Melanie Perkins Canva Q&A: Lessons from Canva's 10-year journey part 2
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21 Questions from Canva’s 10-year journey: Part two

As Canva turns 10, it seemed fitting to share some of our highs, lows, and lessons we've experienced over the last decade of building our company. We hope other businesses and members of our community will find the learnings from our journey as valuable as we did.

Five years ago, I wrote a post in an online startup forum (Sydney Startups(opens in a new tab or window)) looking to collect questions from founders about the journey we’ve been on here at Canva.

I got lots of epic questions which turned into a really long blog post(opens in a new tab or window) covering some of the lessons we’d learned throughout Canva’s early years. I called that Part One, but hadn’t quite gotten around to writing Part Two. Five years later, as we hit our 10-year birthday, here we are! I asked the same question(opens in a new tab or window) and got lots of thoughtful responses.

It’s safe to say we’ve learnt an enormous amount since publishing Part One, so this is going to be another lengthy post – feel free to skim through the questions that are most helpful for you!

While we still feel like we’re just 1% of the way there, I hope you’ll find some of these lessons helpful for your journey too.

A crowd in front of a stage at Canva Create in 2022.

Our first Canva Create event back in September 2022 where we launched Canva’s Visual Suite.

1. How did you manage to go from two of you in your mum’s lounge room to running a successful company of nearly 4000 people in a very short space of time?

It has been quite a journey! Building Canva has been an incredibly exciting, challenging, and rewarding road filled with so many ups, downs and roundabouts. I wrote about a lot of our early days in my first blog post(opens in a new tab or window).

The short version is that it has been a whole lot of things:

Dreaming. Visioning. Setting crazy big goals. Building. Refining. Rebuilding. Feeling scared. Feeling excited. Persisting. Problem-solving. Finding great team members. Dreaming. Refining. Building. Rebuilding. Launching. Refining. Problem-solving. Putting out fires. Learning. Always learning. Rinse and repeat for 13 years.

Melanie Perkins cuts the ribbon to open Canva's new London office

From working from my mum’s lounge room to opening our new Canva Campus in London’s Shoreditch earlier this year.

It has been a really critical combination of finding and building creating and evolving our culture, leading with our values, investing in our amazing community, and (eventually) finding great investors who believed in our mission. Plus, the luck of being born to great supportive parents and getting a solid education. We’re also solving a problem people really cared about, and then of course, utterly critically, finding an absolutely incredible team we’ve worked alongside for many years to turn it all into reality.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I think it absolutely takes a village (or perhaps even a city!) to build a company too.

2. Are you able to speak at conferences or be interviewed for stories about Canva?

I love being invited to speak at different events, but the challenge is that by doing lots of events and interviews, I wouldn’t have any time left to work with our team to build Canva!

That’s one of the many reasons I was keen to write this blog post – to distill as many of our hard-learned lessons as possible into a detailed format. This way it can be shared with anyone who'd like to read it, and hopefully, help other founders or anyone curious about our journey. I love to connect and hear from our community whenever I have the chance, but 1:1 formats are a little trickier.

A Canva for Education event in Austin, Texas

We recently held a Canva for Education event at our new flagship campus in Austin, Texas, where we hosted 30 teachers for a day of collaboration and creativity.

I hope it won’t be another five years before I write Part 3 (you can subscribe to our blog here(opens in a new tab or window) to keep up to date!), so feel free to keep sharing your questions on social media! We also have an incredible bunch of people at Canva who regularly speak at events, so please reach out if you’d like to hear from someone else in our team.

3. Going back to your early days, how did you keep going in the face of presumably not a lot of revenue, with not too much experience; and the option of instead taking a “proper job” offering experience, pay, and job security?

I shared a bit about the early days of our first company, Fusion Books, in Part 1(opens in a new tab or window), and how we were both incredibly overloaded and working around the clock trying to get the business off the ground. It wasn’t until our customer numbers started to increase, and the workload became unmanageable between both of us, that I eventually decided to put my studies on hold (to this day) and we both left our other jobs.

