The new creative powerhouse? Canva acquires Affinity

18 months after Adobe announced its plans to buy Figma, the creative scene is yet again in shock as Canva announced it acquired Affinity, the independent creative suite.

Back in September 2022, Adobe announced it plans to acquire Figma, the most popular creative tool. I wrote about that in Creativerly and also shared a link to a Tweet by Dylan Field (Figma's CEO) in which he mentioned that their goal is to be Figma and not Adobe, back in January 2021. Well, one year and eight months later, Adobe was ready to put down $20b to acquire the company led by the person that stated to stay Figma instead of becoming the company that just showed interest to acquire you (side note: after 15 months, Adobe and Figma announced the abandonment of the proposed merger). You might think that those funny coincidences do not happen that often. You are wrong, because it just happened again.

When Adobe announced its acquisition plans, there were a couple of companies who profited from it. Penpot, an open-source Figma alternative, inked $8m in funding as their signups skyrocket 5600% after Adobe's announcement to acquire Figma. Besides that, loads of designers and creative folks used Adobe's urge to create a design monopoly as last resort to leave the platform and search for alternatives. The most popular Adobe Creative Suite alternative out there is the Affinity Suite by Serif, which is trusted by over three million creative professionals. Serif started developing creative software for Windows already in 1987. After building solid apps and creating a viable business throughout 20 years, the team behind Serif decided to focus on developing a super-fast suite of apps for creative professionals using Mac, Windows, and iPad. In October 2014, they presented the first product of this mission, Affinity Designer, an Adobe Illustrator alternative. One year later, Affinity Photo, an Adobe Photoshop alternative, followed. And in 2019, Affinity wrapped their suite up (for now), by launching Affinity Publisher, an Adobe InDesign alternative. In 2022, version 2 of the whole Affinity Suite got introduced across macOS, Windows, and iPadOS. Until this day, Affinity racked up multiple awards like an Apple Design Award, Windows Developer Award, App of the Year, and others.

The Affinity Suite, loved and rewarded by millions

Affinity was thriving, and on September 16th 2022, the day Adobe announced its plan to acquire Figma, they tweeted "Ain't nobody acquiring us". Just like Dylan Field's Tweet, this one did not age well, as Affinity announced today, March 26th 2024, that it got acquired by Canva, the Australian-based unicorn valued at $25.6b, and which has been on a shopping spree as of recently, since they acquired Kaleido and Smartmockups in 2021, and Flourish in 2022.

Ouch, this tweet did not age well.

In a blog post by Ashley Hewson, CEO of Serif, Affinity added FAQs to tackle the most important questions users might have right now. One of them is aimed at why Serif decided to sell to Canva. From the very early days of developing Affinity, our aim has always been to empower the world to design with incredibly powerful professional creative tools which do not cost a fortune. We are really proud of everything we have achieved so far, with more than three million designers around the world using our apps. This is exactly why I was so thankful for Affinity and why I appreciated their apps so much.

We have to say that selling Serif was not on our minds at all, but when Canva contacted us (only a couple of months ago!) there was something about it which just felt right. Product-wise it is a great fit as Canva do not have professional design tools as part of their offering, and we do not have any cloud or collaboration as part of ours. But more than that, our overall philosophies align so well and Canva’s culture (despite being a much larger company than us) is very similar. We do believe that together we can produce the world’s most comprehensive visual communications offering, while at the same continuing to serve our existing creative professional community with more rapid development of our apps. Without having full insights into this acquisition, obviously, as a bystander I simply disagree with that. Affinity was thriving as an independent company, it was loved because it is an independent company, and users trusted them for the exact reasons. If selling was not on your mind, why did you end up ... selling?

I believe, Affinity or Serif being an independent company was a good, no, a great thing. Publishers like The Verge say that Canva's acquisition of Affinity, positions itself as a challenger to Adobe's grip over the digital design industry. I do not see why this would be a thing. Why should I decide to leave a multi-billion dollar company selling creative tools, just to make the switch to another multi-billion dollar company, which just acquired probably my favorite suite of independently owned creative tools? Canva is not serving creative professionals. Adobe is, and in fact, Affinity is too. I can see how those creative professionals would not feel themselves at home, when a company like Canva is owning the tools they are relying on every single day. Sure, the Affinity team will continue to develop their apps, but as they stated within the mentioned blog post and FAQs, large resources provided by Canva will get involved, and they will also be some integrations between Affinity and Canva in the future.

The most worrying part for most users is probably the fact that Canva's business model is subscription, while Affinity's is not, they are offering their apps for a single one-time purchase, and the possibility to buy updates to major versions, again for a single-time purchase. Within the FAQs, Affinity states that there are no changes to the pricing model planned at this time. Ouch, at this time. I am not sure if I am reading between the lines, but I assume that if not a single discussion about a potential subscription model had been part of the acquisition talks, Affinity would state that instead of leaving it open if subscriptions will arrive anytime in the future.

I am not here to judge. I simply love using software built, designed, and development by independent teams. Affinity has been one of the best examples for that. A beautifully designed, lovely, powerful, and viable suite of creative tools. While Adobe is gatekeeping the creative field with expensive, even overpriced subscriptions to bloated, complex, and slow software, Affinity provided such powerful tools to everyone by selling them at an affordable price, as a one-time purchase. I try to be optimistic, in fact they still do, however, the acquisition worries me. Affinity's most compelling reason to buy it over Adobe is in fact its business model. While I am still unsure what motivated Canva to acquire Affinity, what goals they were aiming for, let us imagine they want to compete with Adobe. Adobe is suffering, experiencing a substantial exodus of users because of its expensive subscription model. If Canva decides to transition Affinity to a subscription model too (maybe because of short-term greed), they would screw up the last remaining users, the ones who did not leave after the initial acquisition announcement. Affinity is such a beloved company because of its caring nature of not having a subscription. They stated that multiple times online. After their apps received loads of lovely and powerful updates, some users were expecting the news that Affinity will introduce a subscription model, however, it was clear that it is not in their interest to do so.

This kind of describes the complete opposite of what Canva is. If Canva messes up what Affinity has built, I can see a large chunk of users actually leaving the platform, well, they might even consider a move back to Adobe.

Big acquisitions like this one rarely end up well for the smaller company.

But here I am, being optimistic, and hoping for the best.

I love Affinity.

Till next time! 👋‌‌‌‌

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