Canva gobbles up UK rival Affinity in its biggest spend yet

- March 26, 2024 2 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock
Design software platform Canva is fattening up for its public listing in 2026, acquiring UK professional graphic design and photo editing software business Affinity for an undisclosed sum.

It’s believed to be the biggest outlay yet by Canva in a string of merger and acquisition deals in recent years, including fellow British data startup Flourish in 2022, SlidesCarnival last year, Kaleido and Smartmockups in 2021, Pexels and Pixabay in 2019 and Sydney-based interactive presentation startup Zeetings in 2018.

Affinity has more than 3 million users globally, but unlike Canva, which set out to make graphic design easy for anyone, targets professional photographers and designers as an Adobe challenger for technical diagrams, art and illustration, logos, mockups, documents, magazines and photo editing.

While at the more profitable enterprise end of graphic design, those user numbers are dwarfed by Canva, which now claims to have more than 175 million people monthly users in 190 countries.

But here’s where Affinity users may be facing a rude shock. Unlike Adobe, Affinity is an old school one-time-buy, without ongoing subscription fees. Subscriptions are at the heart of Canva’s business model – along with most modern software platforms. No doubt they’ll be looking closely at how to extract more value from those 3 million to deliver ROI on what’s otherwise a niche acquisition.

Affinity CEO Ashley Hewson will join Canva along with around 90 staff, based in Nottingham, UK.

“Since the inception of Affinity, our mission has been to empower creatives with tools that unleash their full potential, fostering a community where innovation and artistry flourish,” Hewson said.

“We’ve worked tirelessly to challenge the status quo, delivering professional-grade creative software that is both accessible and affordable. Canva’s commitment to empowering everyone to create aligns perfectly with those values.”

Announcing the deal, Canva chief operating officer Cliff Obrecht said that while his software business spent the last decade focused on the 99% of people without design training, Affinity spent 10 years building a platform that offers professional designers what they need at an affordable price, without the complexity of traditional design tools.

“From our very first conversations, we knew Affinity’s vision to pioneer simple yet state-of-the-art technology was a perfect match with our own mission to empower the world to design,” he wrote.

“This acquisition unlocks the next step in our goal of becoming the world’s most comprehensive visual communication platform.

“Investing in strategies that enhance our B2B offerings is core to the future of our business.”

The acquisition comes  just weeks after Obrecht said Canva will look to list in the US, probably in 2026, adding that Australian investors “don’t understand tech as well, [compared to] higher multiples, more sophisticated investors in the US”.

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