Elevator Pitch: DesignCrowd

Elevator Pitch is a new regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with Alec Lynch, founder of DesignCrowd.

In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.

DesignCrowd helps businesses outsource or crowdsource graphic, logo and web design ideas from designers around the world.

Here’s how it works:

  1. a business posts a project on DesignCrowd describing what they want designed (such as a logo design)
  2. we then open the client’s project up to the world and our 115,000 registered designers
  3. designers from around the world upload designs to DesignCrowd (the typical logo project on DesignCrowd receives over 100 designs)
  4. the client chooses the best design

This process is faster, cheaper and more creative than going to a traditional design agency. It’s also risk-free. You get the design you want or you get your money back.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?

I started DesignCrowd ‘out of the garage’ in 2009 with $10,000 in savings and three credit cards. The business was bootstrapped for the first two years. In 2009 we raised $300,000 of angel investment and in 2011 we raised $3 million of venture capital investment from Starfish Ventures.

Since raising the money from Starfish Ventures we’ve pursued an international growth strategy. We’ve grown the team from three people to 20 people, we’ve acquired two US companies and we’ve launched DesignCrowd in the UK, Canada, Singapore and India. We recently hit 100,000 designers on the site and we’re now approaching $10 million in projects. The US is now our biggest source of sales and this year we plan to open an office and hire our first employee in the US.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?

Our biggest challenge is scaling with demand for our service. In the first three months of 2013, the volume of projects posted on DesignCrowd has almost doubled. We’ve seen a boom in demand for crowdsourcing in Asia, in the US, UK and Australia but we’re also seeing emerging demand for our service in new markets like Brazil and Germany. As a result, we’re constantly looking for new designers to join our community and talented people to join our team. With the international expansion we’re now having to start thinking about how our marketplace works across different languages and cultures, which is a new challenge, but also a huge opportunity.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

I love optimizely. Testing is a huge part of our marketing and product philosophy. We use optimizely daily to test changes to our site. A successful test can be a game changer and a small tweak to your homepage or funnel can drive 10 per cent revenue growth overnight.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

If you’re going to think, think big.

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