Canva launches ‘magical’ AI tools for its 125 million users

The ten-year-old Australian startup led by Melanie Perkins said annual revenue reached $1.6 billion and also revealed brand-focused features for its 6 million team accounts


Not long after founder and CEO Melanie Perkins launched Canva, she was told by her investors that she was missing out on an entire market size when she introduced the design software startup. She refused to give one.


“I thought, everyone will eventually create some kind of visual content and use Canva,” Perkins told Forbes. “And the question remains, ‘How big can we get?’ And I think that’s still my answer.”


Ten years later, not everyone in the world uses Canva, but she can count on a rapidly growing portion. More than 125 million people now use Canva’s design software tools every month, 35 million more in the last six months.


Back then, Canva released a product review to help evolve it from a software tool for graphic designers to a broader, team-friendly toolset that includes collaborative documents, virtual whiteboards, and website creation. Now, the company is announcing a range of additional products for trademarks and the topic of the day, artificial intelligence (AI).


At an event from Sydney that Canva broadcast live to one million remote viewers, the company announced a range of AI features under the name ‘Magic’, including Magic Design, which allows people to create custom design templates from of an image or style.


Magic Presentation, which can create slideshow-style presentations from a message, and Magic Write, a redaction tool. Canva users can also use its artificial intelligence software to identify places in images to add or remove elements with a couple of clicks, as well as translate into other languages. Founded by Perkins, her husband Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams in 2012, Canva gradually grew from an ignored Australian upstart to a global phenomenon, with Perkins appearing on the cover of Forbes in December 2019.


After raising funds to highly rated $40 billion in September 2021 (Perkins and Obrecht pledged to give the “vast majority” of their personal wealth to the Canva foundation), the company’s valuation was later cut to about $25 billion by some investors in the decline of the technology market. Since its peak valuation was announced, the company has more than doubled monthly users, he said; after taking five years to reach 10 million users, it added the same total in the last 30 days. Annualized revenue now stands at $1.6 billion, up from $1 billion to end 2021.


On the branding side, Canva’s new tools make it easy for businesses to set their preferred colors, fonts, and other controls; they also make it easy to update a logo across a team’s designs with a single click, and can also warn creatives when their work doesn’t align properly with a template or brand guide. Along with other requested feature enhancements, like the ability to add gradients, layers, and images to alt text, they come as the company continues to move toward teams and enterprises.


Perkins said real-time collaboration capabilities have played a big factor in growth; the company said that six million teams are currently using Canva, including American Airlines, Marriott, Salesforce and Zoom. Meanwhile, its AI announcements come as Canva was expected to respond to the recent boom in AI products fueled by the popularity of products like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion. Other established startup “unicorns,” such as collaboration software makers Coda and Notion, recently launched their own AI feature, while a wave of newer startups, such as lively storytelling app Tome, gained traction. with their own AI-infused tools.


Canva has been working extensively on AI tools since 2019, Perkins said, when he began working with Austrian startup Kaleido AI on drag-and-drop background removal from videos and images. It acquired Kaleido the following year, announcing the move in early 2021. To build its Magic tools, Canva’s own internal AI team worked with OpenAI and Stable Diffusion core models and also trained their own, Perkins said.


However, announcing Magic at this time places Canva firmly in the zeitgeist. Giants like Microsoft and Adobe have recently announced infusions of AI tools into their core products, from the Office suite (turning Word documents into PowerPoint presentations with a click) to imaging (Adobe’s new Firefly generative tool). ).


“There are always going to be things that come in a modern and fun way for people to play, but people need to achieve their goals. They need to achieve certain results,” Perkins said. When asked what Canva’s increasing automation and AI tools will mean for graphic designers and other creative professionals who use his software, Perkins was optimistic that such tools will allow them to spend less time on mundane, repetitive tasks like swap logos.


“I think brands are going to start asking different things from agencies and different things from a graphic designer,” he said. After more than a decade of building Canva, Perkins said the pace of innovation at the company is growing faster, not slower, despite its scale and expectations of a global user base. “We spent the first 10 years building the platform, and now we’re very excited to spend the next 10 years building the magic,” he said.


On the competition: “I think it’s really important to focus on our own career and focus on delighting our community. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”