Updated: Mar 18, 2019
Travel with a Cause celebrating International Women’s Day, 8 March every year.
Many people dream of making it big in the high tech entrepreneurial space, dreaming of and thinking of the next big thing, something that the whole world is just waiting for and which will make you rich.
Dreaming is the key word here, because that is what they mostly are; pipe dreams, but there is one fascinating story of how one person, a woman, and a very young woman at that, made her dream come true, using travel as the primary kick-off tool for her business idea.
Melanie Perkins has emerged from being an unknown success story to one whose story is now much more widely recognised for the brilliance it is. But if it were not for Melanie’s determination to “get to where the action is,” she may not have quite got there.
Melanie is an Australian, resident in Perth, the beautiful sub tropical capital city of Western Australia, and a city with the highest entrepreneurial spirit in the whole nation, from the world’s largest mines to revolutionary ocean yacht racing, Less renown for high tech startups, but these days much of the city’s wealth has been re-emerging in new digital projects. Her “next big thing” was Canva, a graphic design tool, different in its ease of use, for people with no training.
But entrepreneurialism takes money and the centre of the high tech entrepreneurial world is California’s famous, and exhilarating, “Silicon Valley.’ And Perth is as far away from “Silicon Valley” as it is possible to get.
After being rejected by all the investors and venture capitalists near her and interstate in
Australia Melanie made the decision, as a young, foreigner female, to door knock the big boys overseas, which meant she had to travel to California. One thing venture capitalists like is a gutsy entrepreneur, and it took guts to approach and present to these huge and hugely important companies.
Melanie realised when she was teaching and using design programs that students would struggle learning the existing standard systems, which were not intuitive and required significant training.
She knew that in the future, design should be easier, online, and collaborative. She set to work 10 years ago designing an online design system for school year books, resulting in an early business and app called Fusion Books, making school year books, which is still around. But her ideas could do much more than create year books, it could create almost any document requiring graphic design. Enter Canva.
"So that set off a year of going to San Francisco, where I spent six months pitching everyone I could, going to every conference, getting engineers to join my team. And eventually, after another year of looking, we landed some investment."
Without the availability of easy international travel, and Melanie’s decision to utilise it to get to the people making investment decisions, she would never have met the right people and Canva might never have been born,
Melanie has mega dreams now, hoping to build a multi-billion dollar company from the $117 million Canva is currently valued at. Blackbird Ventures co-founder Rick Baker believes Canva could be a $100 billion company.
But Melanie has a heart and compassion. She already offers Canva for Work free to non-profit entities, an offer taken up by 25,000 organisations, and has started hosting community meet-ups that range from encouraging women to get into coding to helping Indigenous entrepreneurs. But she believes there is more she can do.
"The thing I’m most interested in is how we can utilise the world’s resources to achieve the world’s goals more effectively,” she says. “There’ are millions of non-profits, so how do we help them be more effective in reaching their goals?"
Perkins now has investors travelling from overseas to pitch to her when they do a capital raise.
Canva co-founder Melanie Perkins.