99designs Crowdsources Its Own New Website Design

5/21/12Follow @xconomy

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viral growth, which was important because we were a bootstrapped kind of business. We were very focused on spending money on product.”

The owners secured their first-round funding in April 2011, raising $35 million from Accel Partners and angel investors including Michael Dearing (an alum of eBay), Stewart Butterfield (Flickr, Tiny Speck) and Anthony Casalena (Squarespace).

Being in Silicon Valley has been helpful to the company, which has a lot of startups in its customer base.

“Silicon Valley was a very early adopter of our service, because there’s a shortage of designers and the Eric Ries rules of starting a scrappy business suits the 99designs model,” Llewellyn says. “We’re a great way of getting your minimum viable product up. “

In the few years since 99designs has been in business, it’s created designs for some former scrappy startups that have gotten a lot of attention, including TaskRabbit, and for some huge companies like Adidas and TiVo, sometimes in conjunction with an agency.

Llewellyn says the service is a great way for fledgling designers and freelancers to get their work in front of clients and build a bigger portfolio. More than a third of contests lead to follow-on work for the designer selected as the winner, he says. “We think of ourselves almost as a speed-dating site for designers and small businesses,” Llewellyn says.

But he doesn’t see it as a disruption of the typical relationship between companies and design firms—99designs isn’t stealing market share from bigger shops. Instead, it’s giving tiny companies that could never have afforded expensive design work a way to get a new logo for a fledgling business. “We’re creating a new market segment and an entry point,” Llewellyn says. “And I actually think our customers go on and engage agencies or other people as they get bigger and move on. I think they see the value of what good design does for them.”

But for now, 99designs will stick to sourcing its own design needs through its own contests. Finalists still have a couple of days to submit designs, and the company will choose a winner within the week.

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  • http://twitter.com/WebEminence Web Eminence

    Interesting to learn how 99designs got it’s start. I’ve never heard that before but have come across their site many times. If I was a designer, I would definitely be a member and try it out.There are always detractors to this kind of innovative thinking and it’s usually the people who wish they’d thought of it first.

  • Sue

    99Designs actually take 48% of the prize money, not 20-30%