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How Australian startup Canva raised $3M in seed funding from Silicon Valley ...

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Canva is the exception, not the norm right now.

Hamish McKenzie tells their story:

That’s what’s remarkable about Canva’s recent $3 million seed round, which includes a list of investors that, for the most part, have California addresses, including Bill Tai of Charles River Ventures and Lars Rasmussen, Facebook’s director of engineering and a founder of Google Maps. The Sydney-based collaborative design startup which is still in stealth mode got its funding break as a result of a single five-minute meeting with Tai.

Canva co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins first met Tai, briefly, in 2011, at the tail end of her involvement with her first startup, Fusion Books, an online platform that provides design tools for publishing yearbooks. It is now Australia’s largest yearbook company and has since expanded to New Zealand and France. Fusion Books was based in Perth, where Perkins and co-founder Cliff Obrecht were living and had started the company straight out of university. As a result of their first encounter, Tai invited Perkins and Obrecht to his kiteboarding group and investor meetup event MaiTai, which visits Perth every year.

At MaiTai, the young founders gave what Perkins gave as their “worst pitch ever,” which involved a hurried and unrehearsed presentation to one investor. It didn’t go over so well, so they spent all night revising their pitch deck, a process that would eventually come to involve hundreds of iterations and sharpening their spiel. The work paid off. 

It made me curious: What does Canva do?

"Help amateur users design Facebook cover photos, new business cards, presents, menus, and brochures."

Better than nothing:



1. Canva founder Melanie Perkins had previously met lead investor Bill Tai of Charles River Ventures two years ago.

2. Once Bill Tai announced his intention to be the lead investor, lots of angels were happy to follow him.

3. One of those angels, Lars Rasmussen of Facebook, made introductions to several other venture firms, including InterWest, Matrix, and Square Peg.

So what's the moral of the story for seed stage startups?

1. FIND A LEAD INVESTOR. Without a lead, there can be no followers.

2. Remember that CANVA IS THE EXCEPTION. Most startups do not raise money this way.

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