Melanie Perkins was only 22 years old when she flew out to Silicone Valley to realize her big dream of turning her startup idea into a successful business. After facing initial rejection from some of the biggest tech investors, the now-30-years-old has turned her idea into a billion-dollar company. This is her inspirational success story.

Pitching her Idea to Silicon Valley Investors

When Melanie Perkins was only 22 years old, she already knew that the future of publishing was online, and that Canva had a great future

When Melanie Perkins first met Bill Tai, an influential multi-millionaire tech investor from Silicon Valley, he didn’t seem to be interested in her startup idea at all. Perkins was only 22 years old at the time and had flown out of her hometown in Sydney, Australia to find investment for her big idea.

Nervously flipping through the pages of her pitch for the graphic design website she had created a while ago, Perkins tried to mimic every action of the successful millionaire who sat before her, having read in a book somewhere that the art of impressing someone is by mimicking their body language. The trick obviously didn’t work.

She later recalled that Mr. Tai had constantly been on his phone while she tried to persuade him that the future of publishing was online, and that Canva would become a great platform to allow easy designing of brochures, posters and greeting cards.

Starting a Company in Her Mother’s Living Room

The idea for Canvas was first conceived in 2006 when Melanie was only a 19-year-old media communication student in University of Western Australia. One of the biggest problems she had with her courses was how difficult it was to learn and use the mainstream designing software.

It would often take her months to understand the basics, and something as simple as exporting a PDF files was a lengthy process that could take 20 or more clicks. Melanie realized that there existed a business opportunity in helping people create amazing designs without putting in too much work or effort. She tested her idea with a small-scale project of creating school yearbooks, and that is how her first website called Fusion Books was created.

In order to get her software designed professionally, Melanie borrowed money from family and got her boyfriend on board for extra help. The idea was a nation-wide success and Fusion Books grew into a popular website in Australia – but Melanie had plans to grow it by a much larger scale.

Founders of Canva – Cameron Adams (R), Cliff Obrecht and Melanie Perkins.

Securing the First Round of Investment

In five years, Fusion Books had expanded to other countries, and Melanie decided to drop out of college to dedicate all her time to the growing business. It was then, when she flew out to California to secure funding for a new design software called Canva.

Melanie said that she did experience a culture shock in Silicon Valley due to immense competition that made survival or startups and small businesses extremely hard. The founder of Fusion Books fought tooth and nail to win the trust of potential investors and it took her three more years to raise the $3 million required for Canva’s launch.

Cameron Adams, Google’s executive, had also taken part in the first round of investment and was named the co-founder of Canva along with Melanie and her boyfriend.

A Company Worth Billion Dollars… But This is Only the Beginning

Perkins and Obrecht, still together after more than 10 years

In the beginning, Melanie faced a lot of rejection and had to fine-tune her pitch in order to make it palatable for the investors. She says that despite the hardships she faced, she found the entire process a great learning experience and the success she achieved in the end was all that mattered.

The second round of investment raised even more money and Canva’s valuation soared to $82 million. The website offers its most basic version for free but some of the advance features could be bought with a subscription fee. This lucrative business model earns the company millions of dollars in revenue each year.

Financial Review revealed that Canva made $23.5 million in revenue in 2017, which was three times greater than the amount the previous year. However, the company has sacrificed its profit for expansion and market capitalization.

Now, Melanie has taken the role of Chief Executive in her growing company while her boyfriend and co-founder holds the position of Chief Operating Officer. The two still run their first website, Fusion Books, which is being operated as a separate business.

Do you think female entrepreneurs will take over the tech world in the coming years?



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