Aug
20
2020
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Figma CEO Dylan Field discusses fundraising, hiring and marketing in stealth mode

You’d be hard pressed to hang out with a designer and not hear the name Figma .

The company behind the largely browser-based design tool has made a huge splash in the past few years, building a massive war chest with more than $130 million from investors like A16Z, Sequoia, Greylock, Kleiner Perkins and Index.

The company was founded in 2012 and spent several years in stealth, raising both its seed and Series A without having any public product or user metrics.

At Early Stage, we spoke with co-founder and CEO Dylan Field about the process of hiring and fundraising while in stealth and how life at the company changed following its launch in 2016. Field, who was 20 when he founded the company, also touched on the lessons he’s learned from his team about leadership. Chief among them: the importance of empowering the people you hire.

You can check out the full conversation in the video embedded below, as well as a lightly edited transcript.

Raising a Series A a year behind schedule while still in stealth

I actually had approached John Lilly from Greylock in our seed round. For those who don’t know, John Lilly was the CEO of Mozilla and an amazing guy. He’s on a lot of really cool boards and has a bunch of interesting experience for Figma, with very deep roots in design. I had approached him for the seed round, and he basically said to us, “You know, I don’t think you guys know what you’re doing, but I’m very intrigued, so let’s keep in touch.” This is the famous line that you hear from every investor ever. It’s like “Yeah, let’s keep in touch, let me know if I can be helpful.” Sometimes, they actually mean it. In John’s case, he actually would follow up every few months or I would follow up with him. We’d grab coffee, and he helped me develop the strategy to a point that got us to what we are today. And that was a collaboration. I could really learn a lot from him on that one.

When we started off the idea was: Let’s have this global community around design, and you’ll be able to use the tool to post to the community and someday we’ll think about how people can pay us. Talking with John got me to the point where I realized we need to start with a business tool. We’ll build the community later. Now, we’re starting to work toward that.

At some point, John told me, “Hey, if you ever think about raising again, let me know.” A few weeks later, I told him maybe we would raise because I just wanted to work with him. We talked to a few other investors. I think it’s pretty important that there’s always a competitive dynamic in the round. But really, it was just him that we were really considering for that round. He really did us a solid. He really believed in us. At the time, it wasn’t like there were metrics to look at. He had conviction in the space, a conviction in the attack, and he had conviction in me and Evan, which I feel very, very honored by. He’s a dear mentor to this day, and he’s on our board. And it’s been a really deep relationship.

How to recruit while in stealth mode

Jun
10
2020
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Hear from Figma founder and CEO Dylan Field at TC Early Stage in July

Figma is one of the fastest-growing companies in the world of design and in the broader SaaS category. So it goes without saying that we’re absolutely thrilled to have Figma CEO Dylan Field join us at Early Stage, our virtual two-day conference on July 21 and 22, as a speaker. You can pick up a ticket to the event here!

Early Stage is all about giving entrepreneurs the tools they need to be successful. Experts across a wide variety of core competencies, including fundraising, growth marketing, media management, recruiting, legal and tech development will offer their insights and answer questions from the audience.

Field joins an outstanding speaker list that includes Lo Toney, Ann Muira Ko, Dalton Caldwell, Charles Hudson, Cyan Banister and more.

Field founded Figma in 2012 after becoming a Theil fellow. The company spent four years in development before launching, working tediously on the technology and design of a product that aimed to be the Google Docs of design.

Figma is a web-based design product that allows people to design collaboratively on the same project in real time.

The design space is, in many respects, up for grabs as it goes through a transformation, with designers receiving more influence within organizations and other departments growing more closely involved with the design process overall.

This also means that there is fierce competition in this industry, with behemoths like Adobe iterating their products and growing startups like InVision and Canva sprinting hard to capture as much market as possible.

Figma, with $130 million+ in total funding, has lured investors like Index, A16Z, Sequoia, Greylock, and KPCB.

At Early Stage, we’ll talk to Field about staying patient during the product development process and then transitioning into an insane growth sprint. We’ll also chat about the fundraising process, how he built a team from scratch, and how he took the team remote in the midst of a pandemic, as well as chatting about the product development strategy behind Figma.

How to take your time as fast as you can

Figma spent four years in stealth before ever launching a product. But when it finally did come to market, its industry was in the midst of a paradigm shift. Entire organizations started participating in the design process, and conversely, designers became empowered, asserting more influence over the direction of the company and the products they built. We’ll hear from Figma founder and CEO Dylan Field on how he stayed patient with product development and sprinted towards growth.

