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Canva won’t list before 2025, but investors will still get rich soon

Nick Bonyhady
Nick BonyhadyTechnology writer

Canva will hold fire on a highly anticipated public listing until 2025 or 2026, but has developed plans to let employees and venture capital backers cash out well before then.

The $US25.6 billion ($40.5 billion) valued graphic design software company has been such a success that the Australian VC industry has billions of dollars riding on its listing, which has appeared just over the horizon for years.

Canva, led by co-founder and chief executive Melanie Perkins, has been one of the biggest successes for Australia’s venture capital sector. Louie Douvis

Canva’s largest local investors, Blackbird Ventures and AirTree Ventures, first put money into the start-up when it was a nascent business about a decade ago.

The Australian Financial Review can reveal that Blackbird has decided to postpone liquidating its first 2012 fund (which actually closed in 2013) until 2025, pushing it past the traditional lifetime of 10 years. AirTree made the same call months ago.

Next year was widely seen as a date when the public markets could reopen after the interest rate-driven technology downturn, but a run of IPOs with middling success from Klaviyo, Instacart and Arm Holdings have cooled those hopes.


Blackbird’s planned sale would probably happen in tranches, the sources said, similar to the $150 million in shares Blackbird announced it had sold in early August.

AirTree has a smaller Canva holding than Blackbird, which owns almost 15 per cent of the company, and has not yet settled on how much it will sell before the IPO.

Billion-dollar payoff

Blackbird partner Rick Baker said the $3 million Blackbird had put into Canva from its first fund was now worth more than $1 billion. The size of that holding allowed Blackbird to return money to investors and keep most of its stake to benefit from the company’s expected growth.

“We’re fortunate to have great companies in our funds that are growing well,” he said. “The challenge for the next phase of the fund’s life is to make sure we’re optimising the returns from these great investments.”

Mr Baker did not directly respond to questions about how Blackbird will handle the remainder of its Canva stake.


Industry sources with knowledge of the funds’ plans said investors with the major funds were likely to be offered cash or shares when Canva went public. That would let bullish investors keep holding its stock in the hope that it followed the likes of Google and Facebook, and grew much more after going public.

Despite its size, Canva is continuing to grow rapidly, capitalising on a trend toward artificial intelligence in graphic design. Its investments there have helped it earn $1.7 billion in annualised revenue and unlike many start-ups, Canva has large financial reserves and a history of profitability that will let it determine when it wants to go public.

Blackbird’s Niki Scevak and Rick Baker made a much larger bet on Canva than any other Australian venture firm and are now managing how they reap the rewards. Natalie Boog

Both AirTree and Blackbird have the option for further extensions to their funds and have already returned large amounts of cash to investors, helping them avoid investor pressure.

“We remain bullish on Canva and believe they’re well-positioned to deliver significant growth from here,” said AirTree partner Craig Blair.

“Our obligation to our investors is to balance capital returned in the short term with the long-term impact on the fund. Subject to terms, timing and performance, we’ll potentially look to sell down a portion of our stake out of our early funds over the next couple of years.”


A spokesman for Canva said it was not actively preparing for an IPO and declined to comment on a timeframe. But the spokesman described preliminary work suggestive of the long run-up to an eventual listing.

“We’re continuously investing in scaling our systems and processes to operate like a public company which is best practice for a company of our size and scale,” the spokesman said. “We continuously invest in our reporting, compliance and operational systems as part of this.”

“We enjoy the many benefits of being a private company at the moment, including the ability to move quickly and make big bets. We’re fortunate to have the backing of our investors who understand and fully support vision for the long term.”

Staff cash out

Until 2021, Canva took on venture investment so regularly that staff had annual or even biannual chances to cash out their stock, but that has become rarer since the market turned.

In an email sent to staff in August, Canva said it would also allow staff to sell some of their shares in the company “in the near future.” Sources close to the company said that would happen via a tender process late this year or early next.


“We regularly look to create liquidity opportunities for our team and investors through secondary transactions,” Canva’s spokesman said. “We cannot comment on specific timing.”

Canva’s chief executive Melanie Perkins was asked by industry publication The Information if the company would go public in 2025. “No comment here,” she said with a smile.

Square Peg, which has the third Australian venture fund stake in Canva, declined to comment.

Nick Bonyhady is a technology writer for the Australian Financial Review, based in Sydney. He is a former technology editor, industrial relations and politics reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald and Age. Connect with Nick on Twitter. Email Nick at

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