With the recent acquisition of its Europe counterpart 12designer, 99designs is aggressively expanding its reach to Europe. This growing company also has plans to expand its market in Asia as a result of a very engaging Asia community. We managed to grab a quick word with CEO Patrick Llewellyn on the Asian opportunity. 

Could you share more about 99designs expansion plan to Asia as well as some key metrics that supports the decision to focus more on Asia?

The Asian market represents a big opportunity for us where we have significant customer base despite virtually no marketing presence. In the last 12 months alone, we’ve had over 55,000 designers signup from our top five Asian countries. Currently our top Asian countries are Singapore, India, Hong Kong and Japan. As we’ve always enjoyed strong word-of-mouth referral from happy customers, it makes sense to build on our existing customer base in the countries where we already have a good presence.

That being said, countries like Japan already have a strong appreciation of design and the Japanese are quick to adopt new technology and ways of doing things, so that’s certainly an interesting market that we’ll continue to track. For designers we enjoy strong and vibrant communities in places like Indonesia, Philippines and India

Patrick LLewellyn, CEO 99designs

Patrick LLewellyn, CEO 99designs

We’re very much focused on providing one top-flight service in graphic design specifically, and on working closely with our design community and our customers to ensure that we do it better than anyone else. We set a standard rate for every type of contest, and customers can opt to pay more. Our average winning designer earns about $300 per contest won. We’ve optimized our entire workflow to ensure our customers get the highest quality graphic design at an affordable price.

Other outsourcing sites, by contrast, are quite broadly focused – users post all kinds of projects. The cost structure is also completely different, putting the pricing in the hands of the person posting the project.

How did 99designs solve the chicken and egg problem of an online marketplace?

99designs launched off the back of Sitepoint.com, a large global community of web and design technology people. We noticed that the contest model was happening organically on several design forums on Sitepoint.com so we created a new forum to help people connect with designers and this started to grow. We then introduced a fee to the listings just to keep things under control, but that didn’t seem to dampen peoples enthusiasm at all and it kind of grew from there. In 2008 we spun it out on its own to 99designs and ever since then we’ve incrementally added – and sometimes removed – features and things that people need to run a contest well.