Custom software development for Canva’s very first startup

Software Development for the founders of Canva on their very first startup - Fusion Books

Service: Custom Software Development, Startups Consulting and Hosting

Cirrena used its custom software development expertise to build Fusion Books, the first startup from the founders of Canva. This technology, along with Cirrena’s mentoring and support, helped this business to find their footing and gave them the foundation they needed for their next startup, which is now valued at over $3.5B.

In 2007, two startup entrepreneurs approached our team with an idea of an online collaborative design platform to enable schools or any organisations to put together a personalised yearbook. Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht had approached nearly every software developer in Perth, and at the time, they were told that it required a ridiculous budget or it wasn’t possible.

Melanie’s vision was clear: to empower teams to design their yearbooks, even without any skills or knowledge of Photoshop or other complex design tools.

The Challenge

  • To design an intuitive, easy to use online software platform,
  • Drag and drop (which in 2007 was very difficult due to cross-browser compatibility),
  • Collaborative (i.e. the students could contribute) and
  • include many pre-designed templates to choose from.

On top of this, they put a crazy deadline of finishing the platform before school term starts in January (it was currently end of October). From our understanding of Canva now, Melanie and Cliff love setting ridiculous hard to achieve goals and then smashing them out of the park.

The Solution

We were able to deliver this solution to them, helping them to become a runner-up in the WA Innovation Awards. We continued to work with them for 4 years, right up until they were able to build their own team and achieve their first round of funding, which allowed them to create their new startup: Canva.

Fusion books’ layout back in 2008 was very similar to the Canva Layout today.



In comparison to Canva today, its UI/UX is remarkably similar, which shows that Melanie and Cliff had a great understanding of their market, making the platform easy to use with minimal training needed.


Fusion Books was a completely bootstrapped, self-funded business that went through all the growing pains of a normal startup. However, their focus was to get into the wide market so they could evolve their company properly. They incrementally added new features to their product only once it was rigorously justified as they had limited development budget. This is a testament of their drive to build a growing business, which is very clear now from their success at Canva. It all started by partnering with the best software development team to get them going.