May 19, 2020

Australian start-up Canva is growing – three things you need to know

Canva Australia
Canva CEO Melanie Perkins
Australian start-ups
Graphic Design Australia
Harry Allan
2 min
Australian start-up Canva is growing – three things you need to know

Australian design start-up Canva has just gained an investment worth $15 million from Australia’s Blackbird Ventures and Silicon Valley’s Felicis Ventures.

It will use this money to develop a number of capabilities that will put it on a competitive footing with the likes of Microsoft and Adobe.

Canva CEO Melanie Perkins spoke to Business Insider: "Our vision is to create the platform that powers the modern workforce and enables everyone to communicate their ideas visually, but we have so much left to do."

1. Exponential growth
 

Canva has grown its user base by a staggering amount in the past year - from 1.5 million users to over 10 million, with 50,000 businesses utilising its paid services. Canva has been able to double its valuation from $165 million in late 2015 to $345 million today.

2. Expansion
 

"While we haven’t spent a dollar from our last round, we have huge plans for Canva and having a lot of capital ready to go makes it possible for us to quadruple down," Perkins says. "There’s core pillars of our plans that were in our original pitch deck from 2011 that we still haven’t commenced."

3. Accessibility
 

Canva was founded five years ago and was based on the concept that anyone could make professional graphic designs, without investing a great deal of time in training or learning often complex software protocols.

While how all of this money is to be spent has not been fully revealed, a sizeable amount will go towards making the service available in more languages so that it can be localised as much as possible.

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Jun 9, 2021

Q&A: Professor Loredana Padurean, Asia School of Business

DigitalTransformation
AsiaSchoolofBusiness
smartskills
Leadership
Kate Birch
3 min
Teaching the MIT Sloan Executive Education program at Asia School of Business, Prof. Padurean talks innovation, smart skills and digital transformation

As someone who is creating Asia Pacific’s business leaders of the future, what do you believe are the essential skills leaders require?

In many ways, we need leaders who are Renaissance women/men or polymaths, as opposed to specialists of an industry or a field. A polymath is a person with profound knowledge, proficiency and expertise in multiple fields and today’s leaders have to be able to combine various ideas, look at problems in novel and useful ways, and develop a broad and yet still deep set of skills, talents, and knowledge.

You’ve coined ‘smart’ and ‘sharp’ as skills of the future. What are these?

They are replacements for ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills, a concept coined by a US Army doctor in 1972 who observed that his pupils had different skills: dealing with machinery required ‘hard’ skills, while dealing with people and paper were ‘soft’ skills. This concept has served us well since, but I find it too binary, not to mention the semantic implications of the words themselves.

Soft implies gentle, delicate, mild, quiet, tender, weak. However, there is nothing soft in navigating competing perspectives and cultures, handling and delivering critical feedback or dealing with office politics. Instead, I prefer to call these skills ‘smart’. Hard implies rigid, difficult, heavy, static. But how can we think of engineering or software development as static or rigid? I believe ‘sharp’ is more apt as such skills need constant updating or sharpening. 

I think it’s time to reflect on these classifications, because we can drastically change someone’s perspective by how we choose to talk about and frame something. 

How important are smart skills in leadership today?

Smart skills are more important than ever because we live in a world of extreme diversity: generational, ethical, value-based, gender, etc. Gone are the days when giving an order was an effective act of leadership. I personally work with people from five different continents and across five different generations, therefore as leaders, we need to know how to adapt, motivate, inspire and connect. We need to increase our investment in learning about them in action, especially as smart skills are more difficult to develop.

I believe that a successful leader today has to be both smart and sharp. Take cognitive readiness, one of my top 10 smart skills. In order to be cognitive ready, one has to master system dynamics, one of my top 10 sharp skills. Also, did you know that one of the primary reasons why digital transformation fails is not the absence of digital literacy, a sharp skill, but the need for more validation and adaptability, both smart skills. So, instead of thinking of these skills as binary, I prefer to think of them as the yin and yang; co-existing and complementing each other. 

So, you can teach leaders smart skills then?

Yes, you can, via a combination of the classroom experience, plus an action component supported by deeply embedded reflection. At ASB we call this Action Learning, and we teach it both in the MBA and in the executive programs. For example, in teaching a leader emotional maturity as a smart skill, first they need to learn what it is, and then act on it, before reflecting on what we did and how we did it. And then to repeat it, but this time with more expertise and awareness. It’s not easy, but that’s why my favourite mantra is ‘the job is easy, the people are not’. 

Discover Professor Padurean's successful skills for a digital transformation here

 

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