Adobe Launches Express Lane for SMB Creators

One emerging battleground in the SMB SaaS world is what’s become known as the creator economy. Not necessarily new, its comprised of the Etsy artists and cooking shows of the world. The common thread is SMB online personas or micro-brands that distribute goods or knowledge online.

This segment has expanded in the Covid era as SMBs like yoga instructors and music schools have been forced to join the ranks of digitally-distributed pros. Correspondingly, the trend breathed new life into a software providers like Canva that build production and even video tools for creators.

But the original creator economy play is arguably Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Even before it was a multidimensional SaaS play, Creative Cloud components have been synonymous with the creator economy – everything from photographers using photoshop to graphic designers using Illustrator.

Vistaprint Doubles Down on the Creator Economy

Sparking Creativity

Building on the above, Adobe’s latest move was this week’s launch of Creative Cloud Express. The mobile and web app is meant to further democratize creative tools by simplifying them for SMBs and solo creators. It does this by boiling down the sprawling Creative Cloud suite into a few key elements.

For example, Creative Cloud Express use cases include removing the background of an image, or applying Photoshop-style filters and effects. Users can also do things like convert video files to GIFs and convert documents to PDFs. Think of it as a sort of greatest hits of the Creative Cloud.

This newly oriented tool also takes shape in a single application, rather than the constellation of apps that are endemic to the Creative Cloud. In that one app, users can tap into the above Creative Cloud functions but without bouncing around from one highly-specialized app to another.

The app’s goal of streamlined simplicity is also accomplished through a templatized approach. For example, there are templates for popular formats like social posts, banner ads, print posters and Zoom backgrounds. It also comes with stock images and other creative assets to drop into any project.

For those familiar with the Creative Cloud, Express replaces Adobe Spark. It’s now available for $9.99 per month (a bargain for the 175-million strong stock image library alone) with a stripped-down free version to entice tire-kickers. Both can be found in Apple’s App Store, Google Play, and the Microsoft Store.

Canva Raises $200M for its Creative-Cloud for SMBs


Coming full circle to creative-economy competitors, one player that Adobe’s latest move could be targeting is Canva. As noted above, Canva has tapped into a sizable market for streamlined and web-based SaaS creative tools that appeal to non-technical and even non-creative types.

Conversely, Creative Cloud’s many moving parts were always meant to achieve functional depth for creative pros – it’s bread and butter. That can be seen in highly-specialized software like Photoshop and Illustrator. But less-savvy creators and SMBs just want the basics of each, all in one place.

The latter is the market that Canva has tapped into and Adobe now wants to reclaim. Additional pressure likely comes from Canva’s commercial success in this segment. As we’ve examined, the company recently secured $200 million and launched video as it continues to gain global traction.

Meanwhile, this down-market segment of the creator economy could represent a key battleground. We’ll keep watching as giants like Adobe battle smaller (but increasingly formidable) players like Canva. Others loom such as Vista (formerly Vistaprint), and upstarts that will emerge to meet demand.

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