Canva - an Australian success story leveraging offshore staff

Canva - an Australian success story leveraging offshore staff
Nick Ogden
Nick Ogden
    3 minute read

Considered one of Australia’s most successful start-ups Canva is in 179 countries and growing. It is a template based graphics platform that allows users to create graphics quickly and easily and for the most part free of charge. Canva was founded in 2012, is based in Sydney and is used by 40% of Fortune 500 companies. They boast actors Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson as investors. The startup now has 10 million unique users who have created 35 million designs.

Canva skyrocketed to success by leveraging their small Sydney based team with an office in Manilla, Philippines. In 2014 they started with just 6 offshore employees. In 2 years that team has grown to over 60 employees ranging from designers, engineers and even ‘customer happiness’ specialists.

So what is the secret behind their runaway success? Here are some of the top learnings from Canva and their very successful offshore family!

  1. Family feel

    They have capitalised on the Filipino loyalty and support of family and created a ‘family’ feel in their Manilla office. They celebrate successes with a ‘familial’ feel, and have released doves, smashed plates, and even had a ceremony where they squashed tomatoes with their feet.  They have organised trips to visit islands as a team and simply shared meals. Co founder Melanie Perkins told CNN Philippines “I think that the environment that we have really brings out the best in people. Having lunch together, it might be a bit of a novelty, but it actually has real benefits for the company and for the individuals here. People feel a lot more included and part of the family that is Canva.”

  2. They inspire creativity

    Creativity is a landmark of what Canva stand for, they want their people to have a voice and own their own work. This is not the natural style for Filipino workers who are more comfortable with an autocratic and hierarchal working structure, so this would have taken a lot of work and support of their people. They hold individual and group workshops, and also have what they call a ‘hack-a-thon’, which is a 24 hour period where people can work on what every project they want and then present it back to the rest of the team.

  3. Cool office spaces

    They have created a cool place to work. Their office is colourful and in parts whimsical to encourage a relaxed environment with a cafe feel. The office is broken into several spaces. There is an area that is designed to be collaborative where people can chat, be noisy, and have fun incidental meetings. Then there are areas that are designed to be quieter, where people can enjoy some solitude to get work done.

    They have couches and long tables instead of cubicles, again to encourage creativity and collaboration. There are magnificent wall murals about adventure and Philippine icons. The environment is powerful and inspirational, much like the company itself.

  4. Team Work

    Canva have big dreams and they are achieving this through an unparalleled sense of team work. Last year they flew the Manilla team to Australia to meet with the Australian team. This year the Sydney team are making trips to Manilla. People feel included in the team and are passionate and enthusiastic employees.

Obviously their budget is more than the average startup, but it is having such great results there is certainly some learnings from this. There are elements of the Canva journey that can be implemented in every workplace whether they are local or offshore.

If you are interested in learning more about how your business can improve performance with staff in the Philippines, view our guide on the Top 10 roles you need to boost capability and margins.

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