Melanie Perkins promises to give fortune away as Canva hits US$40 billion mark

Melanie Perkins promises to give fortune away as Canva hits US$40 billion mark

Melanie Perkins

Melanie Perkins’ Canva has just been valued at a staggering US$40 billion ($54.7 billion), making it the most valuable private software company ever.

It’s a huge achievement for the Australian born startup, co founded by Perkins and Cliff Obrecht, and a massive win for the local tech and startup community – especially for female entrepreneurs locally here, who can dare to dream just as big as Perkins once did in taking her idea so successfully to the world.

But much more inspiring now is what Perkins and Obrecht have promised to do next: commit the vast majority of their remaining equity in Canva (they still have 30 per cent) to philanthropic causes across the world, through the Canva Foundation.

It’s a promise that could make them among the biggest philanthropists in Australia, and potentially later on the world.

Canva’s latest valuation comes following a $200 million funding round by new and existing strategic investors, and as the platform announces it now has more than 60 million active monthly users globally. The company has been doubling its revenue year on year and looks set to exceed $1 billion in annualised revenue by the end of this year.

It makes Perkins and Obrecht (who married earlier this year) worth a combined total of AUD$16.4 billion, ahead of Clive Palmer, Kerry Stokes and James Packer according to The Australian today. (Their third co founder Cameron Adams also retains a massive stake, worth $4.4 billion)

But being part of the “billionaire club” won’t necessarily sit easily for Perkins and Obrecht.

Perkins writes about their discomfort about people discussing their wealth, as they’ve always felt like “custodians”.

“It has felt strange when people refer to us as “billionaires” as it has never felt like our money, we’ve always felt that we’re purely custodians of it,” Perkins writes in a lengthy post today outlining this latest valuation milestone, and how it’s enabling “step two” of their simple plan – that is to ‘do the most good we can’. (Step one is to become one of the most valuable companies in the world, which we can probably say they have achieved.)

“As we’ve previously shared, it’s long been our intention to give the wealth away, and we’ve been thinking long and hard about the best way to start that journey.

“So today, we are very pleased to share the news that Cliff and I will be committing the vast majority of our equity (30% of Canva) to do good in the world, and plan to do this through the Canva Foundation.”

Perkins writes that the move will help ensure that everyone who is contributing to Canva’s success in “step one” of their plan, can take pride in how they’re contributing to “step two” – to do good.

The company now has 2000 employees, including 1000 new appointments from just the year. It’s expected to double its employee base over the next calendar year.

“As Canva’s value grows, so too does our ability to have a positive impact on the world. And as we have a positive impact on the world, we believe that Canva will grow too by being able to attract and motivate the best team and our community who care about having a positive impact on the world too.”

Perkins goes on to note their optimistic belief that some of the world’s most challenging problems can be solved with “enough money, goodwill and good intentions”. They want to spend their lifetimes working towards that.

She then points to examples of companies doing what Canva is now looking to achieve, including Patagonia.

Their first major philanthropic move – in addition to emergency relief responses to COVID and the bushfire crisis, and to making their paid products free to thousands of not for profits – will be a pilot program with GiveDirectly, distributing $10 million via mobile payments to reach those in need in Southern Africa.

After learning from this pilot, Perkins says the goal will be to rapidly scale their giving more broadly, to contribute to and reach as many people across the globe as possible.

It’s refreshing to hear from a female billionaire.

But even more refreshing is to hear from a couple of billionaires committed to solving problems here on Earth – rather than launching their vast wealth into space, or pushing their egos and agenda by buying up advertising space in major newspapers.

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