Talent Circles

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Guy Kawasaki joins Canva: The art of the continuous start

By Marylene Delbourg-Delphis

My friend Guy Kawasaki announced to me that he had accepted the chief evangelist position at Australian startup Canva. This young company wants to create a "a new world of design" and made its stealthy debut a few months ago by landing $3M in seed money from prominent Silicon Valley VCs and celebrities. And now, with Guy on their team, it's really on the worldwide stage.

Kudos to Canva for bringing Guy in. Yes, nobody is too famous not to be asked to join a startup. The founders, Melanie Perkins (CEO) and Cliff Obrecht, are both gutsy and logical. "Peggy Fitzpatrick brought the company to my attention, and she showed me why its service is so useful. There are some blog posts that are very difficult to illustrate with a picture because of the complexity of the concept or copyright issues of using a picture from the post. Canva solves this problem," Guy said. Since Guy was an enthusiastic user, Melanie and Cliff simply asked him to join. Brilliant entrepreneurs are brilliant recruiters. Period.

Was it hard to convince Guy? No. Having known Guy for... over twenty-five years, I know that he is not a diva and will never be. "From the time of first contact to the time we had a deal, it was three weeks. I met Melanie and Cliff simultaneously," Guy noted. It's a short time. But why should it be long? For Guy:

It's all about meaning. It's the best reason to create a company, product or service, and the best reason to join a team. "I love the democratizing of things so that people without power, pedigree and money have more opportunities. At Apple, we democratized computers. I admire that Google democratized information and that eBay democratized commerce. With my self-publishing book and efforts, I helped to democratize writing. Canva gives me the opportunity to democratize one more sector, design, because it enables people to create amazingly simple graphic design. If you think about it, there are so many circumstances where it’s hard to make great graphics: eBay ads, Etsy stores, posts and profile photos for every social-media service, IAB ads, Facebook ads, presentations, business cards, email graphics… there’s a lot of ways to use Canva, just like there are a lot of ways to use a Macintosh."

It's all about building a strong company with focused people. Guy's due diligence was straightforward: "We had a few Skype chats, a dozen or so emails and two face-to-face meetings. They passed all the tests that I threw at them:
  • What kind of option plan do you have? Answer: standard Silicon Valley deal: four year vesting. Check!
  • Who is your lawyer? Answer: Orrick in Menlo Park. Check!
  • Can Peg and I do your social media? Answer: Yes, we'd love you to? Check!

... And he was quickly impressed with the practical, no-nonsense approach of Canva’s team: “I introduced them to a huge potential partner. This partner suggested that the first step be creating a Canva app and putting it in its app directory. Melanie did not respond to the company anything along the lines of ‘we’re looking for a more strategic relationship.’ Rather, she said that she understands and that creating an app for its directory was a very good first step. Let’s just say that most Silicon Valley CEOs would have copped a very different attitude.

A couple of days ago, I suggested changes to the text on the Canva website. After two rounds of suggestions, Melanie gave me a password to edit the website directly. Some of the companies I’ve worked with completely ignored my suggestions. For a year, I asked one to let me make social-media posts on its behalf and never got permission."

Guy is the famous author of twelve books, all basically revolving about entrepreneurship and the art of changing the world for the better. What I like about his decision is this: He talks the talk and walks the walk. Guy is not an accidental entrepreneur in the sole business of lecturing other entrepreneurs or some milquetoast afraid to go for anything new because what he has accomplished is great.

He is jumping into the fray once again: "No more ‘punditry’ and ‘expert advice.’ This job is about ‘doing,’ not ‘advising,’ he adds. My guess is that this alone will make his public speaking even more desirable... How many experts exhibit this type of personal leadership? Great careers are not a linear path, but rather a continuous re-invention of oneself with an ability to check one’s ego and pre-conceived notions of greatness at the door. Add to all this something truly extraordinary about Guy's new move: He is going to work for a woman who is half his age. Only a truly “mensch” can do this.

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