Ottawa’s Fastest Growing Companies: ‘Scrappy’ Snappa changing graphic design

Editor's Note

Each year, OBJ recognizes the region’s rapidly growing firms with its Fastest Growing Companies awards. The aim is to honour the city’s top performers for substantial, sustainable and profitable growth. Recipients are ranked by their three-year revenue growth. They must have had revenues of at least $100,000 in the first of those three years under consideration. Revenues must have risen to at least $500,000 in their most recent fiscal year. The companies will be profiled online in the coming days and recognized at a cocktail reception on May 23 at Kanata co-working space Head Office Ottawa. Click here for info.

Good graphic design can help elevate a business to new heights ​– but it’s not always easy to create, even when the talent or inspiration is there.

Frustrated with the lack of effective tools to create such game-changing graphics, Christopher Gimmer set out to come up with his own. The result is Snappa, an online graphic design tool producer that has landed on this year’s list of OBJ’s fastest-growing companies.

“While I was creating content at our previous startup, I experienced several pain points when it came to creating visuals,” says Gimmer, who also co-founded local startups BootstrapBay and StockSnap.

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He stumbled over problems such as unreliable freelancers, unco-operative graphic design tool interfaces and even things as trivial as gaining the usage rights for stock images found online. All are things that could hamper the creative process and subsequently stifle business growth, and all, Gimmer believed, are problems that could be solved with a single product.

He launched Snappa in 2015 as an “online graphic design tool for non-designers.” The venture took root very quickly. His motivation to solve a problem rather than simply create an alternative resonated with many other creative marketers and entrepreneurs who had been dealing with the same problems Snappa had set out to fix.

Today, Snappa services more than 100,000 monthly users, and more than 15 million images and designs have been created using the tool. Gimmer credits his success to a handful of core values, scrappiness being at the top of the list.


Year founded: 2015

Local headcount: Four

Three-year revenue growth: 214.34%

2019 ranking: #7

“Since we’re a bootstrapped startup, we’ve had to be very scrappy to get to where we are,” he explains. “Everyone on our team is extremely resourceful and we always try to be creative when solving problems rather than throwing money at it.”

That approach is integral to why Snappa works, especially considering the company is run by a team of just four people, including Gimmer himself. In keeping with the firm’s theme of simplifying and streamlining the graphics process, his team tries not to micromanage each other and relies on its creativity and resilience to overcome obstacles.

“We don’t overcomplicate things,” Gimmer says. “We bake simplicity into our product, our marketing and the way we run our company.”

That approach appears to be working. Over the past two years, the company has added a number of product features to the service, introduced new subscription options and expanded the scope of products its software can handle.

Even though Snappa’s baseline functionality is free, more than 5,000 customers have purchased subscriptions to take advantage of the expanded features. As the service grows and offers more options to users, Gimmer says it won’t lose touch with its original goals.

“From the very beginning, we have focused on making Snappa super-fast and incredibly easy to use,” he says. “Our customers love the fact that they can spend less time making graphics and more time growing their business.”

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