Taking Shape
Forbes Indonesia|October 2021
DYLAN FIELD sculpted FIGMA into design software’s hottest startup, valued at $10 billion, by listening first and letting the market and customers guide its research and development.
Alex Konrad

In April, Dylan Field had his craziest day since he skipped out on Brown University to try his hand at startups nearly a decade ago. At the virtual conference of his design software company, Figma, popular with customers including Airbnb, BMW and Zoom, he announced just its second-ever product, a tool for online whiteboarding sessions punnily called FigJam. Hours later, he found out his wife, Elena, was pregnant with their first child.

Field, 29, had spent the majority of the pandemic listening to Figma’s users. While he has traveled as far as Ukraine and Nigeria to visit clients in person, he passed the time during lockdown reading customer support tickets, scanning feedback from sales reps and responding to users on Twitter. By October, he had a plan.

Figma’s main product provides a virtual canvas where designers and others make visuals in real time. But there was no way for them to use Figma to diagram early ideas or create flowcharts. That’s where FigJam comes in, serving as a digital version of a home or office wall covered in Post-it Notes. “With a brainstorming session, you’re trying to create this really fluid space and get everyone into a headspace of ‘are we in flow? We’re going to have fun. And we’re not trying to worry about pixels,’ ” Field says.

After a six-month sprint, Figma had enough input from customers such as Discord, Netflix and Stripe to launch the public beta test version of FigJam; Field pegged it at 25% complete, expecting it to evolve over time. “When you’ve done it enough, it’s almost like the market is going to extract the product out of you,” he says. Already, Figma has added audio support to chat with teammates; another frequently requested feature that moved up in priority: a timer.

Adobe popularized software for designers back in the 1980s; by the time Figma, No. 7 on this year’s Cloud 100 list, came around, designers were also turning to Sketch out of Europe and to InVision (No. 52). Figma, launched in 2016, already has millions of users and expects annual recurring revenue to more than double this year from $75 million in 2020, according to sources. Joe Biden’s campaign managed all its visual assets via Figma. And when toilet paper ran out across the U.S. in 2020, Kimberly-Clark drafted reorder forms using Figma’s tools.

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