Breakout Companies Memo #3- Figma

The Startup which brought Google Docs-like Collaboration to the Design Process.

Ankit Kumar Singh
Jul 26 · 9 min read

“If you join a company, my general advice is to join a company on a breakout trajectory.” — Sam Altman, President at Y Combinator

In this third edition of Breakout Jobs Memos, we are profiling Figma, a collaborative design tool.

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What is a Breakout Job?

A Breakout Job is that one role that helps you get discovered. The best examples which hit my mind are Andrew Chen at Uber and Erik Torenberg at Product Hunt.

What is Figma?

Figma is a collaborative user interface design application which is browser-based and native friendly. It’s often referred to as Google docs for design.

To best understand the vision of Figma, here’s a quote from Danny Rimer of Index Ventures [He led an investment in Figma in 2015]

“The visionary team at Figma has not only recognized that design (and designers) are going to be paramount to the future of the creative economy, but they have also realized that these designers need to work in a completely different way than what they’ve done in the past. Whether it’s Adobe or Sketch, Figma is challenging and rethinking today’s default design solutions. Figma has developed a design platform that enables designers to build and share their work collaboratively. No longer is design siloed — no longer are designs an individual endeavor. With Figma, designers and collaborators can share and iterate in a synchronized manner……Figma is professional-grade software built specifically to create interface design projects directly in a web browser. It offers the speed and stability of powerful legacy design programs like Adobe, but with the versatility and collaborative flexibility of online apps like Google Docs. With Figma, design becomes shareable across teams no matter where the members are located.” [Source]


  1. Web app

2. Mac App

3. Windows App

4. Figma Mirror Mobile App

5. Figma for Organisations

What makes Figma special?

Here’s how Design work looks before and after Figma.

Source: Toptal Blog

Before Figma, several other tools such as Illustrator, UXPin, Email, Slack, Jira were used to facilitate the exchange of design mockups and updates through the team. It led to a series of back and forth file updates, so teams could review and implement the current design.

After Figma, third-party tools are no longer necessary. Figma handles all the functionality of the third-party tools described previously, there is only one step in the process — move from sketches to Figma and all groups have the latest mockups.


1. Solid Community

Community is one moat which very products are able to achieve in their lifetime. Check out Figma Wall of Love.

2. Browser-Based

Figma is not the first browser-based design but it gives them an advantage as to how designers use. Imagine being able to use one of the world’s most powerful design from your browser.

3. Real-Time

Designers can collaborate with the team in real-time. Figma brings the real-time collaboration superpower of Google Docs to the Design process.

3. File Sharing

File sharing in Figma is a moat. Read above on this.

4. Learning Curve

The learning curve for Figma is low — users can get aboard and start utilizing it quickly. The best use of Figma design app is for web designers who need a basic graphic editor to prepare dynamic product prototypes.

5. Marquee Customers

Companies such as Twitter, Uber, Square, Slack, Zoom, Dropbox and other do almost all of their design work on Figma,

Source: Website


Core Team

  1. Dylan Field:- Founder and CEO at Figma, Thiel Fellow, Previously: Intern at Flipboard and LinkedIn.
  2. Evan Wallace:- Founder and CTO at Figma, Previously: Intern at Pixar and Microsoft, Brown University Graduate.
  3. Yuhki Yamashita:- VP of Product at Figma, Previously Uber and YouTube.
  4. Shoo Kuwamoto:- Director of Product at Figma, Previously at Adobe and Medium.

Board Members

  1. John Lilly:- Partner at Greylock, Led investments in companies such as Figma, Caffeine, Tumblr, Instagram, Dropbox, Quip.
  2. Mamoon Hamid:- Partner at Kleiner Perkins, Led Investments in in Slack, Box, Yammer, Intercom, Netskope and Figma. Also, co-founded Social Capital with Chamath Palihapitiya.
  3. Danny Rimmer:- Partner at Index Ventures, Current investments include 1stdibs, Discord, Farfetch, Figma, Glossier, GOAT, Good Eggs, Grailed, Humu, Patreon and Scoop.


From a blog post in 2015 written by Dylan Field

Ever since Writely (now called Google Docs) launched ten years ago, I’ve believed that all software should be online, real-time and collaborative. Creative tools haven’t made the leap because the browser has not been powerful enough. Now, with WebGL, everything has changed.

