May 19, 2020

Westpac launches its 2018 Businesses of Tomorrow program

Westpac
2018 Businesses of Tomorrow
Avoka
Galia Ilan
2 min
Westpac launches its 2018 Businesses of Tomorrow program

The Australian bank, Westpac, has launched its 2018 Businesses of Tomorrow program in which it has recognised 200 firms.

The businesses have been selected due to their vision and economic drive, specifically focusing on a digital economy.

“The digital economy is predicted to be worth $139 billion by 2020 to the Australian economy1- as a key driver of change in the future, this year’s businesses reflect the drive that’s disrupting and shaping the industries they operate in,” stated Davis Lindberg, CEO of Westpac Business Bank.

“Almost three quarters of the top twenty businesses are directly involved in technology or software development and this year also saw an increase in micro-business applicants, including early stage tech-businesses, which increased almost three-fold from 2017.”

“This tells me leading Australian businesses are capitalising on the opportunities for growth. They’re breaking new markets, developing technology that helps people with autism gain employment, providing better analysis for solar energy users, using technology to make prescription glasses more durable and affordable, and transforming waste into useful materials.”

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The program has focused on adaptability, resilience, customer value, and how ready for change they are.

The 200 companies will be narrowed down to a list of 20, all of which will receive a two-week study tour of Silicon Valley as well as a $50,000 professional services package.

The top 20 businesses will also join a mentor matching programme with Australian business leaders.

“One of our core functions is enabling seamless digital processes so banks can make it as easy as possible for customers to open accounts, apply for a loan or become business customers,” remarked Philip Copeland, CEO and Founder of Avoka, a firm chosen to be part of the program.

“Avoka accelerates customer acquisition for banks and allows them to get outstanding customer journeys to market very quickly.”

“With the help of Westpac and the Businesses of Tomorrow program, we’re looking forward to increasing our networking capabilities and continuing to improve and expand our product offering.”

“Having been selected for the second year in a row, this time as a top 20 finalist, we appreciate the opportunities Westpac has given our business.”

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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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