Cliff Obrecht and Melanie Perkins in the early days of Fusion Books

There were many, many, challenging times while we were bootstrapping the company and trying to get things off the ground; though I didn’t really think about quitting too much. Mostly because (and this is going to sound quite unglamorous) I’m very bad at giving up.

I tend to be a lot more likely to try harder and harder until the very last mile rather than concluding something isn’t possible – which did come in handy in those early days. In fact, one of my favorite songs is Panama by The Cat Empire, where the chorus echoes “I like things that seem impossible”. It’s a great mantra for persevering when times get tough, although not the best attribute when it is important to give up, or to change direction – as that new thing may give you more insights and to help you try a new angle.

I also think in some of the hardest moments, it was our commitments that kept us pushing ahead. Commitments to repay the initial loan we’d taken out to hire a software company. Commitments to our customers to ensure we were fulfilling orders. Commitments to ourselves that we’d turn this wild vision into reality. Giving up didn’t seem like a plausible option, as we’d be letting down our customers who entrusted us with creating and delivering their yearbooks.

The old Fusion Books office in Sydney

Our first office in Sydney, where Fusion Books (and then Canva) lived.

In many ways, a lot of the challenging and arduous times with Fusion Books made us feel much more prepared for the ride with Canva. We expected things to be hard, which they certainly were. Every stage of our journey has brought new challenges, which always seem huge. But then you eventually come through them and have learnt a thing or two to take to the next challenge.

4. How did you navigate the tricky time between PMF (Product Market Fit) and scale, when there’s so much to build but so little time? Should you build for the current market problem, or for the future opportunity you see?

We talk a lot about being a Mission and Goals-driven company. Our mission is where we want to go in the long run, and our goals are the important, tangible steps we need to take toward achieving that mission. We break our mission down into multiple pillars and each year, then pick off goals within each pillar that will drive us closer to our overarching mission of empowering the world to design.

Image of goals as steps on a staircase towards a mission

For example, one of our pillars has always been to empower the world to design in every language – we’ve been picking off goals in that pillar since 2016 when we launched in Spanish, then in 20 more languages. In 2017, we launched in 100 languages. In 2018, we launched in more complex languages where we had to invest extra time and resources, such as right-to-left languages like Arabic, Hebrew, and Urdu.

In 2019, we launched local currencies, payment methods, pricing, and localized templates. Later, we launched localized template marketplaces, and today, we have truly regionalized content all around the world. Earlier this year we also launched Translate(opens in a new tab or window), our AI online translator tool that lets you localize every word in your designs into over 100 languages with the click of a button.

Canva goals ladder

It’s a continuous process of prioritizing the most important goals that ladder up towards our mission.

I love this quote from Jeff Bezos, who said:

Jeff Bezos quote

I think this has certainly applied to our business as well. The growth we see today is from many years of many people’s hard work.

5. With so much to do, how do you help the company prioritize the most important goals?

We reference this image often – what seeds do we need to plant for future growth? What fruit should we be picking from these seeds? In other words, it’s a lot to do with making the right bets, at the right time.

In recent years one of our guiding principles has been fewer things well, which later turned into things like fewer goals well. We’ve learned we can do it all, but not all at once – and by making tough decisions on what to focus on now and what seeds we really need to be planting, we hope to harvest with long-term benefits years into the future.

Our guiding principle for this year has been fewer things well --> fewer goals well

I'll give an example of a very challenging seed we had to plant. A few years ago, we spent two whole years rebuilding Canva’s entire front end platform. It was an incredibly challenging project, particularly because as a product-led company, the rebuild meant we weren’t shipping any new products or even incremental features for a number of years. We knew this was a seed we needed to plant, but those two years felt like a long dark tunnel, with only the promise of sunlight at the end.

Without spending time on this, we knew we wouldn’t be able to launch critical goals aligned with our long-term mission, but planting that seed was critical as it set the foundations for a lot of very important product features: from simultaneous collaboration to being able to be used in Right-to-Left languages, being available on every device, to providing the foundations to scale our engineering team from a small team to the thousands we have today.

It was an incredibly trying time for me personally, as it was so painful to not be able to ship magic for our community for such a long period of time! While it was a long project and a challenging seed to plant, we did everything we could to make it as fun as possible for our team.

