Giving Heart: Canva’s Fil-Aussie Co-Founder Is One of the World's Richest Women—and She Plans to Give Most of Her Fortune Away - The Scene

“It has felt strange when people refer to us as ‘billionaires’ as it has never felt like our money,” Melanie Perkins says. “We’ve always felt that we’re purely custodians of it.”

In 2007, Melanie Perkins had a goal to make the graphic design as easy as possible. The idea came when she studied at the University of Western Australia while teaching students how to use Adobe programs InDesign and Photoshop.

“Students found the programs hard to learn and harder to use. I imagined the future of design would be entirely different. It would be online, collaborative, and very simple,” the Australian told Irish Tech News.

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She launched Canva with her then-friend and now husband Cliff Obrecht six years later. The free-to-use platform allows you a simple way to make anything from social media posts to resumes to presentations and even branding kits.

Today, Canva has an estimated market capitalization of almost $39 billion—while Perkins has a net worth of $5.9 billion. While her wealth makes her one of the world’s richest women, the 35-year-old is on a mission to give her fortune away.

Giving directly

Perkins, who is part Filipino through her paternal grandmother, already began her philanthropic deeds. After all, she and Obrecht always wanted to do good through their venture, whether helping a student with their homework or supporting the world’s poorest people.

Through Canva’s initiative GiveDirectly, they distribute $10 million to people in need in Southern Africa. “Many studies have shown that an effective way of helping someone who has no money is to give them money,” is written on Canva’s website. 

“It enables recipients to buy what they need and have a consistent and predictable source of income, which [allows] them to invest in themselves and their children.”

Custodians of wealth 

GiveDirectly is only the first step in the “long journey” the company has launched to help those in need. In addition, Australia’s richest woman under 40 has pledged to give the “vast majority” of her and her husband’s Canva shares to the company’s foundation.

Despite her entrepreneurial and financial success, it seems Perkins didn’t plan to get rich just for the sake of it. “‘If the whole thing were about building wealth, that would be the most uninspiring thing I could possibly imagine,” she told Forbes.

In fact, she’d much instead give her excess to those who need it. “It has felt strange when people refer to us as ‘billionaires’ as it has never felt like our money,” she told Daily Mail. “We’ve always felt that we’re purely custodians of it.”

Banner photo from @melanie_perkins_official on Instagram

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