Cliff Obrecht, an Australian entrepreneur and the co-founder of Canva, has made significant strides in the world of online graphic design. Despite his name being somewhat popular in the tech industry, there is a lot about this dynamic personality that often goes unnoticed. So, buckle up as we discover some interesting facts about Obrecht you certainly did not know.

1. Canva was not Obrecht’s First Business Venture

Before co-founding Canva, along with his life partner Melanie Perkins and Cameron Adams, Obrecht ran a business called ‘Fusion Books.’ Fusion Books uses Canva’s underlying technology, allowing yearbook design to be done online collaboratively. It became the largest yearbook publisher in Australia and later expanded to France and New Zealand.

Cliff Obrecht and Melanie Perkins initiated Fusion Books as a solution to Perkins’ challenges as a university tutor- teaching students design programs. Unknown to many, this was Obrecht’s first successful business even before Canva came to existence.

2. Obrecht is Passionate About Democratizing Design

Cliff Obrecht is a fervent advocate for accessibility in the design world. His underlying principle with Canva is allowing anyone, from any place, at any time, to design anything, and publish it anywhere. He believes that everyone should have access to top graphics design tools and not only the professionals.

This passion for democratizing design runs deep, and it’s prevalent in Canva’s user-friendly interface. Even without prior design knowledge, Canva users can bring their creative visions to life using their platform. Cliff Obrecht’s ethos is providing a platform where anyone can become a professional designer.

3. Obrecht Has a Philanthropic Side

Pledging 1% of equity, time and product, Obrecht along with his co-founders became part of the Pledge 1% movement back in 2016. The movement encourages companies to commit a small portion of their future success to their communities.

Canva also has a ‘Nonprofits program’ that provides free access to Canva Pro for registered not-for-profits. More than just running a successful business, Obrecht is deeply invested in making a difference, leveraging his resources to impact more than 60,000 nonprofit organizations across the globe.

4. Cliff Obrecht went through 100+ Investors

It is less known that Obrecht had his fair share of disappointments before striking it big. Together with Perkins, they endured about a hundred of rejections from potential investors. However, they never for once quit their pursuit for investment. Their determination paid off, eventually earning them an investment from Lars Rasmussen, co-founder of Google Maps.

Despite the initial challenges, under Obrecht’s leadership, Canva is now one of the most valuable tech start-ups in the world. The journey iterates the importance of perseverance and determination in entrepreneurship.

5. Obrecht was a Creative Child

For those who don’t know, Obrecht’s pursuit of his dream was just an extension of his intrinsic creative nature. As a child, he was always interested in creating and building things. He enjoyed drawing immensely and would often indulge in creative writing and storytelling.

Perhaps this inherent creativity found its true calling when he co-created Canva. The platform that allows users to design freely seems to be in perfect sync with a child who loved to paint his dreams with colorful strokes of imagination.

6. He Values Company Culture

According to Obrecht, one of the biggest threats to a start-up’s success isn’t competition, but cultural debt. He believes that building a strong company culture is as important as building a great product. He consistently pushes Canva’s work culture to be one that blushes necessities: being a good human, being hardworking, pushing to be the best, and being playful.

In one of his interviews, he mentioned, “The thing that destroys companies is cultural debt, not technical debt.” He underscores the significance of employee well-being and promotes a work environment that supports and upholds kindness, honesty, respect, and inclusivity.

7. He believes in the Power of Bedtime Reading

Obrecht credits a lot of his success to bedtime reading. He and his partner, Melanie, consistently follow a routine of learning something new before sleeping, and to do this, they leverage reading. Obrecht mentions that this habit influences a lot of their thinking and vision, enabling them to make better decisions for Canva.

From this, it is safe to assume Obrecht’s immense respect for knowledge and continuous learning. The practice is a testament to their commitment towards learning and growing and serves as an inspiration for young entrepreneurs globally.

8. He moved to San Francisco for Two Years

To finance their business, Obrecht and Perkins moved to the Silicon Valley hub, San Francisco for two years. The two lived in a shared apartment and even hired a team in the Philippines, almost exhausting their savings. Their determination eventually paid off with the successful establishment of Canva.

This emphasizes their relentless pursuit and dedication to their dream, even if it meant moving across the continent. Their journey is a testament to their tenacity and commitment, attributes that surely inspire many other entrepreneurs around the world.

9. Obrecht’s Vocal About Mental Health

Cliff Obrecht acknowledges the mental health struggles that come with the entrepreneurial journey. He is vocal about the stresses and concerns of start-up life, emphasizing the need for open conversations about mental health, especially in the tech industry.

Obrecht believes in maintaining a balance between personal and professional life. And while he is focused on making Canva successful, he does not shy away from highlighting the need to take care of one’s mental well-being.

10. He is a Non-Conformist

Obrecht is known for being a non-conformist. Unlike many CEOs who prioritize profit margins, Cliff focuses primarily on the impact his business makes. He believes in ‘doing good’ and often stresses the importance of Canva being used as a force for good.

A staunch believer of doing business differently, he aims to create a world where businesses compete not to be the ‘best in the world’, but the ‘best for the world’. This approach truly sets Cliff Obrecht apart as an entrepreneur.

Useful Links:

Visit Canva

Pledge 1% movement

Fusion Books