Get your pass to Early Stage for access to over to 50 small-group workshops along with world-class networking with CrunchMatch. They start at just $199 but prices increase in a few days so grab yours today.


Apr
30
2020
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Figma raises $50 million Series D led by Andreessen Horowitz

Figma, the design platform that lets folks work collaboratively and in the cloud, has today announced the close of a $50 million Series D financing. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with partner Peter Levine and cofounding partner Marc Andreessen managing the deal for the firm. New angel investors, including Henry Ellenbogen from Durable Capital, also participated in the round alongside existing investors Index, Greylock, KPCB, Sequoia and Founders Fund.

Forbes reports that the latest funding round values Figma at $2 billion.

Dylan Field, Figma founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that discussions between a16z and Figma actually began towards the end of the fundraising cycle for the company’s Series C, which closed in February of 2019.

“It felt a bit like a shotgun wedding,” said Field, explaining that both parties instead opted to get to know each other better. They’ve been building their relationship over the past year, leading to today’s Series D close. Field also added that he has not met other investors in this round in person, and the vast majority of the deal was done over Zoom.

“When you think about the future of Silicon Valley, there is an interesting question around capital infrastructure being here and people not being able to access that if they’re not here, too,” said Field. “I got to see firsthand how a deal done online can work and I think more and more investors aren’t going to worry about whether you’re in Silicon Valley or not.”

Figma launched in 2015 after nearly six years of development in stealth. The premise was to create a collaborative, cloud-based design tool that would be the Google Docs of design.

Since, Figma has built out the platform to expand access and usability for individual designers, small firms and giant enterprise companies alike. For example, the company launched plug-ins in 2019, allowing developers to build in their own tools to the app, such as a plug-in for designers to automatically rename and organize their layers as they work (Rename.it) and one that gives users the ability to add placeholder text that they can automatically find and replace later (Content Buddy).

The company also launched an educational platform called Community, which gives designers the ability to share their work and let other users ‘remix’ that design, or simply check out how it was built, layer by layer.

A spokesperson told TechCrunch that this deal was “opportunistic,” and that the company was in a strong cash position pre-financing. The new funding expands Figma’s runway during these uncertain times, with coronavirus halting a lot of enterprise purchasing and ultimately slowing growth of some rising enterprise players.

Field explained that Figma’s data is counter to the expected narrative around enterprise purchasing because Figma is specifically built to let teams collaborate in the cloud.

“We’re actually seeing a lot of acceleration for bigger deals on the sales side,” said Field. “Figma is a tool that can help right now.”

The company says that one interesting change they’ve seen in the COVID era is a significant jump in user engagement from teams to collaborate more in Figma. The firm has also seen an uptick in whiteboarding, note taking, slide deck creation and diagramming, as companies start using Figma as a collaborative tool across an entire organization rather than just within a team of designers.

This latest deal brings Figma’s total funding to $132.9 million. Field added that, though the company is not yet profitable, this latest financing gives the company three to four years of runway, even with aggressive scaling and hiring efforts moving forward.

Feb
28
2020
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Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra on waitlists, freemium pricing and future products

The “Sent via Superhuman iOS” email signature has become one of the strangest flexes in the tech industry, but its influence is enduring, as the $30 per month invite-only email app continues to shape how a wave of personal productivity startups are building their business and product strategies.

I had a chance to chat with Superhuman CEO and founder Rahul Vohra earlier this month during an oddly busy time for him. He had just announced a dedicated $7 million angel fund with his friend Todd Goldberg (which I wrote up here) and we also noted that LinkedIn is killing off Sales Navigator, a feature driven by Rapportive, which Vohra founded and later sold in 2012. All the while, his buzzy email company is plugging along, amassing more interested users. Vohra tells me there are now more than 275,000 people on the waitlist for Superhuman.

Below is a chunk of my conversation with Vohra, which has been edited for length and clarity.


TechCrunch: When you go out to raise funding and a chunk of your theoretical user base is sitting on a waitlist, is it a little tougher to determine the total market for your product?

Rahul Vohra: That’s a good question. When we were doing our Series B, it was very easily answered because we’re one of a cohort of companies, that includes Notion and Airtable and Figma, where the addressable market — assuming you can build a product that’s good enough — is utterly enormous.

With my last company, Rapportive, there was a lot of conversation around, “oh, what’s the business model? What’s the market? How many people need this?” This almost never came up in any fundraising conversation. People were more like, “well, if this thing works, obviously the market is basically all of prosumer productivity and that is, no matter how you define it, absolutely huge.”