Team in front of a countdown board with colourful star shaped pieces

We made a little board where we had a race for each of the features so we could all see how they progressed.

It proved to be a very worthwhile bet that set the foundations for the future. But I guess that’s the sort of challenging decision you have to constantly make – when is something a big bet worth taking vs. when you can choose to be more incremental. When we find ourselves facing a challenging decision, we set out steps to determine if a big bet is worth taking, and ask ourselves what seeds we want to be harvesting five, 10, or even 15 years from now.

6. As the Canva team has grown from a handful of people to thousands, how do you align everyone to work towards a unified vision?

This is one of the most challenging things to do as a company scales, and has been an area of continued investment and refinement. For the better part of a year, I had the same Zoom background (pictured below) in all of my meetings. I think this is a particularly important and powerful metaphor as a company scales – if you’re rowing in the same direction, you’re able to move faster toward your goals:

However, if you aren’t all rowing in the same direction, it doesn't matter how much effort you exert – you're never going to make progress!

An illustration of people in a canoe with one rowing in a different direction.

As we’ve scaled, it's become increasingly critical to spend time ensuring we have alignment on our direction, strategy, goals and priorities. If we don’t, anything we do can quickly become purposeless with different areas of the company working in different directions.

We spend a great deal of time thinking about the future and setting the right goals – brainstorming(opens in a new tab or window) ‘what would wild success look like five years from now’, and then inversely, ‘what would terrible failure look like’ is a really powerful way to align on the north star you’re shooting towards.

We’re (obviously!) a very visual company, and so it’s really important that each of our teams create a clear and compelling picture of what they’re working towards. We call these ‘vision decks.’

Each vision deck uses a standard template to illustrate a shared vision of what ultimate success would look like, which we then work backwards from. We spend a lot of time creating vision decks, because it not only paints a clear picture of the future that you’re aiming to build, it needs to be so compelling that it inspires your team to want to build it, and for us to want to invest our most precious resources (our team’s time!) in its creation.

This visual way of communicating has become really critical for accelerating our ability to quickly get on the same page, make decisions, and move forward. We’ve now baked decision decks, brainstorm decks, and vision decks into all our company planning cycles and product processes.

7. How do you go about setting and sharing goals?

Once we’ve created a vision deck, we then break that vision down into tangible goals. These goals should ideally be contributing to both our user growth and revenue goals (in both the short and long term) and very importantly, towards our mission.

As with everything we do, we work as a team when setting goals. We’ve had a few different ways of doing this over the years. In the beginning, we used to write them on posters and stick them on a wall.

A wall covered in notes with goals

The early days of goal setting at Canva… on the wall.

Then we moved to painting them on canvases…

Montage of Canvanauts holding up artworks with goals on them

Covering the walls in our goal-themed artworks.

Then we quickly started running out of wall space, so we moved to a viewing gallery in a virtual world. Today, our goal maps are in Canva Presentations. Despite their ever-evolving format, the intention for how we set our goal-setting has remained the same:

  • To help teams work towards a clear goal.
  • To help distill noise from what’s critically important.
  • To help create a celebration-worthy milestone for the whole team!

We also take celebrating goals very seriously! When we achieved a goal that was years in the making with the launch of real-time collaboration(opens in a new tab or window) – our CTO, Dave Hearnden, vowed not to cut his hair until it launched. Eight years later, we got there! And of course, we had to make a fun video to celebrate:

8. How do you communicate and stay connected as such a large and global team?

We’re proud to have fostered a really special culture here at Canva. It’s hard to boil it down to one thing, but listening to our team and their needs goes a really long way in developing a culture where everyone feels included and aligned with our goals and mission. It’s always a work in progress and you are never ‘done’, but I think we have created something pretty special together. Here's a video from our Short Film Festival to celebrate our 10-year anniversary:

These days, our working style is built around two pillars of ‘flexibility’ and ‘connection’(opens in a new tab or window) – we offer three options for our team to choose from based on how they prefer to work: in-person, hybrid or permanent remote. This flexibility is a key contributor to our culture and has been critical for our success in attracting and retaining amazing talent from all corners of the world.

