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Canva Uncovered: How A Young Australian Kitesurfer Built A $3.2 Billion (Profitable!) Startup Phenom

On a steamy May morning in 2013, Canva CEO Melanie Perkins found herself adrift on a kiteboard in the channel between billionaire Richard Branson’s private Necker and Moskito islands. Her 30-foot sail floating deflated and useless beside her in the strong eastern Caribbean current, the 26-year-old entrepreneur waited for hours to be rescued. As she treaded water, her left leg scarred by a past collision with a coral reef, she reminded herself that her dangerous new hobby was worth it. After all, it was key to the fundraising strategy for the design-software startup she’d cofounded with her boyfriend six years before. Canva was based in Australia, thousands of miles from tech’s Silicon Valley power corridor. Getting a meeting—much less funding—was proving tough. Perkins heard “no” from more than 100 investors. So when she met the organizer of a group of kitesurfing venture capitalists at a pitch competition in her native Perth, Perkins got to training. The next time the group met to hear startup pitches and potentially write crucial early-stage funding checks, she’d have a seat at the table—even if it meant having to brave treacherous waters. “It was like, risk: serious damage; reward: start company,” Perkins says. “If you get your foot in the door just a tiny bit, you have to kind of wedge it all the way in.” Such perseverance has long been a necessity at Canva, which began as a modest yearbook-design business in the state capital of Perth on Australia’s west coast. From those remote origins, Canva has grown into a global juggernaut. Twenty-million-plus users from 190 countries use the company’s “freemium” Web-based app to design everything from splashy Pinterest graphics to elegant restaurant menus. Besides an impossible-to-beat price (millions of users pay nothing at all), Canva’s key advantage over rival products from tech giants like Adobe has been its ease of use. Before Canva, amateurs had to stitch together designs in Microsoft Word or pay through the nose for confusing professional tools. Today, anyone, anywhere, can download Canva and be creating within ten minutes. The company’s revenue comes from upselling to a $10-a-month premium version with snazzier features or, more recently, from sales of a streamlined corporate account option. High-quality stock photos—of which Canva has millions—cost another $1. It adds up. This year the company expects to more than double its revenue to $200 million; its most recent $85 million funding round valued it at $3.2 billion. Perkins, now 32 and an alum of the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list, has an estimated 15% stake, valued at $430 million. Throw in her 34-year-old cofounder—and now fiancé—Cliff Obrecht’s similar stake, and the Aussie power couple are likely worth more than $800 million. In an era of billion-dollar checks from SoftBank and high-profile profligacy at WeWork, Perkins and Obrecht do things differently. They are couch surfers who prefer budget trips to private jets. (This summer, with Canva already valued at…

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Canva Uncovered: How A Young Australian Kitesurfer Built A $3.2 Billion (Profitable!) Startup Phenom

On a steamy May morning in 2013, Canva CEO Melanie Perkins found herself adrift on a kiteboard in the channel between billionaire Richard Branson’s private Necker and Moskito islands. Her 30-foot sail floating deflated and useless beside her in the strong eastern Caribbean current, the 26-year-old entrepreneur waited for hours to be rescued. As she treaded water, her left leg scarred by a past collision with a coral reef, she reminded herself that her dangerous new hobby was worth it. After all, it was key to the fundraising strategy for the design-software startup she’d cofounded with her boyfriend six years before. Canva was based in Australia, thousands of miles from tech’s Silicon Valley power corridor. Getting a meeting—much less funding—was proving tough. Perkins heard “no” from more than 100 investors. So when she met the organizer of a group of kitesurfing venture capitalists at a pitch competition in her native Perth, Perkins got to training. The next time the group met to hear startup pitches and potentially write crucial early-stage funding checks, she’d have a seat at the table—even if it meant having to brave treacherous waters. “It was like, risk: serious damage; reward: start company,” Perkins says. “If you get your foot in the door just a tiny bit, you have to kind of wedge it all the way in.” Such perseverance has long been a necessity at Canva, which began as a modest yearbook-design business in the state capital of Perth on Australia’s west coast. From those remote origins, Canva has grown into a global juggernaut. Twenty-million-plus users from 190 countries use the company’s “freemium” Web-based app to design everything from splashy Pinterest graphics to elegant restaurant menus. Besides an impossible-to-beat price (millions of users pay nothing at all), Canva’s key advantage over rival products from tech giants like Adobe has been its ease of use. Before Canva, amateurs had to stitch together designs in Microsoft Word or pay through the nose for confusing professional tools. Today, anyone, anywhere, can download Canva and be creating within ten minutes. The company’s revenue comes from upselling to a $10-a-month premium version with snazzier features or, more recently, from sales of a streamlined corporate account option. High-quality stock photos—of which Canva has millions—cost another $1. It adds up. This year the company expects to more than double its revenue to $200 million; its most recent $85 million funding round valued it at $3.2 billion. Perkins, now 32 and an alum of the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list, has an estimated 15% stake, valued at $430 million. Throw in her 34-year-old cofounder—and now fiancé—Cliff Obrecht’s similar stake, and the Aussie power couple are likely worth more than $800 million. In an era of billion-dollar checks from SoftBank and high-profile profligacy at WeWork, Perkins and Obrecht do things differently. They are couch surfers who prefer budget trips to private jets. (This summer, with Canva already valued at…

