Turning your idea into a business
What does it take to build a business from the ground up? A lot, in fact: a lot of money, time, determination, and endless patience. Don’t jump into the deep end before getting your feet wet though. There are several questions you should ask yourself to see if you are ready to start a business, and several steps you should take before you invest your life and your life savings.
Why do you want to start your own business? Do you see a service not being offered that should be, a process that could be more streamlined, or a solution to a longstanding problem? These are great reasons to look further into the process. Personal experience and expertise in and passion for the field you plan on entering are absolute musts. Consider what other people and businesses in the same field offer – could you realistically offer higher quality services or products, or better solutions?
Beware of a wholly unique business idea, as the company, service or product may not exist because there is not a large enough market for it. Innovation and new ideas are great, just make sure people are willing to pay for those new ideas before investing in them.
Read related articles at Business Review Australia:
- Yin & Yang: Finding a healthy work/life balance
- Inside the mind of a successful entrepreneur
- How to find a business mentor
Build a foundation
Research is possibly the most important step to starting a business. Know your market, your customer, your prospective competition, and anything else that could influence your business. And it’s not enough to research, you need to have a complete understanding of the market beforehand. Make sure you have the capital to build the company the way you want to; it would be a shame to get started and then realize you won’t be able to fulfil your goals.
Believe in yourself
It may sound cheesy, but it’s absolutely necessary. Have confidence in you, in your product or service, and your ability to accomplish what you set out to do. If you don’t believe in it or yourself, how can you expect your customers to?
Also, do not try to do it all by yourself. Building a company can start with one person and one idea, but that cannot sustain itself for long. Also, remember to maintain a work/life balance. Yes, your business is going to take up an inordinate amount of time in the beginning, and possibly part of the way through the middle. But burnout is a very real concern, and it would be quite the blow if you had to give up on your dream business before it could get off the ground because of health concerns.
There are hundreds of things to consider when founding a company, but you have to start somewhere. Take that idea, ask yourself these questions, do the research, and build a solid foundation for that future successful company.
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."