OP-ED: Why I can't wait for Canva to IPO

Andile Masuku shares how Canva impacted his career, highlighting why its innovative tools and impressive growth make its potential IPO highly anticipated by industry watchers.

OP-ED: Why I can't wait for Canva to IPO
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

While the jury is still out on whether the hip-hop musical showstopper at Canva’s recent global showcase was cringe or not, it certainly got a bunch of industry attention in ways reminiscent of Steve Jobs’ now legendary unveiling of the first ever iPhone.

Graphic democratisation

Accessible online and through mobile apps, Canva has been hailed for headlining the democratisation of graphic design by offering a versatile platform, catering to both free and premium subscribers. Users can craft various visual content, spanning presentations, social media posts, posters, videos, logos, website materials and more.

Loved (and despised) for its relatively user-friendly drag-and-drop interface, Canva has bridged the gap between novices and professionals. It’s a journey initiated by a Filipina University of Western Australia student named Melanie Perkins and her co-founder (and partner) Cliff Obrecht back in 2007. Initially met with understandable scepticism from design pros, the platform has evolved to meet the needs of a broad user base, overcoming the complexities of design software like InDesign and Photoshop.

Expert evolution

In a talk I give titled, "Flex: The rise of the hybrid professional," I unpack the adage, "The future doesn't care how you became an expert," recounting how my early adoption of Canva and other turnkey software and hardware platforms and tools between 2008 and 2015 transformed my career trajectory in ways that are all too easy to gloss over in hindsight.

For several years back then, I ran a small boutique creative agency that spent thousands of rands every month paying graphic designers to create professional-looking PowerPoint and PDF decks for a host of client pitches and delivery presentations. Canva not only streamlined our workflow and helped us make better margins on agency work we did for blue-chip clients like Standard Chartered Bank Africa and the University of Johannesburg, but also inspired me to “flex”—explore commercial possibilities outside my entrepreneurial weight-class.

I recall the initially tenuous learning curve of navigating Canva's early iterations, far from the polished platform we see today. It was a process that ultimately led to the default acquisition of critical graphic design and communication logic-adjacent skills and competencies that have helped shape the entrepreneurial media maker, strategist and community-building specialist I’ve morphed into.

Enterprise play

At this year's Canva Create event, the first held in person, the company unveiled new features and tools aimed at energising its global user base through presentations and demonstrations clearly designed to inspire gushy social media shares. With 185 million monthly users, including many free-tier enthusiasts, Canva seeks to convert them into premium subscribers, mirroring my own user journey years ago.

However, it’s the company’s updates, aimed at attracting professional teams and workspaces, that I found most interesting. Their latest platform redesign enhances the accessibility of editing tools which leverage some pretty impressive AI-augmentation, while the introduction of a new enterprise tier provides larger organisations with increased control over collaboration, brand management, and security. 

In a press release, Melanie Perkins (Canva's CEO) has emphasised the company's commitment to building on their first decade of democratising design by ushering in a new era of “unifying the fragmented ecosystems of design, AI, and workflow tools” for organisations of all sizes.

According to media reports, Canva's annual revenue exceeds the combined earnings of Figma, Miro, and Webflow, and the company has remained consistently profitable for over seven years. Despite its user base now spanning 190 countries and generating $2.3 billion annually, the prospect of an imminent public listing remains speculative. However, these impressive numbers, along with my firsthand experience of Canva's latest updates, leave me eager for the company's public debut so I can cop a small share of the business.

Editorial Note: This opinion editorial was first published by Business Report on 04 June 2024.