Canva was founded by Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht, and Cameron Adams in 2013, with the ambitious goal of empowering the world to create beautiful designs. Canva was originally built on the premise that a large portion of the desktop publishing market was being significantly underserved by existing solutions. The gap in the market the company filled was for users who wanted to create beautiful designs without a lot of upfront learning or costs. Thus, the team sought out to build a magically simple design platform that would delight users.

Blackbird co-founder and Partner, Rick Baker, initially met Melanie and Cliff in 2012 in Perth where they were running their prior startup, Fusion Books. At the time, Blackbird was raising its first ESVCLP Fund, which ended up being a fund of A$29.4Min committed capital from a collection of 96 individual investors.

In May 2013, soon after the Blackbird ESVCLP had a first close on its capital, it made an investment of US$250,000 into Canva’s seed round. At this point, Canva was still an idea being pitched to investors by two young founders from Western Australia. This seed funding would be used to develop and launch the first version of Canva’s platform.

Since then, Canva has become one of the fastest-growing software companies in the world and Blackbird has continued to participate in every single funding round, investing out of its first ESVCLP and a number of Follow-on Funds. Overall, Blackbird has invested over A$270M into Canva since the first seed cheque in 2013.

As of 31 March 2021, Canva had over 55 million monthly active users and is growing its revenue by 130% year-on-year, while remaining profitable. More than 3 billion designs have been created using the Canva platform with the company recently releasing their new Presentations product for both consumer and business customers.

Canva has also become a magnet for attracting top engineering and product management talent to Australia. The company employs over 1,700 people worldwide, with the majority of these highly skilled employees based at Canva’s headquarters in Surry Hills, Sydney.

Importantly, one of Canva’s core values is to “be a force for good” and the company has pioneered the Pledge 1% movement in the Australian technology industry. Canva’s platform is also used free of charge by over 90,000 schools anduniversities worldwide, in addition to 55,000 non-profit organisations.

The ESVCLP program played a critical role in the early investment Canva raised and its growth as a rapidly-scaling company. Blackbird’s initial investment in the company from its first ESVCLP Fund supported the company to build its platform and go-to-market. The relationship built at this early stage then enabled Blackbird to continue investing in Canva through its follow-on-funds, providing the business with capital to expand and scale into the global success story it is today.

In September, the Australian Investment Council lodged a very important submission with the Federal Department of the Treasury in response to the Venture Capital Tax Concessions Review which was announced as part of the Government’s Digital Economy Strategy in the 2021–22 Federal Budget. The review has been focused on how effective VCLPs, ESVCLPs and AFOFs have been in attracting domestic and foreign capital, developing innovation, and expanding venture capital management skills and experience in the domestic market. Read the submission here.

Published February, 2022

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