May 19, 2020

How NSW Trains became an agile operator

New South Wales
Sydney Trains
NSW Trains
RailCorp
John O'Hanlon
2 min
How NSW Trains became an agile operator

It was in December 2012 that the Minister for Transport of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, announced a complete review of transportation services in the state, paying particular attention to the State rail provider RailCorp.
 

This was at the time the largest asset owner in the whole of Australia, employing upward of 15,000 people, and its size and complexity were causing problems; in particular it had become highly Sydney-centric. All the decisions were made in the capital city, and timetabling was arranged to meet the needs of Sydney citizens and its commuters.

However the needs of a traveller on a 40 minute commute and another on a six hour train journey are very different, and the minister wanted a better service for upstate citizens. It was decided to replace RailCorp with two new rail agencies: Sydney Trains, which would look after all the suburban services of Sydney, and NSW Trains to manage the network in the rest of New South Wales, including coach services to reach the many communities not reached by rail. In fact today NSW Trains is also the largest coach operator in Australia, running 600 different services a week.

It was NSW Trains' good fortune to secure the former CEO of RailCorp Rob Mason as its CEO when the new companies started operating on July 1 2013. His brief was to improve the lot of inter-city and regional passengers who had been given a lower priority. Another key appointment at the new organisation was that of Chief Procurement Office (CPO).

There was a serious reputational problem within the industry. Apart from having fallen into the traps that affect large organisations in the public sector from silo thinking to a job-for-life culture and union strangleholds, a series of enquiries had revealed that long term suppliers had become entrenched, discouraging new entrants, and that money had changed hands to keep things like that.

Read the rest of this article in Business Review Australia & Asia's August issue.

Follow @BizReviewAU and @MrNLon on Twitter. 

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Apr 29, 2021

C-suite spotight: Melanie Perkins, CEO, Canva

Canva
Australia
csuite
Leadership
Kate Birch
4 min
In our regular C-suite spotlight for APAC, we profile co-founder and CEO of Australian unicorn Canva, tech entrepreneur and billionaire Melanie Perkins
In our regular C-suite spotlight for APAC, we profile co-founder and CEO of Australian unicorn Canva, tech entrepreneur and billionaire Melanie Perkins...

Who is Melanie Perkins?

She’s the co-founder and CEO of Australian unicorn online design platform Canva, who ultimately became one of tech’s youngest female CEOs, at just 30, and recently became a billionaire aged 35, making her one of Australia’s richest and youngest. 

Why is she in the spotlight right now?

Because less than a year after securing a US$6bn valuation during the pandemic, which provided a big boost to business, Canva has recently more than doubled its valuation, securing a $15bn valuation, which makes Perkins a billionaire, according to Forbes. The valuation comes in the wake of a new funding round in the first week of April 2021 led by T. Rowe Price and Dragoneer and raising $71m. At the same time, Canva announced its business has passed $500m in annualised revenue, up 130% from the year before. 

What is Canva and why is it so successful?

Launched in 2013 by co-founders Melanie Perkins (CEO), Cliff Obrecht (COO) and Cameron Adams (Chief Product Officer), Sydney-headquartered Canva is a free-to-use online graphic design product that allows users to create everything from social media graphics to presentations and other visual content, as well as offering paid subscriptions like Canva Pro and Canva for Enterprise, with 3 million of its now 55 million users taking paid subscriptions. 

Accruing 750,000 users in its first year, following a number of rounds of investment including from Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital in 2019 and this month’s massive funding round, Canva now boasts 55 million users across 190 countries, with offices in Sydney, Beijing, Manila, and most recently Austin, Texas, and is valued at $3.2 billion. 

And while the company was originally most popular with SMEs, helping them draft and design print and digital assets, it’s since grown to become a real-time collaboration suite that’s being used by big firms including McKinsey, Salesforce and American Airlines. In fact, Canva claims that 85% of Fortune 500 companies use the platform’s services. They continue to add new features and during the pandemic, added presenter video recording tools. 

How did Perkins get there?

The idea of Canva came to Perkins when she was at the university of Perth, where to earn money on the side she taught students design programmes. Many of her students found platforms like Adobe complicated and frustrating, and the ideas came to her to simplify and democratise design, to make it more approachable and accessible, more collaborative, and ultimately to empower all in design. So, she and university peer Cliff Obrecht, who became Canva co-founder and Perkins’ husband, created an online school yearbook design business, Fusion Yearbooks, to test it out. Operating from her mum’s living room, the yearbook design business was a massive success, expanding to New Zealand and France, and remains the largest yearbook publisher in Australia. 

However, Perkins did not give up on her dream to create a one-stop-shop design site and at one point spent three months living with her brother in San Francisco where she pitched to more than 100 venture capitalists, all of whom rejected Canva. It was following a chance encounter at a conference in Perth with Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Tai, Perkins was winning over major investors including Hollywood celebrities Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson and building out Canva’s design platform with a fast-growing team of tech engineers and a high-profile tech advisor, Lars Rasmussen who co-founded Google Maps. 

It was in 2012 when things really kicked off however when Perkins and Obrecht found a tech co-founder in Cameron Adams. The same year, they closed their first funding round, which was oversubscribed and raised $1.5m, with Canva going live in 2013. In 2019, an $85m funding round led by Silicon Valley investor Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital gave the company a valuation of $3.2bn, before the most recent funding around in April 2021 leading to a valuation of $15bn. 

In her own words… 

"I think it's pretty important to know that every single person is going through their own trials and tribulations. Knowing that it's tricky for everyone, that any adventure will be filled with rejections and littered with obstacles – somehow makes the adventure a little less lonely. And it's most important for people who feel like they are on the outside to know this."

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