A Twist in Figma's Rise: Adobe Deal Is Called Off

The companies said they doubted they could secure regulatory approval of the deal
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2022 1:34 PM CDT
Updated Dec 18, 2023 9:01 AM CST
His Software Was Meant to Rival Adobe's. Now, a $20B Deal
A view of the Adobe headquarters is seen in San Jose, Calif.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
UPDATE Dec 18, 2023 9:01 AM CST

"If this deal fell apart tomorrow, I'd feel just fine," said Figma co-founder Dylan Field when Adobe's planned $20 billion acquisition of the company was announced in September. No word on whether that's how he's feeling after the companies called off the deal Monday, saying they determined it was unlikely the European Commission and UK Competition and Markets Authority would grant them regulatory approval, reports the Wall Street Journal. In November, the UK agency said it suspected the acquisition would eliminate Figma as an Adobe rival, thereby killing competition in the product-design software space and curtailing innovation. The companies disagreed with the assessment but "believe it is in our respective best interests to move forward independently," said Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen.

Sep 16, 2022 1:34 PM CDT

When Dylan Field started work on the design-software startup Figma with former Brown classmate Evan Wallace, he hoped it would one day rival Adobe's Photoshop. This week, the 30-year-old arranged to sell his company to the larger one, and the payday will be "colossal" if the deal goes through, per the Wall Street Journal: $20 billion in cash and shares. That's double what Figma—deemed the "Google Docs, or GitHub, for designers," per Forbes—was valued at in June of last year, and an even bigger jump from 2018, when it was privately valued at $115 million.

It's an astonishing ascent for Field, a shy student at Brown who dropped out of the Ivy League school during his junior year to accept a Peter Thiel-run entrepreneurial fellowship, which he first used to try to come up with a drone software package. When that idea didn't pan out, he and Wallace, whom he'd met in the computer science program at Brown, debuted Figma, a graphics-editing platform that allows for collaboration among users. Four years after they started, the two launched the first public version of Figma's virtual sketch board, and suddenly Field was Silicon Valley's "it" guy. Netflix, Zoom, and Airbnb now count themselves among Figma's clients.

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Wallace left Figma in late 2021. Both men will still hold about a 10% stake in the company, per Forbes. Field will continue to serve as CEO, reporting to David Wadhwani, Adobe's chief business officer for digital media, and in a Thursday blog post, Field wrote that "Adobe is deeply committed to keeping Figma operating autonomously," per Quartz. The Journal notes that some fans aren't thrilled that this tech David allowed itself to be absorbed by the industry's Goliath, but IPOs have been in a precarious position lately, and Field, now a new dad, says it was better to jump now on Adobe's offer than risk going public. And if it doesn't work out? "If this deal fell apart tomorrow, I'd feel just fine," he says. (Much more here on Field's rise to the top of Silicon Valley.)

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