Figma CEO Dylan Field Discusses Adobe’s $ 20 Billion Deal

  • Adobe’s $ 20 billion bid to buy Figma makes CEO Dylan Field’s stake worth $ 2 billion.
  • Field plans to lead Figma through this transition by focusing on its users and trusting his team.
  • Colleagues and peers say that has been his leadership style since the beginning.

When design-software startup Figma had just started out, cofounder and CEO Dylan Field and his colleagues would pitch potential customers’ design teams, but they struggled with one major problem. While customers were excited about Figma’s product, they hesitated to switch from existing tools.

So when Field and his colleagues convinced fellow startup Coda to use its product during a pitch meeting, they were ecstatic, said Claire Butler, a senior director of marketing and one of Figma’s earliest employees. This was the first time they convinced an entire design team to use its product. “We were kind of surprised, but also excited,” she told Insider.

Once they arrived back at their San Francisco office to celebrate with food from a popular Bay Area Middle Eastern restaurant, Field got a call from the designer he pitched at Coda, who said he couldn’t use the product because there seemed to be a bug . Field quickly put the whole team to work to figure out the issue.

It ended up being an issue on the user’s own computer or network. Still, Field and fellow cofounder Evan Wallace, the CTO, drove 45 minutes all the way back to Coda’s Palo Alto office to help the designer fix it, Butler said.

For those who know Field, his response to the situation wasn’t a surprise. Even today, he’s always prowling Twitter for potential concerns from customers, Butler said.

“He cares and respects our community of users,” she said. “They are important to him. And how people feel about Figma as a tool, as a company, as a brand, like that matters to him too.”

Now, Adobe’s $ 20 billion bid to buy the design software startup makes Field’s stake in the company worth $ 2 billion. It’s come a long way since Field founded Figma in 2012, based on an idea that came out of his time doing the Thiel fellowship for entrepreneurs. Since then, Figma has grown tremendously and become beloved by a large portion of the design community.

The company’s valuation increased fivefold from $ 2 billion to $ 10 billion between 2020 and 2021, due to two funding rounds. It’s been backed by firms like Durable Capital Partners, Index Ventures, Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and others.

Insider spoke to Field, his peers, and his colleagues about his journey, lessons learned, and how he’ll lead Figma through the acquisition.

Field’s rise to success

Figma founders Evan Wallace Dylan Field

Evan Wallace and Dylan Field are the cofounders of Figma.

Figma


Field, a San Francisco Bay Area native who grew up in Sonoma County, had been interested in design since middle school. As an undergraduate at Brown, he decided to major in computer science. After taking time off to do a product design internship at news-sharing service Flipboard, he decided not to return to school.

When he was 19, he did the Thiel fellowship, where he and Wallace came up with the idea for Figma.

Although Figma was founded in 2012, it didn’t release its first product until 2015, and it launched a paid plan in 2017. Field also had to learn about being a CEO, after only having ever been an intern, he previously told Insider. Early in the company’s trajectory, Field said he faced a potential exodus of employees and had to learn to be more open to feedback and empower his team.

These have become the biggest lessons he’s learned as he continued to grow the company.

“Without trust, what is there? And if you don’t have trust, you can’t empower people,” Field said.

Field is described by peers and colleagues as someone who leads with empathy. He’s also brought his family along for Figma’s journey. His mom di lui is a frequent presence around the office and even attended one of the company’s first user conferences.

Leading through Figma’s next chapter

Once the deal closes, Figma will remain an autonomous unit inside Adobe. Field, who will still lead Figma, will report to David Wadhwani, Adobe’s president of the digital-media business.

Still, it’s no surprise that Field is aware that many customers are unhappy or unsure about their favorite software tool being bought by its biggest rival. The day after the deal was announced, he opened a Twitter space and allowed customers to ask questions.

It was only scheduled for 30 minutes, but Field ended up answering questions for almost two hours. He says he had similar worries when considering the deal, so he worked them out with Adobe in negotiations, including making sure Figma maintains autonomy.

Field did the same for employees at an all-hands meeting right after the deal was announced, and he continues to field questions in a Slack channel called “AMA-acquisition.”

“What matters a lot more than my words right now is our actions over the coming years,” Field said. “And I’m very aware of that. So I’m just eager to get back to building with the team and then just show people over time with our consistency that, ‘Hey, we’re gonna take care of you, and this is okay. ‘”

Field has a vision for the future of work

Although the deal stands to make Field a billionaire, his peers and colleagues said it never seemed like his main goal was to sell Figma for a huge profit. Mamoon Hamid, a partner at Kleiner Perkins who led Figma’s Series B round, said he invested because he saw a naturally curious founder who had a “clear point of view” on where design and future of work software should go.

Kleiner Perkins Partner Mamoon Hamid

Kleiner Perkins Partner Mamoon Hamid

Kleiner Perkins


Field is an investor himself in the future of work industry, as he has backed Gather, a video chat startup that offers spatial audio to humanize virtual interactions.

“He’s very detail-oriented when it comes to his own product, the company, how it’s built, the kind of people we hire. Very much like there’s pride in the details, pride of ownership,” Hamid said.

Howie Liu, founder and CEO of software startup Airtable, echoed that. “He has this charisma and passion that’s really inspiring, but in a much more quiet, intense way,” Liu said.

Scott Belsky, the chief product officer at Adobe Creative Cloud.

Scott Belsky, the chief product officer at Adobe Creative Cloud.

Scott Belsky


Field has thought deeply about how work is changing and where Figma fits into that – which is exactly the reason Adobe wants to bring him and his company into its ecosystem, said Scott Belsky, Adobe’s chief product officer.

“Dylan is just an amazing engineer and product thinker and designer. I think that Dylan has tremendous empathy for product designers and what they struggle with,” Belsky said. “He’s also very principled, and Dylan has an incredible ability to know what matters most and to do whatever it takes to preserve that.”

Do you work at Figma or Adobe, or have insight to share? Contact this reporter via email at pzaveri@insider.com or Signal at 925-364-4258. (PR pitches by email only, please.)

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