Crowdsourcing an ‘opportunity, not a threat’ as DesignCrowd stakes its territory with investment booster

DesignCrowd launched on the New Zealand market a few weeks back and while not everyone might be a fan of crowdsourced design, the company certainly plans to stick around. Its presence in the Kiwi market and beyond has been given a booster by way of a $3 million investment from Australian VC firm Starfish Ventures. DesignCrowd chief executive Alec Lynch said the money would be used to enhance the company’s service in Australia, New Zealand and beyond. And after a chat on the phone, he was also quick to defend crowdsourcing, describing it as an “opportunity, not a threat” to existing design agencies.

Lynch founded DesignCrowd in Sydney back in 2008 at the modest age of 23. In its short few years the service has become a multimillion business with clients and users spanning 159 countries.  In 2009, the company received $0.3 million of investment from angel investors and the business has since grown more than 1300 percent.

Lynch said this latest financial injection from Starfish Ventures would help the company “grow from a bootstrapped Sydney start-up into a global company”.

The launch of the New Zealand-specific website is the first outside of Australia, but there are plans to further expand into other Western markets such as the UK, Canada and America, before looking at the “lucrative markets outside of that”.

Tony Glenning of Starfish Ventures (who led the investment in DesignCrowd) supports the crowdsourcing model.

“In particular, we are really attracted to the idea of crowdsourcing the solution, rather than simply providing a marketplace for outsourcing, which ends up as a race to the bottom and is neither beneficial to the customer nor the designer,” he said.

But while crowdsourcing has been viewed by some as a strangler of creativity, Lynch maintains it is in fact an opportunity for New Zealand designers, freelancers, students and agencies to find clients outside of New Zealand.

He’s also adamant that not all agencies are knocking the service, pointing to the website’s outsourcing service (www.outsource.designcrowd.co.nz), which design agencies often use to help with overflow.

“It’s not a case of replacing, but rather complementing the existing design agencies out there,” he said. “For clever agencies it’s an opportunity, not a threat”.

The New Zealand website has received a strong reception, especially from design schools. Lynch said five have shown particular interest and DesignCrowd is now on the hunt for a brand that wants to be part of a competition involving those design schools.

“Competition benefits creativity,” he said, adding the exposure also enhances student portfolios.

To date, the DesignCrowd website has attracted some far-ranging clients including Harvard Business School, which received 267 logo designs from 57 designers.

Currently DesignCrowd has 40,000 registered graphic designers from around the world with plans afoot to increase the number of registered New Zealand graphic designers from 200 to 10,000.

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