Canva cofounder says Australian investors don’t understand tech and that’s why they’re listing in the US

- March 18, 2024 2 MIN READ
Cliff Obrecht, Melanie Perkins
Canva cofounders Cliff Obrecht and Melanie Perkins
The public listing of Canva will most likely happen in 2026 and won’t be on the ASX because Australia is a small market, according to the design software’s cofounder Cliff Obrecht.

The husband of CEO and cofounder Melanie Perkins, named the 10th richest person in Australia, alongside his wife, with a combined wealth of $10.92 billion, told the AFR business summit last week that it was “obvious” the US-registered business would IPO in America because Australian investors “don’t understand tech as well, [compared to] higher multiples, more sophisticated investors in the US”.

Canva would follow in the footsteps of Atlassian, which has a head office in Sydney with its cofounders, but is listed on the Nasdaq in 2015. Both companies are now registered in the corporate-friendly US tax haven of Delaware.

At best, in the wake of Canva’s chief financial officer parting ways with the business last month after eight years, Orbrecht said any listing is more than 12 months away, but “probably not that early” with 2026 a more likely date.

With the business entering its 11th year and the VC funds that backed it in its early days hitting their 10-year lifespan, Canva’s early investors have been selling stock on the secondary market to eager new capital hoping the design goose will continue laying golden eggs.

Sydney private equity firm Quadrant, which made its fortune flipping a pet food business for $1 billion in 2017, is reportedly looking to buy $100 million worth of shares from VC investor Blackbird, which sold a $150 million stake last year.

Currently staff and other early-stage investors are looking to offload around US$1 billion (A$1.49bn) worth of shares in a a deal due to be completed within weeks.

The secondary market sales don’t add any funds to the business, which was last valued at US$26 billion (A$39bn) in 2022 after key investors cut the valuation by a third amid the broader tech downturn. Canva’s valuation peaked at US$40bn (A$54.5bn at the time) in September 2021 after raising A$273 million. Instead they provide liquidity and a long-awaited windfall to the software company’s early believers.

Obrecht, Canva’s chief operating officer, said they had a queue of new investors with A$3.6 billion to spend, but some rocked up with conditional terms for the acquisition, which were rejected and they “laughed them out the door”.

“We’re oversubscribed with about US$2.4 billion buyer side demand that will be getting closed out over the next couple of weeks,” he said.