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Canva Uncovered: How A Young Australian Kitesurfer Built A $3.2 Billion (Profitable!) Startup Phenom

On a steamy May morning in 2013, Canva CEO Melanie Perkins found herself adrift on a kiteboard in the channel between billionaire Richard Branson’s private Necker and Moskito islands. Her 30-foot sail floating deflated and useless beside her in the strong eastern Caribbean current, the 26-year-old entrepreneur waited for hours to be rescued. As she treaded water, her left leg scarred by a past collision with a coral reef, she reminded herself that her dangerous new hobby was worth it. After all, it was key to the fundraising strategy for the design-software startup she’d cofounded with her boyfriend six years before. Canva was based in Australia, thousands of miles from tech’s Silicon Valley power corridor. Getting a meeting—much less funding—was proving tough. Perkins heard “no” from more than 100 investors. So when she met the organizer of a group of kitesurfing venture capitalists at a pitch competition in her native Perth, Perkins got to training. The next time the group met to hear startup pitches and potentially write crucial early-stage funding checks, she’d have a seat at the table—even if it meant having to brave treacherous waters. “It was like, risk: serious damage; reward: start company,” Perkins says. “If you get your foot in the door just a tiny bit, you have to kind of wedge it all the way in.” Such perseverance has long been a necessity at Canva, which began as a modest yearbook-design business in the state capital of Perth on Australia’s west coast. From those remote origins, Canva has grown into a global juggernaut. Twenty-million-plus users from 190 countries use the company’s “freemium” Web-based app to design everything from splashy Pinterest graphics to elegant restaurant menus. Besides an impossible-to-beat price (millions of users pay nothing at all), Canva’s key advantage over rival products from tech giants like Adobe has been its ease of use. Before Canva, amateurs had to stitch together designs in Microsoft Word or pay through the nose for confusing professional tools. Today, anyone, anywhere, can download Canva and be creating within ten minutes. The company’s revenue comes from upselling to a $10-a-month premium version with snazzier features or, more recently, from sales of a streamlined corporate account option. High-quality stock photos—of which Canva has millions—cost another $1. It adds up. This year the company expects to more than double its revenue to $200 million; its most recent $85 million funding round valued it at $3.2 billion. Perkins, now 32 and an alum of the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list, has an estimated 15% stake, valued at $430 million. Throw in her 34-year-old cofounder—and now fiancé—Cliff Obrecht’s similar stake, and the Aussie power couple are likely worth more than $800 million. In an era of billion-dollar checks from SoftBank and high-profile profligacy at WeWork, Perkins and Obrecht do things differently. They are couch surfers who prefer budget trips to private jets. (This summer, with Canva already valued at…

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Canva Uncovered: How A Young Australian Kitesurfer Built A $3.2 Billion (Profitable!) Startup Phenom

