It can be hard to make friends when you’re new. For businesses that means it’s often difficult to attract backers and top employees.
Design start-up Canva had a cute, if slightly creepy, approach to recruitment.
Co-founders Melanie Perkins, Cameron Adams and Cliff Obrecht had met senior Google engineer Dave Hearnden “a couple of times”, but initially had trouble convincing him to make the leap.
Hearnden has a PhD in software engineering from the University of Queensland and won the university medal for his undergraduate results in 2002.
Google, of course, is one of the world’s top employers, while Canva had yet to raise its first round of capital at the time. The company is launching its first product later this month.
The Canva team put together a pitch deck that included a series of photos of Hearnden to win him over.
“[Canva adviser and Google Maps founder Lars Rasmussen] introduced us,” said Perkins of meeting Hearnden. “He actually said [the pitch deck] was one of the reasons he left.
“We are paying competitive rates; obviously there are others out there who are paying exorbitant rates … I think being part of the excitement and adventure at Canva counts for a lot and obviously the upside of equity.”
Hearnden quit Google to become Canva’s development lead last November. Here’s the pitch deck that pushed him over the line:
Canva now has 12 full-time staff, of whom all have equity in the business.
Two engineers are former backpackers from the US and France. Perkins said the team met one of them at a backpacker bar.
“We’ve been able to get great people from all sorts of places – not necessarily the traditional job ad,” Perkins said. “We’ve just had to seek any opportunity that was presented.
“As was the same with our investors, anytime there was an opportunity to meet investors or to network, we just planted as many seeds as we could and just saw which ones flourished.”
Perkins applied the same persistence to capital raising.
Even without a prototype, Canva won $1.6 million from an impressive list of prominent US and Australian angel investors – including Rasmussen, Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman and former CVC CEO Adrian MacKenzie – in March.
“I spent a lot of time with Cliff Obrecht talking to investors,” Perkins said. “We spent 6 months in San Francisco and we reiterated our pitch 100 times – literally.
“By the end of it, we ended up with a really incredible team of investors who really believed in the vision and what Canva could achieve.”
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