Feb
28
2020
--

Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra on waitlists, freemium pricing and future products

The “Sent via Superhuman iOS” email signature has become one of the strangest flexes in the tech industry, but its influence is enduring, as the $30 per month invite-only email app continues to shape how a wave of personal productivity startups are building their business and product strategies.

I had a chance to chat with Superhuman CEO and founder Rahul Vohra earlier this month during an oddly busy time for him. He had just announced a dedicated $7 million angel fund with his friend Todd Goldberg (which I wrote up here) and we also noted that LinkedIn is killing off Sales Navigator, a feature driven by Rapportive, which Vohra founded and later sold in 2012. All the while, his buzzy email company is plugging along, amassing more interested users. Vohra tells me there are now more than 275,000 people on the waitlist for Superhuman.

Below is a chunk of my conversation with Vohra, which has been edited for length and clarity.


TechCrunch: When you go out to raise funding and a chunk of your theoretical user base is sitting on a waitlist, is it a little tougher to determine the total market for your product?

Rahul Vohra: That’s a good question. When we were doing our Series B, it was very easily answered because we’re one of a cohort of companies, that includes Notion and Airtable and Figma, where the addressable market — assuming you can build a product that’s good enough — is utterly enormous.

With my last company, Rapportive, there was a lot of conversation around, “oh, what’s the business model? What’s the market? How many people need this?” This almost never came up in any fundraising conversation. People were more like, “well, if this thing works, obviously the market is basically all of prosumer productivity and that is, no matter how you define it, absolutely huge.”

Dec
05
2019
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Figma launches Auto Layout

Figma, the design tool maker that has raised nearly $83 million from investors such as Index Ventures, Sequoia, Greylock and Kleiner Perkins, has today announced a new feature called Auto Layout that takes some of the tedious reformatting out of the design process.

Designers are all too familiar with the problem of manually sizing content in new components. For example, when a designer creates a new button for a web page, the text within the button has to be manually sized to fit within the button. If the text changes, or the size of the button, everything has to be adjusted accordingly.

This problem is exacerbated when there are many instances of a certain component, all of which have to be manually adjusted.

Auto Layout functions as a toggle. When it’s on, Figma does all the adjusting for designers, making sure content is centered within components and that the components themselves adjust to fit any new content that might be added. When an item within a frame is re-sized or changed, the content around it dynamically adjusts along with it.

Auto Layout also allows users to change the orientation of a list of items from vertical to horizontal and back again, adjust the individual sizing of a component within a list or re-order components in a list with a single click.

It’s a little like designing on auto-pilot.

Auto Layout also functions within the component system, allowing designers to tweak the source of truth without detaching the symbol or content from it, meaning that these changes flow through to the rest of their designs.

Figma CEO Dylan Field said there was very high demand for this feature from customers, and hopes that this will allow design teams to move much faster when it comes to user testing and iterative design.

Alongside the launch, Figma is also announcing that it has brought on its first independent board member. Lynn Vojvodich joins Danny Rimer, John Lilly, Mamoon Hamid and Andrew Reed on the Figma board.

Vojvodich has a wealth of experience as an operator in the tech industry, serving as EVP and CMO at Salesforce.com. She was a partner at Andreesen Horowitz, and led her own company Take3 for 10 years. Vojvodich also serves on the boards of several large corporations, including Ford Motor Company, Looker and Dell.

“I’ve never brought on an investor that I haven’t heavily reference checked, both with companies that have had success and those who don’t,” said Field. “A good board can really help accelerate the company, but a challenging board can make it tough for companies to keep moving.”

Field added that, as conversations progressed with Vojvodich, she continually delivered value to the team with crisp answers and great insights, noting that her experience translates.

Dec
05
2019
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Design may be the next entrepreneurial gold rush

Ten years ago, the vast majority of designers were working in Adobe Photoshop, a powerful tool with fine-tuned controls for almost every kind of image manipulation one could imagine. But it was a tool built for an analog world focused on photos, flyers and print magazines; there were no collaborative features, and much more importantly for designers, there were no other options.

Since then, a handful of major players have stepped up to dominate the market alongside the behemoth, including InVision, Sketch, Figma and Canva.

And with the shift in the way designers fit into organizations and the way design fits into business overall, the design ecosystem is following the same path blazed by enterprise SaaS companies in recent years. Undoubtedly, investors are ready to place their bets in design.

But the question still remains over whether the design industry will follow in the footprints of the sales stack — with Salesforce reigning as king and hundreds of much smaller startup subjects serving at its pleasure — or if it will go the way of the marketing stack, where a lively ecosystem of smaller niche players exist under the umbrella of a handful of major, general-use players.

