KEY POINTS

  • Perth-born billionaire Melanie Perkins has seen an apparent spike in her tech graphic design software company since the COVID-19 lockdown
  • Perkins, 32, is the CEO and co-founder of Canva — an online graphic design tool that allows people to design web graphics, posters, business cards and invitations
  • Perkins currently ranks as the third richest woman in Australia

Australia’s youngest female billionaire has reportedly almost doubled her personal wealth over the past few months.

Following the upsurge of her tech company’s popularity during the coronavirus pandemic, Melanie Perkins, an Australian technology entrepreneur, has seen an exponential increase in her digital graphics business Canva.

In 2014, Perkins, 32, co-founded the Sydney-based graphic design company Canva, with her fiancé Cliff Obrecht after dropping out of university, Daily Mail reported. The business saw expansion in Manila and Beijing after five years, with Perkins racking up an impressive $1.3 billion for her personal fortune by October 2019.

But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Perkins’ tech venture doubled its value when people started working from home and utilized the software during the imposed coronavirus lockdown. Canva is now worth $8.77 billion after raising an estimated $87 million in its latest investor round from existing shareholders, which includes Australian company Blackbird Ventures and venture capital firm Sequoia Capital in China.

The apparent spike in the company’s yield catapulted the 32-year-old’s wealth to a whopping $2.5 billion, making Perkins the third richest woman in Australia. Topping the list is mining magnate Gina Rinehart, chairman of privately-owned extraction company Hancock Prospect, which is worth $16.25 billion, followed by Vicky Teoh, Malaysian-born founder of telecommunications company TPG Telcom that is now worth $2.6 billion.

As for how she jumpstarted her now-skyrocketing graphics design business, Perkins shared that she initially cooked up the idea from her mother’s couch while studying a first-year digital media subject in 2005.

Perkins immediately fell in love with graphic design and improved her skills to such a high level that she was often invited to teach graphic design workshops to students in other faculties. She then found that most people had struggled to use graphic design software.

“It was really complex and difficult, and it would take the entire semester to just learn where the buttons were on the software,” Perkins told Daily Mail Australia.

It was due to this that Perkins eventually developed a business idea for an easy-to-use graphic design software that would allow schools and students to make their own yearbooks. Despite her lack of business and marketing experience, Perkins was still able to start a successful company from scratch.

“I just had this belief that in the future it wasn't going to be as complex to do design work,” she shared. “My boyfriend became my co-founder and we started in my mum's living room.”

The couple initially started with a bank loan and a tax rebate of $5,000 to fund their online advertisement as well as sample yearbooks that would be sent to schools. Per Daily Mail, their first-ever sale was to a French school in Sydney in 2008.

Eventually, they had closed deals with 15 schools in the first year of their launch. This grew to 30 the following year, then 80 in their third. Perkins said that receiving their first $100 check was the “most exciting moment ever.” 

Expanding beyond school yearbooks, Canva became Perkins' second company — an online tool that allows people to design web graphics, posters, business cards and invitations. 

“Our naivety in some ways helped us … If I knew at the time all the things I didn't know it would have been intimating,” she said.

In Australia and New Zealand, people held vigils from the isolation of their own driveways to pay tribute to their war veterans on Anzac Day In Australia and New Zealand, people held vigils from the isolation of their own driveways to pay tribute to their war veterans on Anzac Day Photo: AFP / DAVID GRAY