Alec Lynch – Design Crowd

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Alec Lynch is the founder and CEO of DesignCrowd. In 2007, Alec left his job in management consulting to launch DesignCrowd from his family home. In 2009, Alec raised $0.3M in Angel investment and has since raised a further $12M in venture capital. Today, DesignCrowd has over 450,000 designers and creates almost $20M of revenue annually. In 2014, Alec was named Entrepreneur of the Year by EY for the emerging category in NSW.

I hear lots of people say “hey I’ve got this great idea” but 99% of the time they only talk and don’t take action. The best way to fix this is to take action on the first step.

Can you tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

I started DesignCrowd because I could a number of problems in the design industry that needed fixing.

For businesses, buying design can traditionally be expensive, slow and risky. For example, the London Olympics logo cost £400,000 and took 1 year to make but no one liked it.

For designers, the design industry can be difficult to break into. In Australia there are 20,000 designers employed by design studios but about 60,000 who have graduated without employment. This is a global problem. Around the world there are hundreds of thousands of talented designers looking for opportunity.

I knew there had to be a better way. DesignCrowd attempts to fix the problems in the design industry for both designers and businesses.

Can you please explain your business model?

DesignCrowd’s business model is crowdsourcing – a new, powerful type of outsourcing that uses a large, open group of people (‘the crowd’) to deliver a service.

DesignCrowd specialises in crowdsourcing creativity. We help businesses outsource or ‘crowdsource’ graphic, logo and web design ideas from designers around the world.

Here’s how it works: businesses from around the world, from Sydney to San Fransisco, post projects on DesignCrowd requesting logo, web or graphic design ideas. Then designers from around the world, from New York to New Delhi, upload scores of creative ideas and designs for the client to review. The typical project on DesignCrowd receives over 100 different designs, with some of the first designs sent within hours.

DesignCrowd takes a small cut of every completed design project. The rest goes to designers. DesignCrowd also reinvests a portion back into participation payments to its designers who don’t get the job.

Our model helps provide designers from around the world with opportunities, and for businesses it is a faster, cheaper, more creative and risk free way to get design.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?

In the next 12 months we’re aiming to look outside of Australia and grow our business globally to eventually increase our revenues by 60 per cent.

We’re also currently working on some new, top secret partnerships and innovations that myself and the team are super excited about.

How do you make ideas happen?

My advice for those looking to turn their big ideas into reality is simple: just start.

I hear lots of people say “hey I’ve got this great idea” but 99% of the time they only talk and don’t take action. The best way to fix this is to take action on the first step. Whether it’s writing a business plan, buy a domain name, get some business cards or getting a logo – you just need to take the first step and your idea will start to become something real.

In summary, if you have an idea, my advice is: start today.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day involves working from our office from 9 to 7pm then having a break for dinner and then working from home until late (sometimes midnight or 1am). I like to exercise and try and do something (running, crossfit or gym) 5 days a week.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing your business in Australia?

One of the biggest challenges was raising $12m of capital for DesignCrowd, all in Australia. There are fewer VC funds in Australia than in the US and they’re typically smaller. We’ve been really lucky to attract Starfish Ventures and AirTree Ventures as investors.

What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?

I think Redbubble, Qwilr, Airtasker and Shoes of Prey are doing great stuff.

What about internationally?

I love Tesla, Postmates,, Udemy and the Khan Academy.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

I think entrepreneurs have the advantage of being able to move more quickly and be more innovative than government or non-profits. Elon Musk is probably the best example of an entrepreneur using innovation and business to change the world for the better. He’s also a billionaire.

Speaking of affecting social change, we’ve teamed up with Shout for Good to encourage readers to ‘shout a coffee’ to charity by clicking the button below. Is there a particular charity you’d like to support?

Beyond Blue.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.

  1. Fred Wilson’s blog
  2. Hubspot’s blog
  3. DesignCrowd’s blog

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.

  1. Mike Cannon-Brookes
  2. Shane Warne
  3. Miranda Kerr

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea – e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, or marketing help?

We’re looking to hire about 40 talented and hardworking people in the next 12 months. In particular, we’re looking to hire engineers, developers and those experienced in product management. If readers are interested they can check it out here.

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

A Tavola, for the best Italian I’ve had!


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