Big ideas collide at Fusion and Canva

Big ideas collide at Fusion and Canva
DOWN TO BUSINESS: Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams are the force behind new online graphic design platform Canva. Photo: Attila Csaszar

In 2007, Melanie Perkins had a big idea and a dream to take it to the world.

The recent UWA graduate wanted to create an online platform that would enable people to design their own publications and order them in any format they wanted.

Ms Perkins started Fusion Books with business partner Cliff Obrecht, quickly identifying a niche in school yearbook publishing and tailoring their software development towards that market.

Fusion Books now has hundreds of customers across Australia and has launched in France and New Zealand.

The pair’s second start-up business, Canva, started in May 2012, is an extrapolation of the initial idea.

“We realised that the (Fusion Books) technology was much more powerful than just the yearbook market and we wanted to apply it to a much broader market,” Ms Perkins said.

“So Canva was really born out of Fusion Books, but we’re taking it on a much bigger scale.”

Canva’s capability has been kept under wraps during the 12-month period of technical development, but Ms Perkins told Business News it would enable anybody with any level of experience to create graphic design projects.

“We’ve had people use it who have never had any design experience in their life and within just a couple of minutes using Canva they can design something that they can be really proud of,” Ms Perkins said.

However the online platform has also been designed to appeal to professional graphic designers, enabling them to collaborate on designs with clients working with the platform – eradicating the need to send files back and forth.

If they desire, designers can contribute their own ideas to Canva’s library of resources and receive royalties each time they’re downloaded by another user.

The basic Canva account is entirely free to use, and the company’s business model relies on users wanting to access over one million ‘premium’ images and designs, which they can download for $1.

Ms Perkins said the platform was being launched for Australian users, but also simultaneously to users in the US, which was expected to be a lucrative market.

“It’s a very big market, and it’s also where a lot of trends are born, so being part of that market will help us be an influential company across the globe,” she said.

Pre-registrations for user accounts numbered in the high thousands, she said.

Ms Perkins’ profile among the state’s young entrepreneurs has risen sharply since her roles with Fusion Books and Canva, and has been further buoyed by the fact the Canva team secured $3 million in seed funding from big name investors such as Bill Tai.

That investment, finalised earlier this year, enabled Canva to get off the ground and Ms Perkins said they’d since had to turn investors away.

The current popularity of Canva as an investment opportunity belies the struggle Ms Perkins and Mr Obrecht experienced in the early days.

“It’s sort of like a steam-train; it took a long time to get Canva to the point to attract investment,” Ms Perkins said.

“We had to prove our vision and we had a lot of difficult questions that we had to find great responses to, but after people have seen what we’re planning on and seeing us deliver on the vision that we had planned, it’s made it a lot easier.”

Canva is now based in Sydney with 12 full-time staff.

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