On a steamy May morning in 2013, Canva CEO Melanie Perkins found herself adrift on a kiteboard in the channel between billionaire Richard Branson’s private Necker and Moskito islands. Her 30-foot sail floating deflated and useless beside her in the strong eastern Caribbean current, the 26-year-old entrepreneur waited for hours to be rescued. As she treaded water, her left leg scarred by a past collision with a coral reef, she reminded herself that her dangerous new hobby was worth it. After all, it was key to the fundraising strategy for the design-software startup she’d cofounded with her boyfriend six years before. Canva was based in Australia, thousands of miles from tech’s Silicon Valley power corridor. Getting a meeting—much less funding—was proving tough. Perkins heard “no” from more than 100 investors. So when she met the organizer of a group of kitesurfing venture capitalists at a pitch competition in her native Perth, Perkins got to training. The next time the group met to hear startup pitches and potentially write crucial early-stage funding checks, she’d have a seat at the table—even if it meant having to brave treacherous waters. “It was like, risk: serious damage; reward: start company,” Perkins says. “If you get your foot in the door just a tiny bit, you have to kind of wedge it all the way in.” Such perseverance has long been a necessity at Canva, which began as a modest yearbook-design business in the state capital of Perth on Australia’s west coast. From those remote origins, Canva has grown into a global juggernaut. Twenty-million-plus users from 190 countries use the company’s “freemium” Web-based app to design everything from splashy Pinterest graphics to elegant restaurant menus. Besides an impossible-to-beat price (millions of users pay nothing at all), Canva’s key advantage over rival products from tech giants like Adobe has been its ease of use. Before Canva, amateurs had to stitch together designs in Microsoft Word or pay through the nose for confusing professional tools. Today, anyone, anywhere, can download Canva and be creating within ten minutes. The company’s revenue comes from upselling to a $10-a-month premium version with snazzier features or, more recently, from sales of a streamlined corporate account option. High-quality stock photos—of which Canva has millions—cost another $1. It adds up. This year the company expects to more than double its revenue to $200 million; its most recent $85 million funding round valued it at $3.2 billion. Perkins, now 32 and an alum of the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list, has an estimated 15% stake, valued at $430 million. Throw in her 34-year-old cofounder—and now fiancé—Cliff Obrecht’s similar stake, and the Aussie power couple are likely worth more than $800 million. In an era of billion-dollar checks from SoftBank and high-profile profligacy at WeWork, Perkins and Obrecht do things differently. They are couch surfers who prefer budget trips to private jets. (This summer, with Canva already valued at…

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China’s Richest 2019: Growing Consumer Appetite Boosts Fortunes Of Nation’s Wealthiest

This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of China’s Richest 2019.

The headlines from China in the past year have been gloomy. Trade friction with the U.S. has risen, while GDP growth in the world’s second-largest economy slowed to a near three-decade low of 6%. Happily for the country’s wealthiest, however, there’s more good news than bad among the members of our list of China’s richest.

The total wealth of the 400 members of the China Rich List rose by more than a fifth from a year ago, to $1.29 trillion, as China’s consumers spent more on everything and spent more of it online. More than half the listees saw their fortunes climb in the past year, while a quarter saw their fortunes fall. The minimum net worth needed to make the list this year was $1 billion, back to 2017’s threshold, after dropping in 2018 to $840 million. There were 60 newcomers to the list; returnees made up most of the rest.

Topping the list for a second year is Jack Ma, who recently resigned as chairman of the e-commerce giant he co-founded, Alibaba, to focus on philanthropy. Ma’s fortune rose to $38.2 billion from $34.6 billion a year earlier as New York-listed Alibaba gained on China’s e-commerce boom. Second and third on the list: Tencent CEO Huateng “Pony” Ma, with a fortune worth $36 billion, and Evergrande Group Chairman Hui Ka Yan, worth an estimated $27.7 billion, their ranks are unchanged from last year.

Growing fortunes in online shopping appear throughout the list. Colin Huang, CEO of e-commerce site Pinduoduo, saw his estimated net worth soar to $21.2 billion from $11.25 billion last year as Pinduoduo gained on rival JD.com. Entrepreneurs who provide services tied to e-commerce also did well: Lai Meisong, CEO of Alibaba-backed express delivery firm ZTO, saw his fortune climb to $4.6 billion from $3.35 billion.

Pharmaceutical and healthcare fortunes are also benefitting as rising incomes enable Chinese to spend more on healthcare. Sun Piaoyang, chairman of Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine, moved up to No. 4 with a fortune of $25.8 billion. He shares that spot with his wife Zhong Huijuan. The two gained on growing business at Sun’s Hengrui as well as a Hong Kong IPO by Zhong-led company Jiangsu Hansoh Pharmaceutical. Li Xiting, chairman of medical equipment supplier Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics, also moved up to about $8.5 billion from $1.8 billion as its shares soared after the company relisted its shares at home in China following its 2016 delisting from the New York Stock Exchange.

Sportswear maker Anta Sports’ Hong Kong-listed shares have more than doubled in the past year, helping propel the fortune of its two leaders—brothers Ding Shizhong and Ding Shijia—up by almost 150% to $5.6 and $5.5 billion, respectively. Two Anta executives also landed on the list for the first time: CFO Lai Shixian, a Ding brother-in-law, at $1.4 billion and Wang Wenmo, a family cousin who manages Anta’s …