I first glimpsed the power of WebGL in April 2011. My classmate, Evan Wallace, had just returned to the Brown CS lab after a weekend hackathon. He pulled me aside and showed me how he had re-implemented a server side image processing API in WebGL. “You know,” said Evan, “we could use this thing to build creative tools in the browser.”

This made my ears perk up. Over the next year, Evan and I talked constantly about how we could make creative tools accessible using WebGL and, with the support of the Thiel Fellowship, we decided to start a company together.

We quickly realized the biggest pain point designers face on a day-to-day basis is collaboration with their teams. These problems are further exacerbated because the role of the designer is more cross-functional than ever before. Designers are at the center of the organization: on any given day they might find themselves sharing assets with another designer, adjusting copy for marketing or making redlines for an engineer. While engineers have built all sorts of tools which make it easy for them to work as a team, designers are still in the dark ages when it comes to collaborative workflows. From designing to commenting to sharing to storing, no single tool tackles the entire workflow in one place.

Read the blog post 👇



Figma is one company that is facing tough competition from its counterparts. The company since its launch in 2015 has amassed more than a million


Sketch was a pioneer in the design tools. Notable point, Sketch currently stands at more than 1 Million paying users.

Even though it doesn’t offer a Windows app and can’t be used in a browser, first-mover advantage [Launched in 2010] is serving it well.

The company didn’t raise any venture capital until Benchmark invested $20M in March 2019.

Chetan Puttagunta led Benchmark’s investment in Sketch

To make things tough for Figma, Sketch is coming up with its own Browser based application by the end of 2019.

Invision Studio

Invision is one more competitor in the space.


  1. Figma has till date raised $82.9M in Funding from top Venture Capital firms such as Kleiner Perkins, Founders Fund, Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners and others.
  2. The most recent round, Series C, of $40M was led by Sequoia.
  3. Figma’s Series A[$14M] and Series B[$25M] were led by Greylock and Kleiner Perkins respectively.
  4. The company also has marquee angel investors such as Bob Lee [CTO at Square], Jeff Weiner[CEO of LinkedIn],Daniel Gross[Founder of Pioneer, Cue(acq. by Apple)]
  5. Currently, the company is valued at $440M.

Earnings and Key Numbers

  1. The company posted revenue of $3M in 2018.
  2. The Revenue per employee stands at $46k(approx.) in the year 2018.
  3. The company has an Employee rating of 4.2.

Key Graphs

  1. Twitter Engagement Stats

2. Google Search Trends

3. Twitter Followers Growth

4. Website Traffic Stats

5. Number of Employees

Risk of Further Funding

Risk Profile: Low

At this point of time, the two competitors to really watch out for in the space are Figma and Sketch. However, I wouldn’t rule out Invision and Adobe XD yet.

But, given Figma’s recent momentum and the recent fundraise, it shows that investors are bullish on the tool becoming the market leader.

Figma has also been very aggressive in pursuing new users. In fact, to convert their competitor’s users to their own, they publish guides such as the one below on their blog!

And people are doing it!

However, Sketch already has a loyal user base which gives competitive but it’ll be interesting to watch how they execute their Web App which is launching by the end of 2019.

Other Notable Things

  1. Speed

One could argue that design apps like Sketch have grown in popularity because of speed. Sketch was so much faster, simpler, and more UX design focused than most anything Adobe offered when it was released. It had reliability issues, but we were willing to overlook them because it was, once again, just fun to use. In this way, speed can be tremendous commercial asset. When it comes to software that people live in all day long, a 3% increase in fun should not be dismissed.

Figma is another design tool in the vein of Sketch or Illustrator. In spite of being browser based, Figma is so fast that I laugh from delight whenever I use it. It feels precisely as fast as everything should be on a contemporary computer — which is, extremely. It feels loved. I know the engineering and design teams behind it and I know it is loved. It is built from a position of craft. Close-to-the-metal craft. And you feel it. Not only in speed as speed, but speed as intuitiveness. That is: The tools work more sensibly than the same tools in, say, Illustrator. The pen tool for example. In Figma the pen tool operates from a position of rationality. In this sense, “speed” manifests not only in work per computer cycle, but work per user cycle.[Source]

2. Small Learning Curve for Designers

One thing about Designers is that after working on a tool for so many years, it takes time for them to get used to a new tool. That’s where Figma is killing it.

In the Press

Jobs at Figma

The Spectrum

Thoughts of Prism Labs

Ankit Kumar Singh

Written by

20, Core Team @prism_io (YC S17)

The Spectrum

Thoughts of Prism Labs

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