Accel Partners Leads $35m Investment in 99designs to Drive Global Expansion

28th April 2011. Melbourne and San Francisco- based 99designs, the largest online marketplace for crowdsourced graphic design services, announced a $35 million first-round investment led by Accel Partners, with participation from angel investors Michael Dearing (eBay, Harrison Metal), Dave Goldberg (Survey Monkey), Stewart Butterfield (Flickr, Tiny Speck), and Anthony Casalena (Squarespace).

Andrew Braccia and Ryan Sweeney of Accel Partners will join 99design’s Board of Directors, along with Michael Dearing, 99designs co-founder Mark Harbottle, and company CEO Patrick Llewellyn.

99designs was founded in Melbourne, Australia in February 2008, when co-founders Mark Harbottle and Matt Mickiewicz – the entrepreneurs behind sitepoint.com, Flippa.com and Learnable.com – spun it out of the SitePointForums. 99designs, which employs 26 staff in Melbourne and San Francisco, was bootstrapped and is profitable, and has enjoyed 120 percent year-on-year growth.

* 99designs has over 100,000 designers in 192 countries.
* The company has paid out over $19 million to designers to date.
* 99designs has hosted 75,000 projects, resulting in a new design uploaded every six seconds.
* There are more than 10,000 logos available for customization and sale in their logo store.

The new capital will be invested in international expansion, platform development, community initiatives like design scholarships, and aggressive hiring in San Francisco and Melbourne.

99designs is Accel Partners’ third investment in Australia, including Atlassian Software and OzForex.

Accel Partner Andrew Braccia said: “Accel Partners has a history of investing in online businesses that cater to the ever changing needs of small business owners and independent professionals. 99designs has quickly become a global market leader in its category, providing an invaluable service to its customers and their global community of design professionals. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to assist in the company’s next phase of growth.”

Michael Dearing, whose private investments include Admob (Google), Heroku (Salesforce.com) and Mix Labs (Twitter) said: “99designs caught my attention when I realized that nearly every one of the early stage companies and entrepreneurs I work with was turning to them to get great design work done. The team has created a marketplace that is easy for companies to get onboard with, and is also a boon for designers who can go after any of the hundreds of jobs open at any one time.”

99designs Co-Founder Mark Harbottle said: “I’m thrilled that Accel see the same potential in 99designs that we do. This obviously presents a fantastic opportunity for the 99designs team, but I’m most excited about what we have in store for our loyal community of designers, and the hundreds of thousands of businesses around the world who use 99designs.com. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

99designs CEO Patrick Llewellyn said: “This is an exciting time for the company as it pushes forward with expansion in several key areas. We now have the benefit of our talented and dedicated team, coupled with the best technology investors around. The board and shareholder advisors we have in place provide us with exceptional experience and insight to help guide our future growth.”

About 99designs
99designs is the #1 marketplace for crowdsourced graphic design services. Its ready-made logo store has over 10,000 high-quality logos available for customization and sale right off the shelf for $99, and its Design Contest Marketplace enables businesses to quickly and inexpensively source custom logo design, web design, business cards or any other graphic design work by launching design projects to a global community of over 100,000 designers. 99designs has hosted over 75,000 design contests to date, sees a new design uploaded every 6 seconds, and pays out approximately $1 million to its design community each month. To learn more about 99designs, including where the company is hiring, visit 99designs.com.

The Next Chapter for 99designs. Exciting News!

Blogpost by Mark Harbottle, Co-founder, 99designs.com

When we set out to launch 99designs 3 years ago we knew we were solving an interesting problem in the design world for both customers and designers but we had no idea how big it could be…

In a nut shell 99designs removes risk from the design process for business and provide designers with an opportunity to earn an income from their passion and meet new customers. Today 99designs is by far the biggest graphic design marketplace of its kind in the world. We host thousands of design projects and pay out close to $1m a month to designers.

For the last 3 years ago our team has focused mainly on laying the foundations – making sure the platform is solid and scales, adding in necessary features, and getting our payment systems streamlined and secure, so our designers can get paid no matter where in the world they live.

We have also done a lot of work on the customer side – making sure that when someone visits our site for the first time it’s crystal clear how 99designs works. Behind the scenes we’ve been busy building out a sales support team to take customer calls. Like Zappos, we encourage our customers to call us with any questions – we love speaking with them.

To date very little has been spent on marketing. Our growth has been based purely on word of mouth. We have also never taken external investment – every cent has been invested back into the business. While extremely proud of that fact, we are acutely aware that for 99designs to grow and take the next step that needed to change…

So today, I’m proud to announce that 99designs has just raised $35m from arguably one of the most successful technology investors in the World, Accel Partners. Accel have been around the block a few times to say the least. They hold investments in Facebook, Groupon, Dropbox, Etsy, and Squarespace, just to name a few. Most importantly they understand the vision and challenges that lie ahead for 99designs, and they’re happy to roll up their sleeves and help us out.

So, how will this change the 99designs you’ve come to know and love?

Well, we plan to spend a good chunk of this investment on distribution and marketing, which means more customers for our design community. We also plan to build out the platform with many of the features our customers and designers have been asking for to improve the overall experience. And finally, we will create new and exciting opportunities for designers to connect with clients, enhance their skills, and earn an income doing what they love…

Most importantly, this investment goes a long way towards guaranteeing that we will be around long term. As a designer you can build your profile and customer relationships on 99designs.com with confidence. We’re just going to get bigger and better!

On a personal note, I want to thank our community and customers for your support. I also want to thank our awesome team, particularly Lachlan Donald and Paul Annesley who we locked in a small dark room for at least the first 18 months to get 99designs off the ground. The real challenge and fun lies ahead of course, but it’s nice to look back and appreciate how far we’ve come in a short amount of time.

We have a formal press release that you’re welcome to read. I look forward to organizing events in the coming year so I can meet more of you, our customers and designers, in person.

Here’s to a big year for you and 99designs.

All the best, Mark Harbottle, Co-founder, 99designs.com

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