How small Australian businesses can take on the world
The Export Council of Australia (ECA) believes that with the right encouragement and tools, more Australian businesses, particularly Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), can take on and succeed in the world of international trade.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were more than 2.17 million actively trading businesses in Australia in June 2016, an increase of 2.4 per cent from June 2015, primarily driven by growth in small businesses (those with fewer than 20 employees).
With 60.7 percent of actively trading businesses in Australia operating as Sole Proprietorships, with no employees, 27.6 percent had 1-4 employees, 9.2 percent had 5-19 employees and 2.3 percent had 20-199 employees. Only 0.2 percent of businesses had 200 or more employees. This means that the overwhelming majority of businesses currently trading in Australia can be defined as MSMEs.
Despite the growing number of Australian businesses, in 2014-15 fewer than 52,000 were actively engaged in exporting goods and services.
ECA CEO, Lisa McAuley said “The ECA has worked closely with Australian businesses for more than 60 years, helping them to take their place on the global stage through world-class education and training. We understand the value of face-to-face training, but also acknowledge the difficulties faced by particularly small businesses who are time poor and often under resourced.
“For this reason, we have developed our Online Going Global program, aimed at those businesses and individuals who are wanting to upskill before they embark upon their international business journey.”
“The ECA’s Online Going Global program has been developed on the award-winning Open Learning platform. On this platform, participants not only get access to word-class information and skills training, they become part of an online community that shares ideas, collaborates, and together solves learning problems.
“Participants also have access to a network of trade professionals and proficient international businesses who will answer questions and share their experience.” Ms McAuley said.
Founder & CEO of OpenLearning Adam Brimo said “We are excited to partner with ECA to give Australian companies the skills they need to thrive in international markets. The Online Going Global program has been built on the concepts of flexibility and engagement to offer busy SME owners the best chance to grow as business leaders.”
“This is a very natural partnership for us. ECA as an organisation places the same value on education and lifelong learning as OpenLearning. In creating these courses, we are looking to take an innovative approach to up-skilling beyond the traditional educational options available to businesses,” Mr Brimo said.
The Online Going Global program consists of 11 Modules, covering all the basics of international business, from selecting the right market, to building staff capacity and pitching for international success. Upon completion of the 11 modules, participants will have a full body of knowledge, including the capability to complete an international business strategy.
“The ECA is extremely proud of this program. We have no doubt that companies completing the program will start their international business journey on the right foot and be able to achieve global success,” Ms McAuley said.
Enrolments for the Online Going Global program are now being accepted via https://learnonline.export.org.au/. Government and industry stakeholders are also encouraged to explore the various licensing options available.
C-suite spotight: Melanie Perkins, CEO, Canva
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."