Canva co-founder Cameron Adams on esports, social conscience, hitting 1000 employees and Fahrenheit 451

- December 23, 2019 2 MIN READ

When Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht went looking for a brilliant technology co-founder, they turned to Cameron Adams, a Googler, who’d worked on Wave, as well as previously founding the email startup Fluent. Cam is now Canva’s Chief Product Officer, the design genius behind the global graphic design tech giant.

As part of our summer series, Startup Daily spoke to Adams about his year and how he sees for the tech sector in 2020. 


What were your highlights for the tech sector in 2019?

Seeing some successful (and not so successful) local IPOs was great, as it indicates a real maturation of the local tech scene.

There was also an increased focus on social issues for companies in the tech scene: rallying around the September 20 climate strikes, and renewable energy in particular.


What were your personal highlights?

Canva’s going from strength to strength with lots of product announcements this year and a big new valuation, which is great recognition of all the amazing work that our team is doing.

I’ve been particularly focusing on our video product this year so it was great to launch that at our big public event a couple of weeks ago.


Is there a business you wished/are pleased you backed in 2020?

I’m really pleased to be involved with Mogul Esports heading into 2020. It’s a fascinating space and they’ve got a great product team who are building a really community focused offering.


How do you view the current technology climate in Australia?

I think it’s bubbling along really nicely. All the ingredients are starting to come together: local funding is flush, companies are IPOing or exiting, which means that experienced startup employees are starting their own companies, and talent pools across lots of functions are getting a lot better (though you still have to look overseas for scale).


What are you expecting to see in tech in 2020?

Greater social conscience and a focus on the biggest issues that are affecting the globe right now.


What are your goals for the year ahead?

We’ll be breaking the 1000-person mark at Canva which means we have to think about operating it at a totally different scale. Keeping a high-quality product while maintaining a positive culture and positive impact on the world will be what I’m focusing on.


What’s keeping you awake at night, business-wise?

Continuing to innovate and finding new niches that we can expand into is what I’m always thinking about.


Are you taking time off over Christmas and how do you plan to spend it?

Yup, I’ll be taking 2 weeks off and spending one week of it down the south coast — it’s perfect for the kids and for getting off the grid.


What are you most looking forward to for Christmas and what’s your favourite summer holidays tradition?

Connecting with family, seeing insanely happy kids, and unwinding.

The food. We always have an amazing spread that keeps us sustained for well over 12 hours. That, and a good game of backyard cricket.


Can you suggest 3 books people should read over summer and why?

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which is an eerie prediction of our current media climate, is one I’m currently reading.

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek is the last book I finished and a great one to inspire you to better team building.

Creativity Inc by Edwin Catmull and Amy Wallace is one that I always recommend as a great insight into how you can build a creatively infused organisation.

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