Figma rising inside Microsoft, testing longtime cope with Adobe

Dylan Area, co-founder and CEO of Figma, speaks on the startup’s Config convention in San Francisco on Could 10, 2022.


Microsoft and Adobe have been pleasant bedfellows for many years. Microsoft’s dominant PC working system has been the gateway for Adobe to succeed in tens of millions of enterprise customers with its design software program.

The businesses’ CEOs even attended the identical highschool in India, and each moved to the U.S. within the Eighties for graduate faculty in pc science. They share a typical bond over the profitable transition from desktop software program to the cloud.

However inside Microsoft, an rising problem to Adobe is catching hearth and elevating questions on the way forward for one of many tech business’s most intimate relationships.

Figma, a San Francisco-based startup that celebrated its tenth anniversary in August, is being utilized by tens of hundreds of staff inside Microsoft and, for a lot of, is on the coronary heart of their day by day work. The variety of customers has steadily elevated lately, although neither firm will say what number of of them are editors with paid accounts.

The cloud-based design software program got here within the door in 2016, when Microsoft acquired cellular app growth platform Xamarin and introduced in a 350-person group that, months after the deal closed, would grow to be Figma energy customers. The product has since grow to be so central to how Microsoft’s designers do their jobs that Jon Friedman, company vice chairman of design and analysis, mentioned Figma is “like air and water for us.” It is also utilized by engineers, entrepreneurs and information scientists throughout Microsoft.

“Figma’s grow to be, I might say, form of the No. 1 widespread software we use to collaborate throughout all the design neighborhood in the neighborhood and past,” mentioned Friedman, who’s labored at Microsoft for over 18 years. It is “actually nice at serving to us collaborate at scale, and at world scale. I can collaborate with groups we’ve got in India, China, Europe, Israel and Africa.”

Enterprise traders have been all in on the expansion.

In June 2021, throughout the heyday of mega financings, Figma was valued at $10 billion in a funding round that included participation from Morgan Stanley’s Counterpoint International. That was earlier than the 2022 market plunge despatched many cloud shares down by greater than half and largely halted pre-IPO rounds.

Figma hasn’t introduced plans for a inventory market debut, and shareholders aren’t urgent for one anytime quickly, largely as a result of the marketplace for new choices has dried up this 12 months.

The corporate, backed by the likes of Index Ventures, Greylock Companions and Kleiner Perkins, now has the dimensions and development trajectory to land solidly on the radar of public traders. Annualized recurring income has greater than doubled in consecutive years and is poised to high $400 million in 2022, in line with individuals with data of the corporate’s financials who requested to not be named as a result of the numbers are confidential. Figma’s workforce has swelled to 800.

Whereas Microsoft has served as a development driver for Figma, spending tens of millions a 12 months on its deployment, the corporate’s software program has additionally taken off at Google, Oracle and Salesforce, the place it began small and grew organically as followers touted it to their colleagues. Different prospects embrace Airbnb, Dropbox, Herman Miller, Stripe and Twitter.

After Figma founder and CEO Dylan Area tweeted earlier this month in regards to the firm turning 10 years previous, he obtained flattering responses from Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor and Atlassian co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes. Taylor began his response with, “I [heart emoji] Figma.”

For Figma, getting traction inside massive corporations, notably inside Microsoft, has required going head-to-head with Adobe’s competing XD program, and successful its justifiable share of offers. That does not imply the market has utterly flipped, or that Adobe is being totally supplanted.

“We’re nonetheless heavy on Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and XD,” Friedman mentioned.

Adobe and Microsoft have labored collectively for more than two decades. Along with Adobe gaining ubiquity by distributing throughout Home windows machines, the 2 corporations have been syncing their merchandise in desktop, cloud and cellular computing, with over 50 integrations listed on Microsoft’s web site.

Penetrating that alliance has not at all times been clean for Figma. In 2016, Microsoft acquired Dawn, a startup with a well-liked calendar app. The Dawn group relied on Figma and continued to make use of it after the deal closed.

Dawn co-founder Jeremy Le Van mentioned his staff had been among the many fortunate ones at Microsoft. He mentioned some Microsoft staffers weren’t ready to make use of Figma due to the enterprise relationship with Adobe and had been caught utilizing merchandise similar to Photoshop and XD. Regardless of government resistance in sure departments, some designers snuck out of the Adobe ecosystem to make use of Figma anyway, mentioned Le Van, who stayed on as a design director at Microsoft till 2018.

Friedman mentioned he wasn’t conscious of examples of Figma being shut out. “We’ve an important relationship with Adobe as effectively and love their merchandise for a lot of use circumstances at Microsoft,” he mentioned.

