asia, with the strongest user base coming from Indonesia,” says Perkins.

Canva is popular with both enterprises and consumers alike in the region. According to Perkins, over 17,000 nonprofits use the platform worldwide to promote their cause, including flagship organizations in the region like World Vision Philippines. The platform is also particularly helpful to individuals who don’t have any professional design background to speak of.

“We recently heard from one of Canva users based in Malaysia on how he created a massive digital billboard using Canva, despite having no graphic design background. It’s stories like these that truly inspire us to keep pursuing our dream, and everyone in the team is committed to making this happen,” she says.

Apart from the many businesses and users who use Canva in Southeast Asia, the region is significant because the company’s second office is in Manila. Perkins acknowledges the collaboration between their Manila operations and their Sydney headquarters as key to the company’s growth and market traction.

Looking forward, Perkins believes that Southeast Asia will continue to remain a key market, if only because it is emblematic of the larger problem it wants to solve. “Indonesia and the Philippines continue to be important markets for us as demand for a more user-friendly design tool continues to soar,” she says.

Perkins acknowledges that no matter how challenging or complex it is to scale a business, it comes down to the problem you are trying to address.

“For too long, graphic design was too complex and expensive for most people, even though almost every profession benefits from beautiful designs. So when we launched Canva, there were already millions of people who needed a tool just like it, so word of mouth spread like wildfire. From our very early days, we had intended Canva to be built in such a way that it could scale to millions of people across the globe. We’ve hired an exceptionally talented team many have built their start-ups before or worked at huge industry leading companies,” she says.

For founders and entrepreneurs who may want to achieve the same scale that Canva has, Perkins encourages them to focus on this problem.

“I think the best way to find a compelling product is to identify a problem that you desperately want to solve. That was definitely the case for me with Canva, as I saw my students struggling to learn even the basics of these complex design programs. Getting to see Canva come to life is still incredibly exciting, and I hope that never changes. I’ve been working towards the vision of Canva and this journey for more than 10 years now, and the most important thing I’ve learned is that the learning never stops. You have to keep evolving alongside your company and your team,” she says.