An illustration of a pair of scales showing the balance of Canva's pillars of flexibility and connection

Balancing flexibility and connection.

Of course, having a team based all over the world means navigating various time zones for meetings and brainstorms, so we work asynchronously where we can – using things like vision decks, Canva Whiteboards and sharing recordings to ensure everyone is part of discussions and decision-making. These formats provide critical opportunities for our company to come together and celebrate what we’ve accomplished and dream about where we’re going.

A box with Canva branded t-shirt, stickers, notebook and cards.

A newbie pack to welcome them to the Canva family!

We’ve also shifted to hiring and onboarding sessions being done remotely, so all Canva Newbies have the same experience when joining. Our onboarding program is pretty comprehensive, with a full week of modules about the story of Canva, our goals, values, and ways of working, and everyone is assigned a buddy(opens in a new tab or window) to help navigate the first three months at Canva.

6 Canvanauts in shiny colourful costumes pose in front of a neon wall

Some of our Sydney team celebrating at our first Canva Create in September 2022.

On top of flexibility, we believe meaningful connection plays a really important role in helping our team to innovate and dream about the future. We encourage our teams to come together on a cadence that works for them and now have eight Canva Campuses around the world led by our incredible Vibe(opens in a new tab or window) teams.

A big part of our culture has always been celebrating in quirky outlandish ways when we achieve our goals. We’ve done everything from releasing doves to smashing plates, and more recently, held more than 100 picnics around the world to celebrate reaching 100 million monthly active users. It can be easy for these things to fall off the list when you’re busy, but it’s really important to prioritize taking the time to celebrate big moments together.

images showing celebrations such as a dove release, candy floss machine, picnics, and parties.

Some of the fun ways we've celebrated milestones over the years.

9. I love that your vision is to have the most positive impact on the world. Can you share your decision-making process and how that’s going?

Right from the start, we’ve had a Two-Step Plan: Step One, to build one of the world's most valuable companies; and Step Two(opens in a new tab or window), to do the most good we can do. With the goal of Step Two in mind, we joined Pledge 1%(opens in a new tab or window) back in 2019 — a global initiative where companies give 1% of their profit, equity, product, or time back to their communities — to help bring our ‘Be a Force For Good(opens in a new tab or window)’ value to life.

Step One, to build one of the world's most valuable companies; and Step Two, to do the most good we can do.

In recent years we've made a lot of progress towards Step Two (I wrote a bit about this here(opens in a new tab or window), and here(opens in a new tab or window)). However, it also becomes more important than ever that it's not just the 1% Pledge that we've taken, it's making sure the rest of our 99% is also doing good in the world. To have a positive impact on the world, it needs to extend through every touchpoint of your company.

Firstly, your product’s value needs to be aligned with your customers’ goals. It’s such a fundamental aspect of a company – getting your product right and ensuring it empowers your customers is really critical and something you can't really change down the track.

Hundreds if not thousands of decisions are made in most companies each day. With a team of more than 3,500 people, there are now countless decisions being made at Canva and it’s impossible (and unproductive!) for me to be across each of them in detail. Instead, it’s really critical that our team knows the sorts of decisions we’d like them to make, the values that we'll base our decisions on, and the decisions that we’ll happily back. That’s where defining our driving values and embedding them deep within the company has been really, really critical.

Canva values: Be a Good Human, Make Complex Things Simple, Be a Force for Good, Pursue Excellence, Set Crazy Big Goals and Make Them happen, and Empower Others.

Canva's company values

Values can seem like something small, that you might write on the wall and one day forget. However, true values are things that you’d happily forego revenue to uphold, that you truly want to guide your company’s decision-making.

We also recently launched the next phase(opens in a new tab or window) of our work with an organization called GiveDirectly as part of our goal to help end extreme poverty. This will see a further $20 million committed for a cash transfer program providing cash directly to people living in extreme poverty in Malawi, Africa.

It’s exciting to see the progress we’ve been able to make in this space but I feel like we’re just getting started. Living up to our Two-Step Plan is both a huge opportunity and an incredible responsibility that I plan on spending my lifetime working towards.

