Prior to announcing its intent to buy Figma for $20 billion on Thursday, Adobe’s largest deal was its $4.75 billion Marketo acquisition in 2018.
Why go so far outside of its pricing comfort zone and pay twice as much as Figma’s most recent private valuation? The easy answer is that it’s about taking a potential rival off the market. Yes, Adobe XD is a similar product, but there could be more to this deal than simply playing defense.
It could be that — like IBM buying Red Hat for $34 billion in 2018 or Salesforce acquiring Slack for almost $28 billion in 2020 — Adobe’s executive team saw a company that could fundamentally alter their organization.
For IBM, the Red Hat acquisition was about the hybrid cloud. For Salesforce and Slack, it was the digital workplace, but both saw a shift coming in their markets and made a huge offer for a key company to get ahead of it. Both also kept those pieces independent with the existing CEO in place (more on this later).
Perhaps Adobe saw the Figma deal as its organization-altering moment as it watched the creative market making a key change from one centered on creating assets with tools like Photoshop and Illustrator to one firmly focused on the creators themselves and the collaborative nature of the design process.
The former is where Adobe has built the bulk of its business. The latter is represented by Figma, a startup with visionary founders who wanted to change the way people thought about design in a digital context, a change so important that the old-guard company was willing to overspend to grab the young upstart and bring the two ways of thinking together.
We spoke to folks from the companies involved, Figma investors and industry analysts to get a sense of why this deal went down. The bottom line is that there were lots of reasons, but perhaps the best one was that Figma and Adobe think they’ll be better together.