On September 15, Adobe announced that it had acquired UI/UX design software company Figma in a $20 billion merger agreement.
In the official press release, Adobe claims that the deal signals “a new era of collaborative creativity.”
Adobe released its own UI/UX product, Adobe XD, in 2016. The software has since failed to keep up with its rivals, which included Figma, as well as the independently owned Sketch.
As expected, the outcry from current Figma users on social media has been staggering, encompassing everything from memes to threats of defection to recommendations for independent software alternatives.
There is a direct competitive relationship between the three companies, clearly seen on both the Figma and Sketch websites which host landing pages for comparing performance and features – including a page advocating for Figma over Adobe XD, which remains on Figma’s website for almost a week after the acquisition was announced. Adobe buying Figma for 50x its reported revenue has instigated some to label the purchase as monopolistic behavior.
Matt Stoller, Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and advocacy concerning issues related to antitrust law, announced in a post on his Substack that he is soliciting feedback in response to the merger from disgruntled and disparaged designers, which he claims he will pass along to “the relevant antitrust officials who are looking at the deal.”
Aside from accusations of antitrust law violations, many current Figma users are concerned about what the deal means regarding future user experiences, especially regarding costs. Currently, Figma offers a starter plan for free, with a monthly fee of $12 per user for professional plans. Knowing the costs of an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, many are concerned that Figma’s affordability will be sacrificed by its new overlords.
On the other hand, some tech and design journalists are urging folks not to despair. In an article on The Verge, Jess Weatherbed cites previous mergers by Adobe after which the acquired software improved, such as with TypeKit and Magento.
Additionally, Weatherbed also cites a blog post by designer Chuck Rice that echoes these sentiments by persuading users to look at the historical evidence of what acquisition leads to for independent companies, rather than fear-mongering speculation.
By looking at other acquisitions within the SaaS industry, such as Trello’s acquisition by Atlassian, Rice argues that Figma users will most likely experience very little upheaval in the way they use the product. It may be important to note that Rice is a Friends of Figma Community Advocate, meaning that he represents the company as an unpaid but recognized leader in the user base.
While the effects on users remain to be seen, the effects on investors remain equally shrouded. Considering that the deal cost $10 billion in cash, of which Adobe only had $5.76 billion on hand this month stockholders are having to ask the same question as designers: stay on board or jump ship?