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Entertaining Entrepreneurship

Guy Kawasaki’s evangelizing Canva

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Guy Kawasaki’s name has become almost synonymous with tech entrepreneurship and evangelism. Over the past 25 years, he’s had a hand in advising a generation of tech start-ups and innovators, either directly, through stints at Apple and Google, or through his writings, speaking engagements, podcast and numerous books. Guy has started up a few of his own companies as well, and the venture capital fund he launched, Garage Technology Ventures, has invested in a variety of early-stage technology companies. 

I first interviewed Guy for this podcast in 2006. Catching up with him nearly 15 years later was a real treat — although we were a little delayed getting started. As Guy explained, the waves were pretty good that day, so he had to get a little extra surfing in. When he’s not riding the waves, Guy is the Chief Evangelist for Canva, an Australian startup now valued at $6 billion. In this episode, he shares what it means to be an evangelist, the role of luck in entrepreneurship, how his own work life has evolved and the career achievement he’s most proud of — which also happens to be the one he feels is most underappreciated.

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Highlights from this episode:

“Canva is what I call ‘Guy’s Golden Touch,’ which is not that whatever I touch turns to gold…It’s whatever’s gold, Guy touches.”

“I hope that I help empower an entire generation of entrepreneurs.”

“The beginning of my career was just stupendous, with Macintosh, and the end of my career with Canva is also stupendous. Between that, there was a lot of thrashing.”

“Some people believe that it’s a zero sum game and your gain is somebody’s loss and somebody else’s gain is your loss. I don’t think that’s a very useful attitude in this world, especially if you want to be an entrepreneur.”

“This is a very long answer to tell you that nobody knows. And the only way you can know is looking backwards so if you pivot and you’re successful.”

“There is no answer to this question. I mean, there’s only after the fact. If you’re right, you declare victory. If you’re wrong, nobody gives a shit, because you’re not on the radar. “

“Macintosh democratized computing so why not democratize design? That’s a good thing. And really, the rest is history.”

“Without a lot of serendipity and good luck and timing etc. etc etc., I would not be involved with Canva.”

“I have squeezed the trigger 10 or 15 times in my career, and every time I thought I was on the cusp of funding the next unicorn or starting the next unicorn or being in the next unicorn. I’m one for 15 or something like that….being one for 15 is still better than being zero for 15.”

“You could say, Guy, that’s what you did today? You sent a 30-second email? Well, it took 25 years to get to the point where I could send a 30-second email.”

“I started this at 60. I didn’t want to be a CEO, a CMO, I didn’t want to be a CX anything.”

“The reason why I asked you to delay our interview is because the waves are pretty good today. I wanted to surf half an hour longer.”

“Evangelism means that you’re bringing the good news…so I brought the good news about the democratization of design.”

“I don’t have to have a monthly meeting to go to with goals and tactics. I was like a weapon. Just turn me loose.”

“At my age, position in life, you don’t measure it by the clock.”

“It’s a lesson in management that you should hire people who complement you, not duplicate you.”

“[Canva founder Melanie Perkins is] like Steve Jobs, only nice.”

“It is a source of great pride to me that I work for a woman who is half my age.”

“You need education, you need experience, but then, I would just ask you to look at a third box, and the third box is, does he or she get it?”

“If you’re good at social media, social media is fast, free and ubiquitous.”

“If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re waiting for that moment where you have a unique product that nobody else, literally, can make, in a growing market, with no competition, with a world class team, with all the capital that you need — you’re on a hard drug. That situation is never going to occur.”

“Ninety percent of it is, you’re affiliated with something that is good news.”

“I would rather make a great product and train the evangelist than take a great evangelist and find and fix the product for that person, because a great evangelist with crap is still crap.”

“I don’t know if I’ll ever write a book, again, although I’ve said that 14 times now. It’s because a podcast is so much more timely, and also, after you’ve written 15 books, quite honestly, you could have run out of things to say.”

“I think, as I look back on my career, my podcast is the best work that I have ever done. And I think it’s the least appreciated work that I’ve done.”

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