The identical 12 months of the Dawn deal, Adobe mentioned it will make Microsoft’s Azure its most well-liked cloud for Inventive Cloud, in addition to the Advertising Cloud and Doc Cloud. To mark the event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, who each went to highschool at India’s Hyderabad Public College, appeared at Microsoft’s Ignite convention for IT professionals below a banner declaring that Adobe loves Azure.

‘We each needed it’

Figma’s collaborative capabilities are central to its reputation. A number of editors of a doc can see each other working in actual time, and non-editors can view designs and go away feedback. Corporations pay for Figma based mostly on the variety of editors they’ve for his or her information.

“Any designer, product supervisor or engineer can soar in and see the design system at play in any specific product,” Friedman mentioned.

Final week, Figma launched a version of its service that folks can use in Microsoft’s Groups communication app, eradicating the necessity to open a browser tab.

“We each needed it,” mentioned Area, who began Figma after scoring a Thiel Fellowship, which got here with a $100,000 grant from enterprise investor Peter Thiel on the situation that he drop out of school (Brown College) and pursue a brand new venture.

The Groups integration is a software that advantages any person of Microsoft merchandise, not simply staff. Adobe, which provides Groups apps for Acrobat and Inventive Cloud, is aware of all in regards to the energy of tying into the Microsoft ecosystem. It has been an enormous a part of the corporate’s success in its 40-year run as much as virtually $17 billion in annual income.

Figma needed to begin small. Like many organizations, Microsoft started utilizing it totally free. Immediately, a buyer will pay Figma every month based mostly on the quantity of people that make modifications to information, whereas a extra restricted model of the service is offered for free of charge.

In 2017, a 12 months after the Xamarin acquisition, Area hosted Friedman at his firm’s San Francisco headquarters. Area says he remembers asking Friedman why Microsoft did not wish to maintain utilizing the free model of Figma.

“‘Look, we’re all fearful you are going to die as an organization,” Area recalled Friedman telling him. “We will not unfold it inside Microsoft as an organization though we prefer it, since you’re not charging.”

It wasn’t nearly conserving Figma alive. As a big-spending buyer, Microsoft was in place to start out asking for extra options.

A workspace inside Constructing 21 on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, on March 3, 2022. Microsoft Corp. has begun calling staff again to its headquarters in latest weeks, however its return-to-office technique hinges on hybrid work.

Chona Kasinger | Bloomberg | Getty Photographs

Area mentioned Microsoft’s suggestions led to a number of enhancements. For instance, Figma engineers labored to make it simpler to maneuver from display to display in a single Figma file. The corporate additionally added help for enter from Xbox sport controllers and made prototype previews work sooner on cellular gadgets.

Finally, Microsoft’s requests helped Figma develop its top-tier enterprise plan, Area mentioned, including to the free model and paid month-to-month premium packages that vary from $12 to $45 per editor per 30 days. The enterprise bundle runs at $75 per editor and contains devoted account managers and superior password administration.

Václav Vančura remembers when issues had been very completely different.

Vančura was a senior designer at Xamarin, whose software program helped corporations construct Android and iOS apps with Microsoft’s C# programming language.

When Figma announced its launch in late 2015, Vančura was impressed with the corporate’s concept for shared design element libraries. He signed up for a preview launch and obtained entry in the summertime of 2016. He inspired his colleagues to leap on board, beginning with David Siegel, Xamarin’s head of design.

Vančura and Siegel encountered snags whereas sharing information from design competitor Sketch. After one Xamarin worker uploaded a file to a Dropbox folder, their teammates typically struggled to get it operating on their computer systems, both as a result of they did not have the precise fonts put in or as a result of they’d completely different variations of the software program.

Not like Sketch, which was solely accessible on MacOS, Figma was on the browser. That meant fewer sharing points. You grant others entry by copying a hyperlink or getting into their electronic mail addresses, identical to in Google Docs. However efficiency was an issue.

Vančura made advanced designs in Figma, inflicting the software program to decelerate, freeze and crash. The Xamarin employees despatched Vančura’s information to Figma engineers, who made Figma speedier and extra secure.

In 2017, Vančura flew from the Czech Republic, the place he lives, to Seattle, after which made the brief trek to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond. He took the chance to point out Figma to his group, a lot of whom had been accustomed to working in Photoshop and Illustrator.

“It was wonderful. It was like watching Components 1,” Vančura mentioned. “There have been so many mouse tips on the display, and all people designed one thing, even when it meant they had been pasting GIFs or drawing rectangles. All of them had been so blown away. I feel that was the second these individuals found out this was an enormous time saver.”

Gaining traction

Siegel, who had grow to be Microsoft’s head of design for developer providers, needed to get the phrase out extra broadly that Microsoft was evolving and wasn’t caught to its previous remoted methods. In 2018, he posted a manifesto of types on-line.

