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Young Australian of Sri Lankan heritage leading one of the world’s most valuable start-ups

SYDNEY (CU)_Amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year, online platforms became increasingly popular as more people worked from home. From video-sharing social network TikTok to video teleconferencing applications like Zoom, digital platforms reported a sharp growth over the past year, as people were confined to their homes, forced to rely on such online services for a host of purposes, from work to entertainment.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Australian graphic design business Canva became one of the world’s biggest privately-owned companies amid the global health crisis, placing its co-founders among the top 10 richest people in the Trans-Tasman nation. According to recent data, over a period of five months, the online design platform’s value was more than doubled to $40 billion (£29 billion), following a $200 million fresh round of private equity investment. Analysts say the move resulted in advancing the company to one of the most valuable start-ups in the world.

Back in 2007, it was 20-year-old Melanie Perkins who started working on what became Canva, from her mother’s living room in Perth. Born to an Australian teacher and a Malaysian engineer of Filipino and Sri Lankan heritage, she dreamt of becoming a professional figure skater. However, one day, while designing and printing a poster or a flyer during her time as a student of the University of Western Australia, she realised that the process of composing the poster in Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop, converting it to the right size and saving it as a PDF was too cumbersome in the age of the internet. This led her to wonder if it be much better to do it all in one place with one online tool. 

“The idea of making design really simple was the first idea,” Perkins says. Since then she set out to achieve this goal, and did so in 2013, when she, together with Cliff Obrecht, founded Canva in Sydney. The platform provides design templates for people to make everything from posters to calendars, greetings cards and resumes.

Perkins is currently one of the youngest female CEOs of a tech start-up valued over A$1 billion, and as of 2021, she has been identified as the second richest woman in Australia. On Wednesday (15 September), the company revealed that it had its customer base has now grown to over 60 million users in 190 countries, and was on track to post $1bn revenue by the end of 2021.

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