Figma, a design tool aimed at rivalling Adobe, is set to open a new headquarters in London this month, signalling the company’s intent to grow its European presence.
Launched four years ago, Figma offers designers the ability to collaborate in real time, aiming to do for design what Google Docs did for text editing 10 years ago.
Forbes gives the company an estimated valuation of $2bn, and it already counts BT and Deliveroo as clients in London, with Zalando in Berlin and Spotify in Stockholm as well. Notable backers include Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital. In the US, their clients include Uber, Slack and Twitter, and notable backers for Figma include Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital.
The London headquarters will be Figma’s first international base and will allow them to be closer to European clients. A move to London is a sign that Figma is stepping up its challenge to rivals like Adobe on a more global scale — the company said that 81% of their weekly active users are now based outside of the US.
The move also signals the company’s belief in London continuing to be a creative capital in Europe, following the moves made by big tech companies like YouTube and Google. Figma said it had been drawn to London because of the UK government’s manifesto pledge to focus on design as one of the “industries of the future.”
The company has also seen an “explosion” in UK customers, with an 86% increase in users based in the country this year. Most of the new customers are using the tool for app and game design, Figma said, and they’ve seen an uptake in usage as companies moved online during lockdown.
“As I spent time internationally, I quickly learned that our time zone coverage was inadequate for users outside the US,” Figma chief executive Dylan Field wrote in a statement. Field started the company after dropping out of college to join the Thiel fellowship, run by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, and has twice been named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30.
Last year, the company went on to hire an Amsterdam based team, before settling on London as the right place to grow their local European presence. Figma currently has fourteen employees working remotely in the capital.
“Opening an office is so much more than a physical space,” wrote Field. “It’s also about sharing a time zone with more of our users, attracting diverse talent as Figma continues to grow, and understanding local nuances in order to support design communities across the world.”
Danny Rimer, a partner at Index Ventures, told Sifted that the success of Figma was part of a broader theme of people being more demanding about design.
“It’s amazing how sophisticated we’ve all become in our expectations of great design when it comes to apps and services. Whether it’s the streaming services or games we use in our spare time or the software we interact with at work, great design is something we all appreciate.”
He added: “Designers are busier than ever but the luxury of being able to look over each others shoulders to brainstorm and riff on ideas is no longer. Figma is designed to help teams bridge a spatial divide with new web-based workflows that bring more people into the process for faster, more efficient ideation and prototyping.“
Figma is typically used for UX/UI design, but its community has grown to include innovative clients too. Users post online about their Figma designs, from creating an entirely virtual Silicon Valley to skins for video games Animal Crossing and Minecraft, and a designer recently used AI breakthrough “GPT-3” to build a Figma plugin that automated the design process.
The company is focused on creating a community for its designers — this September will see their first virtual conference, Config, where users can share ideas with each other.