10. Why do you have a free product?

Our pricing model certainly isn't for everyone, however as our mission is to empower the world to design, we couldn't possibly live up to it without the pricing model that we have, and specifically having a generous free product.

Truly empowering the world to design means giving as much value as we possibly can to our community regardless of their experience, or income. It’s something we’ve given a great deal of consideration to over the years and works well both for our marketing and our mission. When people want to do even more with Canva, they’re then able to upgrade to our paid product where we then give them the most value we possibly can at an affordable price.

11. Given that you’ve grown so much, how are you ensuring a positive experience for all of your applicants?

This is something that we’re constantly working on, and will continue to do so as we grow in the future. There’s no silver bullet that ensures every single candidate will enjoy the experience if they don’t land their dream job – but we’re working really, really hard on it. We see feedback as a gift, and we try to ensure that all applicants, whether successful or not, receive valuable feedback to help them grow.

Just this year, we’ve had over 300,000 applications to join Canva. Our Talent Acquisition team does an incredible job of engaging with applicants on their Canva journey, coaching them and offering feedback during the various stages of our interview process, and always closing the loop.

One of my all-time favorite books is The Power of Moments. I felt like it encapsulated a lot of the philosophies that I’ve held, and has many incredible examples of it in action:

Over the years, we’ve introduced a number of initiatives to create more ‘peak moments’ throughout our team's experience. When candidates land a job, we send them a newbie welcome pack with custom Canva swag. We also create special Canva designs for them to share the news on social media, and we assign every newbie a buddy to help guide them through the first three months at Canva.

It certainly hasn’t always been this way – in the early days, we were such a small team that the co-founders – Cliff, Cam and I – did all of the recruiting and onboarding ourselves! But we’ve always aimed to make it a great experience wherever we possibly can.

12. What changes in customer device use and new technology coming do you foresee to be the next big challenge to founders?

I have two answers for this – the first isn’t a new change as such, but one that we have all been living through over the last few years. Today, there is a basic expectation that products should work seamlessly across all devices. People expect feature parity and to be able to easily switch between them. We spent a lot of time on this at Canva and it took us years of investment and R&D to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Of course, artificial intelligence presents both a challenge and an enormous opportunity. We’ve been investing in this space for a number of years now. AI powers some of our most popular products, like our One-Click Background Remover which has been used more than two billion times. In 2021, we acquired an incredible company called Kaleido(opens in a new tab or window) who are experts in design AI – since then, we’ve been working to embed this technology across our whole suite of products(opens in a new tab or window) with new features like Magic Design, Magic Edit, Magic Write and Translate now available to our community of more than 135 million people.

13. As a female startup founder did you come across any gender biases and, if so, how did you overcome them?

We had countless rejections over the years, and although I’ll never really know if some of these rejections were because I was a female, or due to some other extraneous factor, but every time we were rejected, we’d try to solicit feedback and then use that feedback to refine and improve our pitch.

There will always be people who don’t like you or your idea for whatever reason, and it’s important to see each rejection as redirection to helping you find the right people who believe in you and your vision, even if this takes years. I do genuinely believe that times are changing though, and dinosaurs won’t survive, which leaves me feeling positive for female founders in the future. Don’t worry about the haters, take them as lessons, and keep on getting better and better! Eventually they’ll be the ones to miss the boat.

14. What were some of the most rewarding or meaningful moments so far that have helped make the challenges of the journey worthwhile?

There have been countless incredibly meaningful moments over the past 10 years, which always makes any challenges we’ve faced worthwhile. Here are just a few…

Seeing Canva helping people achieve their goals and feel empowered

Seeing Canva being used to help people use design to achieve their goals is extremely heartwarming. Here’s just one incredibly powerful example:

I spend an extraordinary amount of time reading posts from our community and it's really rewarding to see how much love there is for our products.

Watching our team grow and thrive

It's been incredibly satisfying watching our team members grow and take on huge goals and challenges. Zach Kitchke, who started as a contract copywriter many years ago is now our Chief Marketing Officer. Yani Hornilla-Donato started on our Talent Acquisition team in our Philippines office and is now our Philippines Country Lead. It's been incredible to see so many people across Canva learn new skills and take on even bigger challenges as we grow.

