In the online startup world, user adoption often comes in tsunami-like waves. Just look at Slack, Namely, or Confluent (founded by the creators of Apache Kafka)--all of which in recent history have become overnight darlings with business consumers. But how does a company make it happen? Or an even better question: How does a smallish organization deal with the complexities of servicing exponentially growing numbers of customers?

Twenty-nine-year old Melanie Perkins has some ideas. A serial entrepreneur now at the helm of Canva, a Sydney, Australia-based online graphic design platform, she has raised $27 million in funding from Founders Fund, Felicis, and 500 Startups. Even more impressive, Canva has grown from 1.5 million users to more than 10 million in the last 12 months. Here's what she says she's been focusing on:

Communicating Like a Startup

Startups can be fast and agile because it's easy for a small team to read from the same page. Since launching its beta product in 2013 with an 11-person team, Canva has blossomed into a more than 100-person company, making weekly deep dives with the entire organization impossible. To compensate, Perkins pushes out a Sunday evening "musings" email through which she shares stories similar to what would have been told around the lunch table when the company was smaller. Plus, she has a handful of teams present to each other every week, aiming for visibility without monopolizing all employees' time.

Focusing on Efficiency

It's the little details that matter. Canva serves lunch to employees, but standing around in line won't help anybody crank out more work. As such, the company created four lines with the intent that nobody would have to wait more than two minutes for their mid-day meal. It may sound like nothing, but if every employee saves two or three minutes, it works out to be more than a couple of cumulative hours a day during which people aren't just standing around.

She also credits messaging platform Slack for allowing employees to communicate in real time, regardless if they're located in Sydney or Manila.

Giving People Autonomy

Once the company grew to 75 employees, it launched a structure that split people into five-person teams tasked with operating like little startups. The goal: People would have the autonomy and space to develop their own strategies and feel ownership over their work.

"It's really important that our team can move as quickly as possible," Perkins says, "as well as feel the sense of ownership over their work, and the creativity that comes with that."

Published on: Aug 19, 2016