January 24, 2024

The next Figma? Kittl raises $36m to take on Adobe

The Berlin-based startup says it is targeting a gap in the market by building easy-to-use tools for graphic designers

Tim Smith

3 min read

In a world full of apps like Canva and Figma, it would be easy to think that we don’t need any more shiny software for designers. But if you’re a graphic designer using the old guard of design tools, you’ll know there are still a lot of pain points to iron out.

Berlin-based graphic design software startup Kittl, which has just raised $36m in a Series B round led by US fund IVP, hopes to solve them.

The startup, which was founded in 2020, has now raised $50m to date, from investors including Left Lane Capital and Speedinvest, and counts organisations like Warner Bros, Netflix and Penguin Random House among its clients.


The company also tells Sifted that it’s increased its user base 9x in 2023, with 1m now on the platform.

What problem is Kittl solving?

Founder and CEO Nicolas Heymann says he started Kittl because other new software tools weren’t built for the specific needs of professional graphic designers.

“We saw Figma evolving as a very clear category leader in user interface design, and Canva was the same in social media,” he says. “For graphic designers, it was, and is still, the case that Adobe is the category leader.”

Heymann says Kittl is trying to bring together a lot of elements of what he described as a “broken workflow” for graphic designers. This, he says, often involves going initially to a site like Pinterest for inspiration and making mood boards, then heading over to a stock library like Unsplash for some assets, putting those in a folder and then shifting to Adobe Illustrator to start work.

Kittl says its platform can do all of that in just one tool — as well as  handling post-production steps like sharing large files, which is normally done on a platform like Wetransfer.

“You see how large these other players are and also how old they are. There has just been little innovation in this value chain,” Heymann says.

What’s the market like?

It’s not only in visual design that startups are challenging the industry dominance of Adobe. 

In the world of podcasts, companies like Descript and Podcastle are providing user-friendly and intuitive tools that make it easier than ever to produce an audio show. In video editing, there’s Veed and Filmora.

Part of the reason for this is that Adobe software is known by many creatives to be extremely powerful, but very difficult to use for beginners. And, in a world where more people than ever are becoming creators, there’s ample appetite for tools that take the pain out of making something look or sound nice.

Beyond the AI hype?

Kittl’s product includes a GenAI image generator (powered by OpenAI’s Dall-E 3 model) — but Heymann says his team haven’t just jumped on the zeitgeist. 

“We are not a pure research company, like we can’t solely rely on one AI model. We rely on building product, and we leverage AI and technology in the best way possible,” he says. It’s a message that goes against the trend of so-called “GenAI wrapper” companies, which package up pre-existing, third-party models like Dall-E or ChatGPT into a product with a thin layer of software on top.


“If you just provide a high-level integration [for someone else’s model] that's absolutely not defensible.”

Kittl currently employs around 60 people and plans to double that with the new round of financing, and will be making hires in its product and international expansion teams.

The startup isn’t yet sharing its revenue numbers publicly, so it’s unclear how many of those 1m users are using its tool on the “freemium” tier and how quickly the company can become financially sustainable.

Tim Smith

Tim Smith is news editor at Sifted. He covers deeptech and AI, and produces Startup Europe — The Sifted Podcast . Follow him on X and LinkedIn