Canva’s billionaire co-founders Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht have acted on their oft-stated goal to give their fortune away after the privately-owned design startup’s valuation nearly trebled to $55 billion today.
The duo, who married in back in their home state of WA earlier this year (he’d proposed with a $30 engagement ring two years ago), are now believed to be worth more than $16 billion based on their 30% stake in the business.
Canva already give away its premium product for free to over 130,000 non-profits, and living up to the company’s values of “be a force for good” and “be a good human”, Perkins said in a blog post today that they plan to commit the vast majority of their equity in the business to the Canva Foundation.
The move is “step 2” in Canva’s now legendary “Two-Step plan”: Step 1: become one of the most valuable companies in the world; and Step 2: “Do the most good we can”.
Canva is already an ardent supporter of 1% pledge, the corporate philanthropic movement, co-founded by Atlassian, which encourages and empowers companies of all sizes and stages to donate 1% of their staff time, product, profit, and/or equity to any charity of their choosing.
The new pledge by the Canva co-founders ramps up philanthropy by Australian business leaders. And it follows in the footsteps of tech pioneer Bill Gates and his ex-wife Melinda, who give away billions in support annually through the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation. US author MacKenzie Scott, who was married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has also given away billions of dollars annually from her settlement with her ex-husband.
Melanie Perkins is not yet 35, is the second wealthiest woman in Australia and together with her husband is among Australia’s top 10 richest people, and in her blog post said that their intention had always been “to use the vast majority of that wealth to do good in the world” and it felt strange to be referred to as a billionaire.
“”It has never felt like our money, we’ve always felt that we’re purely custodians of it. As we’ve previously shared, it’s long been our intention to give the wealth away, and we’ve been thinking long and hard about the best way to start that journey,” Perkins wrote.
“We wanted to ensure that everyone who is contributing to Canva’s success in Step 1 is able to feel pride in their contribution to Step 2.”
Fueling positive impact
Perkins said Step 1 should fuel Step 2, and in turn Step 2 should fuel Step 1.
“As Canva’s value grows, so too does our ability to have a positive impact on the world. And as we have a positive impact on the world, we believe that Canva will grow too by being able to attract and motivate the best team and our community who care about having a positive impact on the world too,” she said.
“We have this wildly optimistic belief that there is enough money, goodwill, and good intentions in the world to solve most of the world’s problems, and we want to spend our lifetime working towards that. We see the best way to do that is to continue to work towards both Step 1 and 2 Step of our plan: to scale Canva into one of the biggest companies in the world and build an organisation that at its core is focused on being a force for good.”
The company’s first pilot program is with GiveDirectly, distributing $10 million to some of the world’s poorest people in Southern Africa, using mobile payments to reach those in need.
As just as they have scale Canva rapidly over the past eight years, they hope to do the same with this program.
Thanking everyone for their support as Canva grew to become a global powerhouse, Perkins concluded by saying: “We hope to work hard towards living up to the mammoth opportunity and responsibility that we have over the months, years, and decades to come.”
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