“Deca-billion-dollar SaaS categories aren’t born everyday,” said InVision CEO Clark Valberg . “From my perspective, the majority of investors are still trying to understand the ontology of the space, while remaining sufficiently aware of its current and future economic impact so as to eagerly secure their foothold. The space is new and important enough to create gold-rush momentum, but evolving at a speed to produce the illusion of micro-categorization, which, in many cases, will ultimately fail to pass the test of time and avoid inevitable consolidation.”

I spoke to several notable players in the design space — Sketch CEO Pieter Omvlee, InVision CEO Clark Valberg, Figma CEO Dylan Field, Adobe Product Director Mark Webster, InVision VP and former VP of Design at Twitter Mike Davidson, Sequoia General Partner Andrew Reed and FirstMark Capital General Partner Amish Jani — and asked them what the fierce competition means for the future of the ecosystem.

But let’s first back up.

Past

Sketch launched in 2010, offering the first viable alternative to Photoshop. Made for design and not photo-editing with a specific focus on UI and UX design, Sketch arrived just as the app craze was picking up serious steam.

A year later, InVision landed in the mix. Rather than focus on the tools designers used, it concentrated on the evolution of design within organizations. With designers consolidating from many specialties to overarching positions like product and user experience designers, and with the screen becoming a primary point of contact between every company and its customers, InVision filled the gap of collaboration with its focus on prototypes.

If designs could look and feel like the real thing — without the resources spent by engineering — to allow executives, product leads and others to weigh in, the time it takes to bring a product to market could be cut significantly, and InVision capitalized on this new efficiency.

In 2012, came Canva, a product that focused primarily on non-designers and folks who need to ‘design’ without all the bells and whistles professionals use. The thesis: no matter which department you work in, you still need design, whether it’s for an internal meeting, an external sales deck, or simply a side project you’re working on in your personal time. Canva, like many tech firms these days, has taken its top-of-funnel approach to the enterprise, giving businesses an opportunity to unify non-designers within the org for their various decks and materials.

In 2016, the industry felt two more big shifts. In the first, Adobe woke up, realized it still had to compete and launched Adobe XD, which allowed designers to collaborate amongst themselves and within the organization, not unlike InVision, complete with prototyping capabilities. The second shift was the introduction of a little company called Figma.

Where Sketch innovated on price, focus and usability, and where InVision helped evolve design’s position within an organization, Figma changed the game with straight-up technology. If Github is Google Drive, Figma is Google Docs. Not only does Figma allow organizations to store and share design files, it actually allows multiple designers to work in the same file at one time. Oh, and it’s all on the web.

In 2018, InVision started to move up stream with the launch of Studio, a design tool meant to take on the likes of Adobe and Sketch and, yes, Figma.

Present

When it comes to design tools in 2019, we have an embarrassment of riches, but the success of these players can’t be fully credited to the products themselves.

A shift in the way businesses think about digital presence has been underway since the early 2000s. In the not-too-distant past, not every company had a website and many that did offered a very basic site without much utility.

In short, designers were needed and valued at digital-first businesses and consumer-facing companies moving toward e-commerce, but very early-stage digital products, or incumbents in traditional industries had a free pass to focus on issues other than design. Remember the original MySpace? Here’s what Amazon looked like when it launched.

In the not-too-distant past, the aesthetic bar for internet design was very, very low. That’s no longer the case.

Oct
22
2019
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Figma’s Community lets designers share and remix live files

As designers grow both in sheer numbers and within the hierarchy of organizations, design tool makers are adapting to their evolving needs in different ways. Figma, the web-based collaborative design tool, is taking a note from the engineering revolution of the early aughts.

“What if there were a GitHub for designers?” mused Dylan Field, early on in the lifecycle of Figma as a company. Today, that vision is brought to life with the launch of Figma Community. (Figma Community is launching in a closed beta for now.)

In a crowded space, with competitors like Adobe, InVision, Sketch and more, Figma differentiates itself on its web-based multiplayer approach. Figma is a design tool that works like Google Docs, with multiple designers in the same file, working alongside one another without disrupting each other.

But that’s just the base level of the overall collaboration that Figma believes designers crave. Field told us that he sees a clear desire from designers to not only share their work, whether it’s on a portfolio webpage or on social media, as well as a desire to learn from the work of other designers.

And yet, when a creative shares a design on social media, it’s just a static image. Other designers can’t see how it went from a blank page to an interesting design, and are left to merely appreciate it without learning anything new.

With Figma Community, designers and even organizations can share live design files that others can inspect, remix and learn from.