Canva early team
Canva growing team
Canva team at Canva Create

There have been many, many times when it would have been a lot easier to do ‘the standard’ thing - but we’ve frequently opted to do what has felt right for our team, company, culture and values. While it’s often a lot more challenging to do at the time, looking back and seeing our culture come to fruition has been incredibly rewarding.

Taking steps towards Step Two

In addition to Pledge 1%, we announced a couple of years ago(opens in a new tab or window) that Cliff and I were pledging the vast majority of our shares (30% of Canva) to be a force for good. While our team was really happy, I felt like in many ways it was perfectly in line with what they expected: we’ve always said we wanted to do the most good we could do, and this was proof we were living our values. One of my favorite quotes is “Happiness is when what you say, think, and do are in harmony” – and I really believe in and try to live by that. It was incredible to see the reaction from our team when we announced this – it made it feel like we were very much living our values:

15. What were the biggest mistakes made and how would you do it differently?

There have been endless things that at the time if I had a “rewind” button I would have done the scene again and perfected it. But in the end, I’m glad we have learnt all the lessons we have learnt along the way, as we have been able to take those lessons into the next challenge. All the struggles along the way prepared us for bigger ones down the road.

On a more personal note, one of my biggest learnings has been the importance of self-care. I think the only thing that I would truly change is I would have learned about meditating, journalling, and the importance of looking after my own well-being much earlier on in the journey. In the early days, I thought it was sustainable to work continuously, from the first moment I woke to the last moment before I went to sleep and having little downtime on the weekend – but that’s certainly not healthy. It’s only in recent years that I’ve started to find more balance, and although it’s still a work in progress, it’s something that’s extraordinarily important.

16. When pitching to investors, were you looking at the big long-term picture or explaining what you are doing now? Sometimes there can be quite a gap between the two.

In our early days we often took an approach of asking for advice, rather than explicitly asking if they’d like to invest. This allowed us to leave the door open, take on feedback and go back to ask for advice again in the future.

In terms of framing, after a lot of iterations, we landed on a format where we got investors to care about the importance of the problem, the size of the market, and to truly believe that that future that we are working towards is one with creating. We then dove into where we were, where we currently are, and where we want to be – and it’s the same framework we still use today.

17. Have you ever felt by having your HQ in Sydney you were missing out on the talent of investors – have you ever thought of relocating?

We initially had our first company in Perth – however it was impossible at that point in time to attract the right investors and technical talent we needed. In our early days, I spent many months in San Francisco pitching investors and engineering talent. Today, it feels like we have the best of both worlds. We have many investors from both the US and Australia and we’ve been able to attract some of the best talent from all over the world.

I think it was really important for us to spend that time in San Francisco, to get a really strong understanding of the tech ecosystem, to build our networks and relationships and to get an understanding of how it all works. Nowadays, I do think there are broader options in Australia – the Australian tech ecosystem has matured a lot in recent years, travel is a lot more accessible, and the world has become even more online after the pandemic. As the local tech ecosystem has developed, start-ups have become a lot more mainstream here in Australia and there are now many more venture capital funds available than there were 10 years ago.

While the majority of our team is in Australia, we now have a global footprint with eight campuses and many smaller hubs around the world – including San Francisco!

Canva San Francisco team on a rooftop.

Visiting our San Francisco team in 2023.

18. Any tips for the younger you going to investment meetings and getting many “no”s? Even though you knew that at some point it would change?

I remember when we were getting a lot of “no”s from investors, each time it felt extremely painful and personal. Also, when you are on the journey you have no idea if it will ever work out. However, all you can do is continue to refine your pitch deck, make progress in any way you know how and to keep on going, until eventually it works.

An analogy that I love is this: you have to plant hundreds of tiny seeds, water them and tend to them, and then eventually one will eventually grow.

An illustration of a seedling in a pot with the text "Hundreds of tiny seeds / Only one of them will grow"

Every time we hear the word “no”, we tried to learn something from it – whether that was refining our strategy, pitch deck, or just the way we explained it.

