Mar 23, 2023
Australia’s Canva Adds AI Tools to Take On Microsoft, Google
(Bloomberg) -- Australian design software company Canva Inc. is accelerating its expansion into digital workplace products, adding artificial intelligence tools to its suite to better compete against Microsoft Corp. and Google.
The closely held firm launched a wide range of AI-powered tools at an event in Sydney on Thursday. Canva’s 125 million users can lean on them to create presentations by writing a description of the slides they want to see. They can also get recommendations for pictures and layouts, generate custom AI content, and automatically translate the text in designs to over 100 different languages.
Canva, valued most recently at about $26 billion, is focusing its product offering to design professionals to fuel growth in large companies. It’s also taking on companies such as Microsoft and Google, whose presentation and text processing software dominate in corporations across the planet.
The release comes amid heightened buzz over generative AI — software that can create text, images, music or even video based on user prompts. Google, a pioneer in the technology, has been working on such systems for years, but those efforts have been kept mostly within its labs. Now, the company is playing catch-up to OpenAI and its backer Microsoft, which have made their conversational AI services more broadly available to the public.
Canva, which acquired Austrian AI startup Kaleido in 2021, is now joining the race to push generative AI features into widely used software applications. That means putting AI tools into the hands of workers to make them more creative and productive. Microsoft and Adobe Inc. have recently revealed their plans for AI-based image generation. Canva is hoping to gain an edge by being among the first to make the tools available to all customers, rather than doing a limited roll-out. Chief Product Officer Cameron Adams called it the biggest deployment of AI for graphical design within its industry.
The company also introduced a suite of brand management features that will help professional designers, marketers and creative teams by removing mundane jobs from their workload, said Chief Executive Officer Melanie Perkins, who co-founded Canva 10 years ago. Dubbed the “Brand Hub,” the services help companies keep their logos, colors, fonts, icons, imagery, graphics and brand guidelines all in one place for everyone in an organization to use.
Canva’s platform has gained popularity among smaller companies and Gen Zs since its inception in 2013. But in recent years, it has been trying to target larger enterprise customers. FedEx Corp., Starbucks Corp. and Zoom Video Communications Inc. are among firms that have embraced Canva’s all-in-one design platform.
Since launching its worksuite six months ago, the company has added 40 million users to reach 125 million monthly active users, signaling growth is accelerating. It took the startup almost five years to reach 10 million users, according to the CEO. More than 6 million paying teams are using Canva now, doubling in the past year.
“Growth is accelerating because people who use Canva tell others about it and it perpetuates,” Chief Operating Officer Cliff Obrecht said in an interview. “That’s a compounding impact and you can’t start that from scratch.”
--With assistance from Chris Bourke.
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