Niki and I went round to the Canva office the other day for an update. Melanie started by restating her mission to democratise design and did this using a slide deck from when we first met her in 2012, before the company was even incorporated. It sets out in detail the future of a world with Canva.
Tens of millions of users and hundreds of employees later, the Canva mission is exactly the same today and just as powerful.
We’ve learnt that a crisply articulated mission is way more than just a good pitch. The great founders we’ve worked with all have a version of the future mapped out in their heads in high definition and vivid colour. It’s become a major part of our selection criteria at Blackbird.
An overarching principle
A strong mission becomes the organising principle for everything you do. It’s a light to guide you and your team as you go through the foggy marsh of a startup journey.
Founders need to make hundreds of decisions a day — some small, some big. The worst thing you can do is be indecisive. If you have a clear mission, it becomes the guiding principle for all your decisions. It’s much easier to make those hundreds of decisions if you can compare each to your one overriding goal. And you’re more likely to be right more often.
Missions allow iteration
If your mission stays firm, everything underneath can stay fluid. You’ll try things, fail, iterate. You’ll hire people and fire them, you’ll tack one way or the other, but always judged against the goal of moving closer to your mission.
The magnetic effect of a mission
The success of a startup is almost always defined by how well the founding team can convince others of their version of the future. Big beautifully articulated missions are magnetic forces for great people - for the best staff, the best investors, the best customers, the best partners.
Missions and complexity
The more complex or ambitious your product, the more important it is to distill everything down to a single mission that can be easily understood. The excuse that your business is too complex to be explained by a simple mission is just that, an excuse.