GE 183: How Canva Grew From 1K to 10M Users Without Paid Advertising (podcast) With Melanie Perkins

Melanie Perkins CanvaHey everyone, in today’s episode I share the mic with Melanie Perkins, co-founder and CEO of Canva, an app that makes design simple for everyone.

Listen as Melanie shares how she grew Canva to 10 million users in 3 years with just word of mouth marketing, why being rejected by so many investors was a good thing, how taking up kite surfing (one of the most dangerous sports in the world) allowed Melanie to raise capital for Canva, and how she found the members of her awesome tech team.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How Canva Grew From 1K to 10M Users Without Paid Advertising TRANSCRIPT

Time-stamped show notes:

  • 01:03 – Eric introduces Melanie to the podcast
  • 01:28 – Melanie is co-founder and CEO of Canva
  • 01:56 – Melanie was in university and wanted to make designing simple and easy
  • 02:31 – Her boyfriend became her business partner
  • 02:49 – Canva expanded very quickly
  • 03:06 – Melanie wanted to set out for a bigger market BUT it didn’t turn out easy
    • 03:20 – She spent a long time in San Francisco sleeping on her brother’s apartment floor
    • 03:28 – She tried pitching investors and technical co-founders
    • 03:33 – After a year, they finally raised an investment which was 3 years from the initial Canva investment
  • 03:45 – It took another year of preparation to finally launch Canva
  • 04:11 – Melanie’s first company was bootstrapped
  • 06:21 – Melanie shares how she learned how to kiteboard to chase investors
  • 07:01 – The kiteboarding conference opened a door to meet a lot of entrepreneurs
  • 07:35 – “Keep on planting seeds”
  • 08:24 – Why potential investors didn’t opt-in
  • 09:44 – Some investors took a leap of faith and joined them
  • 10:57 – The most important thing for any company is to solve an important problem
  • 11:34 – In Canva’s early days, they worked mostly with social media marketers to help spread the word
  • 12:03 – Until today, Canva’s traffic comes from word of mouth
  • 13:13 – The most effective customer acquisition for Canva is by recommendation
  • 14:07 – Canva was launched in 20 languages this year
  • 14:34 – An iPhone and iPad app has recently launched and an android app is coming soon
  • 15:24 – What Canva’s content marketing and SEO look like
  • 16:34 – Melanie studied Communications Psychology in Commerce in university
  • 16:56 – Melanie shares how she found the members of her tech team
  • 19:31 – Be selective about what conferences you’re going to
  • 20:30 – Working with your significant other
  • 21:26 – What’s one big struggle you faced while growing the business? “Struggles that we have now is we’re growing really rapidly in every single front”
  • 24:08 – What’s one big change you’ve made that impacted your business in the last year? “One of the big things we did was move into small teams”
    • 26:32 – There are small teams that are constant and other teams that spin out for new initiatives
  • 27:10 – Canva has 156 employees
  • 27:24 – What kind of project management tool do you use? “We use spreadsheets in uncanny amounts, Gmail, Slack, and Canva”
  • 27:49 – What’s one must-read book do you recommend? Designing the Obvious
  • 28:30 – Find Melanie on Twitter

3 key points:

  1. To be successful, make sure your business solves an important problem for a large audience.
  2. Plant a lot of seeds and eventually some of those seeds will sprout.
  3. Rapid growth can be quite difficult if your company is not ready for it.

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