“We use PCs, Macs, Figma, Sketch, GitHub, JavaScript, ZEIT, and different trendy instruments to design, prototype, and construct the way forward for software program growth,” Siegel wrote on Xamarin’s web site. There was a hyperlink to a Figma file that Microsoft staff may open.

The web site reached the entrance web page of Hacker Information, a dialogue board for software program builders.

“That is some unimaginable self-awareness,” one commenter wrote.

Quickly after, Benedikt Lehnert, a Microsoft product design director, informed Friedman that the corporate wanted everybody on the identical program, whether or not it was Figma or XD. Microsoft selected Figma, Lehnert mentioned.

Scott Belsky, chief product officer and government vice chairman for Inventive Cloud at Adobe after which a enterprise associate at Benchmark, speaks onstage on the TechCrunch Disrupt convention in San Francisco on Sept. 13, 2016.

Steve Jennings | TechCrunch | Getty Photographs

Vančura mentioned that at Microsoft, “Figma unfold throughout the corporate so quick that I do not suppose Adobe was even capable of catch up.”

Figma is not shy about going up towards an business heavyweight. On its website, Figma says, “Don’t sync to the cloud with Adobe XD. Work within the cloud with Figma.” It asserts that designers are transferring away from Adobe’s Inventive Cloud bundle, the product that accounts for 59% of Adobe’s revenue.

in 2020, Adobe added Figma to the checklist of rivals it publishes in its annual report.

Analysts have raised questions on Figma to Adobe executives on not less than three events this 12 months. Alex Zukin of Wolfe Analysis requested throughout a January fireplace chat with Adobe executives Scott Belsky and David Wadhwani if Figma was taking market share.

Belsky, Adobe’s product chief and government vice chairman for Inventive Cloud, did not reply the query instantly. However he acknowledged that enterprise capitalists have been funneling cash into the area.

“It is thrilling that VCs see the similar factor we’re seeing,” Belsky mentioned. “5-plus years in the past, you did not see any materials {dollars} going into the inventive instruments. I suppose now everybody sees that.”

Belsky mentioned Adobe can reap the benefits of a chance to deliver Inventive Cloud to the net, which it is completed for Illustrator and Photoshop however not XD, a product that was launched in preview in 2016.

An Adobe spokesperson declined to speak about plans for an internet model of XD, and mentioned the corporate will speak about plans for Inventive Cloud at its Max convention in October.

“We don’t see an affect to the Photoshop enterprise ensuing from gamers within the product design class,” the spokesperson mentioned. “We developed and have developed Adobe XD to handle the wants of our core design prospects, who’re designing advertising and marketing experiences for screens, slightly than the distinct class of product design and growth.”

Many challenges

Nonetheless, the stress on Adobe is intensifying.

Prior to now three months, Figma’s app for iOS gadgets has constantly ranked above Adobe XD within the graphics and design part of Apple’s App Retailer, in line with figures from, previously generally known as App Annie.

Wells Fargo analyst Michael Turrin said Figma has potential to expand.

“What Figma is trying to create is more of a broader platform that could become more of a system of record within this market, and that’s why I think this could become more important,” he said.

Figma isn’t the only upstart in the space making waves. An open-source alternative called Penpot, which can automatically generate the underlying source code for designs people make in the software, is also gaining momentum.

Microsoft employees are using Penpot and have contributed to it, said Pablo Ruiz-Muzquiz, who co-founded the project. Of the people who test Penpot, almost 20% are coming from Figma, he said.

Penpot’s code lives on GitHub, which Microsoft owns, under an open-source license, allowing people to download the code, modify it and run it on their own servers. That’s not true of Figma, which keeps its own source code private.

But Figma is evolving. One job description suggests Figma is contemplating a major replace to its iPad app that would offer an area to make new designs and never simply view or share them.

And Figma has been busy increasing its government ranks. In June, the corporate promoted Praveer Melwani, its head of enterprise operations and finance, to the finance chief place. The following month, former Deutsche Financial institution and Goldman Sachs government Kate DeLeo joined Figma as vice chairman of investor relations and enterprise operations.

As the corporate marches towards an eventual introduction to Wall Road, getting extra out of its relationship with Microsoft presents a chance for development. Increasing the variety of methods Figma will get used is one avenue.

“It really works nice as a presentation software,” Friedman mentioned.

Figma in all probability will not ever exchange Microsoft’s homegrown PowerPoint software program or Adobe’s PDF format, however Area mentioned his product boasts distinct benefits. For one, Figma avoids the issue of the continuous back-and-forth emailing of a presentation by letting individuals merely share a hyperlink. A Microsoft spokesperson mentioned PowerPoint customers may also use hyperlinks to ship paperwork.

“I would be stunned if there is no salespeople at Microsoft that use it. My guess is there’s some,” Area mentioned, concerning Figma. “Is it vital? No, in all probability not.”

Not but, anyway.

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