This article was first published by Dana McCauley on News.com.au on 18 November 2015.
WITH no middle managers, two in-house chefs and a well-stocked bar, the offices of graphic design disrupter Canva sound pretty inviting.
But work perk expectations are high in the technology space, so it’s still a massive honour for the start-up to win JobAdvisor’s annual Coolest Company in Tech award.
Founder and chief executive Melanie Perkins, 29 — who BRW last month Australia’s second-richest woman under 40 — is technically the boss.
But the fast-growing start up boasts a collaborative work culture among its growing team of developers, graphic designers, user experience (UX) designers and marketing gurus.
“It’s such a fast growing company, things are constantly having to be reinvented,” Ms Perkins said.
“Things are just constantly evolving along the way.”
This includes job roles, which can shift depending on Canva’s goals and challenges of the day.
The shifting nature of a tech company in the midst of expansion means Canva has a relatively flat structure.
Instead of power-tripping middle managers calling endless meetings, the team gets together for project planning sessions where everyone’s input is counted.
“I’m currently barefoot,” she told news.com.au.
Asked whether her staff were subjected to annual performance reviews, she skipped ahead with an impassioned run-down of Canva’s mission statement: “Maximising our clients’ happiness.”
“We have huge ambitions and goals that we work really hard to achieve and an absolutely incredible team,” Ms Perkins said.
With 80 staff and counting, the company is hiring across all areas of the business and is adding two new floors to its Sydney office to accommodate them. The company also has an office in Manila, Philippines.
Potential applicants should come equipped with a sense of fun and creativity; the Canva team is known for its elaborate product launch ceremonies, which in the past have involved dancing gorillas, Greek plate-smashing and releasing live doves.
Canva is an online graphic design platform that aims to empower ordinary people to create their own designs.
It recently hit the six million user mark, ramping up operations after its fourth funding round raised $21.2 million (US $15 million) from old and new investors — including Hollywood actors Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson. This latest capital raising valued the company at $233 million ($US 165 million)
Ms Perkins said the Coolest Company accolade was “a testament to our team’s incredible work”, while the judges noted Canva’s “collaborative, empowering and inviting culture”.
“The culture and people make it a truly one-of-a kind place to work,” said JobAdvisor chief executive Ben Hutt, on the judging panel.
“Canva’s product empowers everyone to be a designer and its culture allows the entire team to be leaders.”
As well as coming in third in the main race, stock image marketplace Envato nabbed the inaugural Coolest Company for Women crown for contributing to the Code Like a Girl initiative, Geek Girls dinners and company-wide diversity training.
“We had entries from some of Australia’s largest tech companies, big banks and global tech disrupters, but Envato stood out for its business strategy to make the tech industry more attractive to a wide range of people, including women,” Mr Hutt said.
Also judging the awards were former CareerOne chief executive Karen Lawson, Diversity Council Australia chief executive Lisa Annese and JobVibe chief executive Justin Babet.
AUSTRALIA’S COOLEST TECH COMPANIES
What they do: Canva is an online graphic design platform with six million users in 179 countries.
What they say: “We value people and promote a culture that encourages our team to love coming to work everyday … Canva has created a workplace that induces fun, creativity, and productivity.”
What they do: Vinomofo is an online wine retailer.
What they say: “We’re a lifestyle employer who values the fact our human resources are indeed human, not a commodity. We provide plenty of perks and a fun environment in which to work but beyond that, it’s the fact we meet the basic human needs of belonging, validation, nurture and inspiration that really makes the difference.”
What they do: Envato, last year’s Coolest Company in Tech winner, a group of eight online digital marketplaces that sell creative stock assets for web designers, with over 1.5 million active users.
What they say: “Our people choose when their day starts and wraps, and work where they need to (beanbag, standing desk or home). They can buy additional leave and work up to three months each year anywhere in the world. Our people receive a free subscription to over 400 courses and 20,000 tutorials, we have a Kindle library and run regular TED-esque Envato Talks.
Our offices feature one-of-a-kind murals from Melbourne street artists imaginative spaces and a communal dining room, with a courtyard for parties, hackathons and festival launches.”
What they do: Buzinga is a mobile app development company, creating iPhone and Android apps for businesses around the globe.
What they say: “The thing that truly makes Buzinga cool, the reason why we come to work everyday, is because of the people we get to work with everyday. Our co-founders create a complementary balance of both creative flair and experienced, analytically driven business management. This balance and chemistry has become the DNA of our company culture.”
What they do: Vocus is the fastest growing telecommunications company in Australia and New Zealand.
What they say: “You won’t find a chef, sleeping pods or scooters in our office, instead we’ve moved away from the traditional telco mentality and built a culture that empowers our people. We implemented a 48-hour rule, which empowers our people to make a decision and get on with it even if their manager or colleagues haven’t responded. Instead of traditional performance reviews, we built our own “True Blue” app that allows staff to say thanks to a high achiever and broadcast it across our Intranet.
What they do: AdRoll is a San Francisco-based global technology company, which offers advertisers retargeting products for cross-platform, cross-device display advertising.
What they say: “Employees, known as ‘rollers’, get free online or staff-taught classes, ranging from Ping Pong to HTML5 coding. There are Monday night chef-cooked team dinners, team sports and marathons, yoga classes, a volunteer program and performance rewards such as concert tickets. The Sydney AdRoll office in The Rocks is decked out with murals by local artist BeastMan and there’s a whole floor devoted to entertaining, with Matt Blatt dining tables and couches, a fully-stocked kitchen and ping pong table.”
What they do: Adobe is a software company that enables people to make, manage, mobilise and monetise content.
What they say: “Innovation and creativity is encouraged and fostered at Adobe. We offer our team outstanding benefits including recognition and rewards, health insurance, fitness subsidies, an employee purchase program and a flexible work environment where people can work anywhere, any time. Our office has a ping pong table, arcade games and 360 degree city views.”
What they do:
99designs is an online graphic design marketplace headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Melbourne, Berlin, Paris, London and Rio de Janeiro, connecting a global community of 1 million designers to more than 400,000 business owners.
What they say: “We’ve created a dog-friendly culture with free lunches, active social clubs, table tennis championships, weekly movie nights and an annual battle of the bands. We encourage a well-rounded life and celebrate life’s victories. We give our employees the freedom to dream and experiment with their own ideas. With one out of every three of our employees being parents, we are a diverse team that thrives on change and continuous improvement.
What they do: Integral Ad Science is a privately technology company that analyses the value of digital advertising placements.
What they say: “We don’t start at 9am and finish at 5pm. We start when the job requires us to start and we finish when it’s done. Travelling to the office is time consuming, but generally being together allows us to move with more pace and saves time in the long run. When that’s not the case, you can work from anywhere — home, coffee shop, Europe. If you need to start at 10am so you can take the kids to school, you can. If you want to finish at 3pm to make a class, do it. We don’t count hours, we count contributions.”
What they do: Datalicious is a global full-service media attribution and marketing analytics provider.
What they say: “Staff at our Sydney office enjoy flexible working hours, volunteer partnerships with a string of major charities, a creative work space including breakout areas with city and Harbour Bridge views, coffee booth areas, mobile phone allowance, free coffee, an outdoor balcony on the 16th floor, chef’s kitchen, bartender’s bar and regular team events including bubble soccer, jet boating and treasure hunts.
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