19. As your team continues to scale, what are some of the roadblocks you’ve been finding in accelerating growth plans?

At each stage of our journey, there is always “the next big problem” to tackle, and it always feels almost insurmountably big. Almost at the start of every single week (or midway through, or at the end, or on the weekend, or when you are just about to settle down for some sleep, or take a holiday) there is some massive issue to solve or goal to conquer. But by the end of the week, we have always tried to conquer that goal or set it on a solid path forward. Of course, not every issue can be timeboxed into a short period of time – but we just have to constantly break it down and then attempt to tackle it, time and time again.

Nowadays the number of problems and goals have multiplied – but our team has multiplied too, and the skills we have developed from tackling past problems and goals have multiplied alongside them.

Blockers come in many shapes and forms:

  • Not having the right strategy
  • Not having the right team alignment
  • Not having the right leads
  • Not having the right team
  • Needing to do foundational work first
  • A combination of the above
  • Or all of the above, sometimes all at the same time

We have certainly had all of the above at different points in time! As far as accelerating growth plans specifically, we’re blessed to have a huge amount of love from our community around the globe which means our growth is continuing to accelerate through word of mouth.

A teacher standing in a classroom with colorful designs on the walls.

Over 45 million students and teachers now use Canva through Canva for Education.

20. Have you always journalled?

I’ve always found I need to spend quite a lot of time to clarify and distill my thoughts, even to myself and especially before they can be communicated and easily understood by others, and journaling has been a part of it.

For as long as I can remember I’ve done that through written and visual communication. Drawing maps of how things connect in my head, creating presentations to explain concepts or philosophies, capturing special milestones in little videos to help remember them, writing to gather my thoughts, creating mockups to explain product ideas and concepts.

I think that may have been one of the reasons behind wanting the whole world to be able to design. It felt like without it, many people couldn’t communicate their ideas. A pretty critical need. For some people speaking off the cuff comes naturally, but for me, perhaps because I’m an introvert – when there is a new concept I’d like to communicate, it takes quite a process to take my unrefined thoughts and turn them into something that everyone else can see and easily understand the way I had intended.

Over the years I’ve learnt new tools that I’ve added to my toolkit:

  • Morning Pages: A couple of years ago I read about “Morning Pages” – the basic concept is that the first thing you do in the morning is write three large pages or six short pages in a stream of consciousness. I tend to do it in the evening, and I don’t stick to the page limit, but I find that the first couple of pages often help to articulate the problems or context and the last couple of pages help to arrive at new resolutions and insights.
  • Philosophical Meditations from the School of Life: the idea is that you answer these(opens in a new tab or window) questions (1, 2, 3, and my own add-ons).
  • Using meditation apps: this has been another absolutely game-changing thing for me. I do a short meditation just before I go to bed – it helps to clear my mind and has really helped me to sleep.

A funny example of the way different people process their thoughts was in our early days, when we said “let’s do a brainstorm”: the extroverts in the meeting started talking immediately and brainstorming out loud, and the introverts started writing to gather their thoughts! Now at Canva we do a combination of both – it’s often a lot more time-efficient to write down the questions ahead of the meeting, have everyone jot down their thoughts in the deck before and during the meeting, and then to run through those ideas to help build on and refine them.

21. When do you know whether to grow and expand or stand still and be content with where you are?

At Canva we often say that we’re only 1% of the way there, and it’s really, really true.

Canva Create stage with the text "we're only 1% of the way there" on the screen

We have a very ambitious vision, and even bigger dreams and aspirations, so I think there will always be room to grow. As we enter the second decade of Canva, much, much more magic is definitely on the horizon!

We’ve made some exciting progress towards our Two-Step Plan over the last decade, and even more over the last couple of years(opens in a new tab or window) – but it feels rather daunting standing at the start of the next decade and with our very lofty Two-Step Plan before us – Step One: to build one of the world’s most valuable companies; and Step Two: to do the most good we can do. Daunting, because it feels like we have all the ingredients to have the positive impact on the world we’ve always dreamed of, and now we really need to do something darn good with it. What a huge responsibility.

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