Individual designers can set up their own public-facing profile page to show off their designs, as well as intra-organization profile pages so other team members within their organization can learn from each other. On the other hand, organizations can publicly share their design systems and philosophy on their own page.

For example, the city of Chicago has set up a profile on Figma Community for other designers to follow the city’s design system in their own materials.

Screen Shot 2019 10 22 at 11.26.39 AM

As far as remixing design files goes, Figma is using a CC4 license, which allows for a remix but forces attribution. That said, Field says the company is using this closed beta period to learn more about what the community wants around different license types.

Community is free and is not meant to drive revenue for the company, but rather offer further value to designers using the platform.

“It’s early,” said Dylan Field. “This is just the scaffolding of what’s to come. It’s the start of a lot of work that we’re going to be doing in the area of collaboration and community.”

Figma has raised a total of $83 million from investors like Index, Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins and Grelock, according to Crunchbase.

Aug
01
2019
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Cloud-based design tool Figma launches plug-ins

Figma, the startup looking to put design tools in the cloud, has today announced new plug-ins for the platform that will help users clean up their workflows.

Figma co-founder and CEO Dylan Field says that plug-ins have been the most requested feature from users since the company’s launch. So, for the last year, the team has been working to build plug-in functionality on the back of Figma’s API (launched in March 2018) with three main priorities: stability, speed and security.

The company has been testing plug-ins in beta for a while now, with 40 plug-ins approved at launch today.

Here are some of the standouts from launch today:

On the utility side, Rename It is a plug-in that allows designers to automatically rename and organize their layers as they work. Content Buddy, on the other hand, gives users the ability to add placeholder text (for things like phone numbers, names, etc.) that they can automatically find and replace later. Stark and ColorBlind are both accessibility plug-ins that help designers make sure their work meets the WCAG 2.0 contrast accessibility guidelines, and actually see their designs through the lens of eight different types of color vision deficiencies, respectively.

Other plug-ins allow for adding animation (Figmotion), changing themes (Themer), adding a map to a design (Map Maker) and more.

Anyone can create plug-ins for public use on the Figma platform, but folks can also make private plug-ins for enterprise use, as well. For example, a Microsoft employee built a plug-in that automatically changes the theme of the design based on the various Microsoft products, such as Word, Outlook, etc.

microsoft themes final

Field says that the company currently has no plans to monetize plug-ins. Rather, the addition of plug-ins to the platform is a move based on customer happiness and satisfaction. Moreover, Figma’s home on the web allows for the product to evolve more rapidly and in tune with customers. Rather than having to build each individual feature on its own, Figma can now open up the platform to its power users to build what they’d like into the web app.

Figma has raised a total of nearly $83 million since launch, according to Crunchbase. As of the company’s latest funding round ($40 million led by Sequoia six months ago), Figma was valued at $440 million post-funding.

Jan
29
2019
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Figma’s design and prototyping tool gets new enterprise collaboration features

Figma, the design and prototyping tool that aims to offer a web-based alternative to similar tools from the likes of Adobe, is launching a few new features today that will make the service easier to use to collaborate across teams in large organizations. Figma Organization, as the company calls this new feature set, is the company’s first enterprise-grade service that features the kind of controls and security tools that large companies expect. To develop and test these tools, the company partnered with companies like Rakuten, Square, Volvo and Uber, and introduced features like unified billing and audit reports for the admins and shared fonts, browsable teams and organization-wide design systems for the designers.

For designers, one of the most important new features here is probably organization-wide design systems. Figma already had tools to create design systems, of course, but this enterprise version now makes it easier for teams to share libraries and fonts with each other to ensure that the same styles are applied to products and services across a company.

Businesses can now also create as many teams as they would like and admins will get more controls over how files are shared and with whom they can be shared. That doesn’t seem like an especially interesting feature, but because many larger organizations work with customers outside of the company, it’s something that will make Figma more interesting to these large companies.

After working with Figma on these new tools, Uber, for example, moved all of its company over to the service and 90 percent of its product design work now happens on the platform. “We needed a way to get people in the right place at the right time — in the right team with the right assets,” said Jeff Jura, staff product designer who focuses on Uber’s design systems. “Figma does that.”

Other new enterprise features that matter in this context are single sign-on support, activity logs for tracking activities across users, teams, projects and files, and draft ownership to ensure that all the files that have been created in an organization can be recovered after an employee leaves the company.

Figma still offers free and professional tiers (at $12/editor/month). Unsurprisingly, the new Organization tier is a bit more expensive and will cost $45/editor/month.

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