“An eclectic nature is what makes our company strong. We need people that think in differently to handle the different aspects we are required to handle to be successful.” - Melanie Perkins, founder and CEO of Canva
Graphic design software company Canva is one of Australia’s fastest growing global start-ups, hitting 4 million users at around the same time it launched its business-focused product, Canva for Work. A year later and it’s already grown that to six million.
Melanie Perkins, co-founder and CEO, had the idea while studying and teaching design at university. Seeing people struggling to learn the basics of professional tools like Photoshop and InDesign, it became apparent that things could be done more simply. Perkins shares how Canva is disrupting the desktop publishing industry, and how the team supports innovation within their business.
How have you worked with customers to develop new product features?
Perkins: We used UserTesting.com, which is a fantastic website where you can watch people use your tools for the first time. It is really interesting because you gain insight into the emotional journey of that user, and we spent a great deal of time perfecting the user experience based on this.
In addition to this, we received thousands of emails from our users. They are a very engaged user base, who tweet about us a lot, and post about us on Facebook. People who use Canva are very vocal about the features that they want or that they’d like to see, giving us further insight into what people need.
We find a lot of people asking for the same thing, which is great because then we can put that into the product and be confident with new feature releases. That being said, it is important to be able to distil it back into what your vision is for the product and ensure that everything is in alignment.
How have you structured your teams to support innovation and growth within the business?
Perkins: We recently moved to a model of small teams where each team sets their own weekly goals based on the overall business objectives and context we provide them with. Then each of the teams breaks these down into quarterly objectives to define their own goals and guidelines. As the teams deliver their goals, everyone is able to see everythingoing on across the business and our people feel a lot of ownership. This is why we hire smart, ambitious people.
How would you describe the company’s culture and how have you supported it through the growth of the business?
Perkins: I’d say we are motivated, passionate and eclectic, and that diversity is important in all our people.
One of the best things we have done since we first started as a company is to always have lunch together. It means that people are having informal conversations with people that they are not necessarily working with directly. It’s a tradition that continues today. It is one of the least expensive, but most amazing ways for the team to bond.
What advice would you give to people looking to succeed in their own innovation programs?
Imagine what you want the future to be like, and think about that in detail.
You could imagine what the future of ordering or bill payments will be like, and then think about the future of that industry really intimately and outline what you think the future will be like.
If you have a problem that you would like to solve, just get started. You are going to learn so much along the way. If you don’t get started you will never learn the things that are essential.
Stick with it.
It takes so much determination and such a long time to realise your vision into reality. You just have to keep going. Yes, you will have many ups, downs and challenges, but it’s all part of the process.