Melanie Perkins, CEO of Canva: “With artificial intelligence we are entering another era. We have to adapt” | Technology

Melanie Perkins, CEO of Canva.
Melanie Perkins, CEO of Canva.Canva.

At the age of 20, Melanie Perkins (36, Perth, Australia) teaches graphic design at her university and hopes that the tools to do it will be a little simpler. In 2008, there were only complex programs that required skills that almost no one possessed. Thinking of a small problem to solve, she launched, in the living room of her mother’s house and with her then-boyfriend – now husband – Cliff Obrecht, an online collaborative yearbook design company that was very successful in Australia. But his dream has not yet come true. He brought in more than a hundred “nos” from Silicon Valley investors until he made his breakthrough in 2013, when he raised capital to launch Canva. A decade later, 130 million people use their technology every month to post social media posts, birthday cards, resumes, edit photos and videos, or create a webpage… the list continues to grow within the graphic design platform. All in one The most popular free in the world. Most recent is the integration of the Flourish data visualization tool.

With more than 15 billion designs produced from 190 countries, the company is known as golden child From Australia with a strong presence in America, she wants to establish herself in Europe. 16% of its users are on the continent and they plan to double that number in the coming years. Canva couldn’t escape the recession that hit tech companies last year – it lost 44% of its market value – yet it has weathered the wave of mass layoffs from companies like Spain’s Meta, Paypal or Glovo. “We’ve been profitable and continue to grow rapidly. We made sure we had both a free product and a paid one but very affordable. With the macro climate changing, people turned to Canva. This has allowed us to continue to invest in our team and grow it in a very conscious way over the years” Melanie Perkins told EL PAÍS at the recently opened office in London.

Perkins is the exception in many ways. First, because she is one of the few women to head a technology company. Secondly, because this company has an estimated market value of around 24,000 million euros, according to venture capital firm Blackbird. And besides, he achieved it before he was even 35 years old. Until last year she was also the second richest woman in her country and promised to donate her fortune. Although many analysts attribute Canva’s success to her leadership, she doesn’t usually blame herself, and she doesn’t like to talk about sex either. When asked if she was belittled for being a woman, she nods in agreement, but resists saying the word “yes”. He prefers answering questions in the plural and giving credit to the team, their expertise, their exciting way of doing business and their long-term strategic vision. “We’ve been investing in AI for several years,” he says.

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Ask. Canva was already betting on artificial intelligence (AI) before bubble. Did you see this effect coming in the creative sector?

Answer. Our big goal is to let people have an idea, turn it into a design and not have a problem between these two points. This has been our mission for the past decade. Now we can consolidate all these different things into one platform and make it accessible to everyone. Obviously, artificial intelligence has been a very important part of us for many years. For example, to remove the background of an image in one click, which has been used 1.8 billion times around the world. The ability to use more of the world’s best technologies, which are rapidly accelerating and integrating, opens the doors to achieving good results.

We have received a lot of rejection. I can’t attribute it to anything specific [como ser mujer]but in fact I did not fit the profile “

s. Many content creators or designers are afraid of how quickly generative AI is taking hold. What do you say to them?

R was found. One thing we’ve had in our investor presentations for over ten years is that with new technology, the industry changes every few decades. This has been going on forever. And just as typewriters, typesetting, and copy-paste came along, with desktop publishing and desktop computers, so did desktop publishing. Then with the internet, a new way of being creative was born. Now, with artificial intelligence, we are entering another era. Every time technology comes around, we have to adapt. We have to learn how to navigate it, and use it to help us achieve our goals. So I think it’s important to try to embrace the latest technology and make sure it becomes part of our workflow, allowing us to be more productive and giving us more power.

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s. Is the artificial intelligence revolution similar to the previous one?

R was found. Yes, and we must continue to embrace the latest technology so that we can empower our workforce.

s. Has the arrival of ChatGPT affected Canva’s plans?

R was found. The pace of acceleration in the industry has been amazing, but it’s been on this track for a while. Looking back, it was exciting to see that pace in the AI ​​spaces, generative AI. And for us, it just allows us to empower our community.

s. What is your position on the organization?

R was found. In our approach we have been careful and careful and, in fact, very careful. We have a reliable and secure team and we have made sure that topics like politics, medicine and other areas cannot be handled in Canva when it comes to Magic Write [herramienta de generación de contenido a través de comandos]. There are many things to be discovered at this time that remain to be resolved. In a way, we are blocking these things inside our product. There are other companies that are starting in this space, but we want to make sure that doesn’t happen in Canva.

I like to believe that most people want to live on a planet where everyone has basic human rights and access to health care.

s. You have shown that you do business with passion and a human touch. How not to lose that when a company like yours grows up?

R was found. I feel like along the journey, there’s always a crossroads: do something that feels authentic or do something like another company entirely. The more authentic our passions, values, and things feel, the better. We’ve had our own little way. Was there a little silliness? Yes Was it weird? Yes, and it was fun. The more we do it as a team, the more we dream together and then make it come true.

s. Is it hard to maintain authenticity when thousands of employees and their families depend on the company?

R was found. It is essential that we put people first. When you look at the big numbers, you can get lost in them. For me, when it comes to products, I always think about whether they are good enough for my family and friends. If it isn’t good enough for them, it won’t be good enough for anyone. In addition, we want to create a company that we want to work for. So it’s also important to try to make sure that every decision we make is in line with that.

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s. As a woman, have you ever felt that your abilities were underestimated?

R was found. We have received a lot of rejection. I can’t relate it to one specific thing, but I didn’t really fit the profile.

s. Is it more difficult for women to succeed in the world of technology?

R was found. Rejection was important to me, because it helped me feel very, very certain about what I wanted to do and made me very convinced of our vision. Establishing our first company with our own resources was essential as it meant we had to be profitable. We put ourselves in all roles, marketing, sales or customer service. Going through this whole process was of extraordinary value.

s. Did you think it would have been easier if you weren’t a woman?

R was found. Perhaps some investors looked at entrepreneurs from the past and thought about what profile this entrepreneur should have. And I think the success of Canva has changed the meaning of that. What appearance should the founder of the company take, where should he come from, or what is his background. I hope the boxes we haven’t fixed have narrowed down.

s. What is your advice to girls and women who want to be part of the technological world?

R was found. It is important to find a problem that you are passionate about. We always dream about the future we want and work hard to achieve it. It is important on a personal, team, company or even country level. The basic formula for a dream that can become your existence is vital and I think a lot of people don’t implement it.

s. With the integration of increasingly powerful synthetic systems, are you afraid of losing the human perspective?

R was found. I like to believe that everyone, the majority at least, wants to live on a planet where everyone has basic human rights, can afford to eat, has a roof over their heads and has access to healthcare. This is the future I want to build.

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