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Adobe’s acquisition of Figma is a $20 billion bet to control the entire creative market

Over the past few years, Figma has built its name as a forward-thinking and collaborative design platform and a strong competitor to giant Adobe in the creative apps market. That race ended Thursday when Adobe announced a $20 billion deal to acquire Figma.

The acquisition allows Adobe to integrate Figma’s popular design tools into its portfolio of widely used creative apps. But the acquisition means Adobe will once again take a major competitor out of the market and bring it under its own umbrella, frustrating many designers who rely on the tool and wary of another critical platform joining the company’s Creative Cloud service. . And they have a point: With Figma on the market, the list of companies that could challenge the Adobe empire has gotten meaningfully shorter.

The Figma team will have “full autonomy”.

Adobe says the current plan doesn’t necessarily change anything. “I think acquisitions work best when they’re done on a company-by-company basis and you never follow a playbook,” Scott Belsky, Adobe’s chief product officer and EVP of Creative Cloud, said in an interview. to the edge. Belsky said the Figma team will have “complete autonomy.”

Figma’s independence is something they repeatedly emphasize; A LinkedIn post from Belsky and a blog post from Figma CEO Dylan Field both state that the plan is for Figma to continue operating autonomously. “The last thing anyone wants is to disrupt any of our roadmaps,” Belsky said. That means, according to Belsky, there are no plans to bring Figma inside the Creative Cloud and no changes to Figma’s pricing.

If anything, the first changes may be on Adobe’s side. Adobe is disinvesting in Adobe XD, its competing design platform for things like apps and websites, and XD users may migrate to Figma in the future, Belsky said. “We never thought this was a big opportunity for product design and development and this vertically integrated stack,” he said. Currently, Adobe has a “small team” supporting XD for its existing customers. “Once [the acquisition] Ultimately, we can figure out with Figma how to serve those customers,” he said.

Field knows they have to earn customers’ trust. “We need to build that trust for Adobe and Figma by showing what we’re doing, the actions we’re taking, and showing up for the community and being consistent over time by doing what’s right here.”

Screenshot of Figma's new dark mode on a starry background.

Figma recently added dark mode.
Image: Figma

Adobe has a history of acquiring some of the biggest tools in the creative space, buying companies like Frame.io, a video production collaboration tool, and Behance, which allows people to showcase their creative work. (Belsky first joined Adobe through this acquisition.) The company bought A lot Companies — Photoshop is also an acquisition. It’s more about Figma buying designers; One of Adobe’s few significant challengers has taken over, meaning Adobe will continue to consolidate its creative app power in one place.

The acquisition isn’t necessarily an antitrust concern, but it could still come under scrutiny from regulators. “It certainly looks like Adobe is in a dominant market position, and this acquisition will increase that dominance,” Matt Kent, a competition policy attorney for the consumer advocacy firm Public Citizen, said in an interview. But just because Adobe is bigger doesn’t mean the merger violated the law, he said.

“Any developer in that community will be acquired by Adobe”

Competing developers have mixed views on the acquisition. Affiliate, which offers its own suite of creative software, hopes the acquisition will spur innovation in the creative app space. “If any developers in that community are bought by Adobe, they’re going to be crushed because their goals are aligned with what’s good for Adobe. Ultimately that only reduces the choice available to creatives,” Ashley Hewson, managing director of Affinity developer Serif, said in an emailed statement.

Alludo, maker of the Corel suite of tools, took a more positive tone. “While we don’t have a specific comment on Adobe’s news, this move is certainly a confirmation of what we’ve believed for years — that collaboration tools are critical in the world of design,” Prashant Ketkar, Alludo’s CTO and CPO, said in an emailed statement. “We hope this movement can gain momentum.”

Adobe is making the purchase at a time when regulators are increasingly trying to crack down on big tech mergers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed to block Meta’s acquisition of the company behind the VR fitness app Supernatural In July, for example, and in November Nvidia’s now-defunct arm filed suit to block the acquisition. FTC spokeswoman Betsy Lordon said the FTC does not comment on proposed transactions, and Justice Department spokeswoman Arlen Morales declined to comment.

The Figma acquisition is expected to close in 2023 and will have to pass regulatory scrutiny before then. If that’s the case, both companies have a lot to prove. In January 2021, Field tweeted that “Our goal is not Figma Adobe,” And I asked him how he felt about that tweet since he was soon to be part of Adobe. “I still stand by that tweet, and not because I have any reservations about Adobe,” he said. “We have been very focused in all of our conversations about this acquisition [the] Autonomy of Figma.”

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