Australian startup Canva launches a graphic design platform

The software-as-a-service revolution that is transforming the software business has been largely localized to “business” and “productivity” applications. But all that will soon change, thanks to the emergence of creative software as a service. We all are familiar with Adobe’s (s ADBE) Creative Cloud. Today you can add Perth, Sydney, Australia-based startup Canva to this slowly growing list of creative SaaS companies — and this one is one to watch. The company today launched as a beta service.
Just over a year old, the company co-founded by Melanie Perkins (CEO) and Cliff Obrecht (COO) has flown under the radar, though it recently made waves when it announced $3 million in angel funding from the likes of Lars Rasmussen of Facebook (s fb) (and Google) and Bill Tai of Charles River Ventures. I have been following the progress of the company from its very inception and have been intrigued by Perkins’ and Obrecht’s vision.
canva_foundersPerkins explained that if you are an average person, today there is no simple way to design a webpage or a flyer. You can get software, but then you struggle to find fonts and right kind of images. And when you find them, you need to pay for them separately and then make it all work.
Instead, the 26-year-old entrepreneur had a simple idea: why not make great design software hosted in the cloud and make it dead simple to buy everything from photos to fonts to other graphics? Charge a little bit of money for everything used — $1 for a photo or a font or a graphic. You might have an option for paying for fonts in the future. And make sure that the finished design could be used for web or could be printed.
Over the life of the company, they want this platform to become a hub for others to create their design and offer them for purchase, but all that is sometime in the future — for now they have a narrower vision.
When she and Obrecht first sketched out the plan, my response to them was: great idea, now let’s see you guys make it happen. Even though it sounded like a simple idea, it is not easy to offer desktop design software-like qualities over the internet through a cloud service. Rasmussen, who is more than just an investor in the company (he introduced the founders to their third co-founder, Google Wave designer Cameron Adams) helped them think through the product and infrastructure it will require to run Canva.
The finished product that is available for all to try has turned out to be an elegant and a gorgeous looking platform. I will be trying it out over next few days and will report back with my experiences. We’ll focus on design and the tech industry at our RoadMap conference in November in San Francisco.