214 – Come behind-the-scenes of 99Designs – the world’s largest design competition marketplace, with their driven CEO Patrick Llewellyn.

214 – Come behind-the-scenes of 99Designs – the world’s largest design competition marketplace, with their driven CEO Patrick Llewellyn.

Join me behind-the-scenes of the original design competition company 99Designs with Australian CEO, Patrick Llewellyn. As of October 2014, 99designs has hosted more than 340,000 graphic design contests and paid out more than $85 million to its community of 905,000 designers around the world … and it all started in a little office in the inner-Melbourne working-class suburb of Collingwood.

You’ll be amazed at where the idea came from. It’s inspirational stuff.

In 2010 Patrick moved to San Francisco to open a U.S. office and oversee U.S. and international expansion. Shortly after being appointed CEO in January 2011, Llewellyn guided 99designs to a $35 million first-round capital investment led by Accel Partners (Facebook, Dropbox, Etsy). He has since launched 99designs’ European headquarters in Berlin as well as localised-language sites across Europe and Latin America, and has grown the company from a handful of staff to 106 in San Francisco, Melbourne, Berlin, Paris and Rio de Janeiro.

Over at 99Designs.com, small business owners can launch design competitions for all kinds of business touch points – from logos to book covers, online advertising to shop signage. Starting from just $99, you can reach out to designers from all over the world and then pick your favourite entry – it’s as easy as that!

And grab your free Power Pack upgrade worth $99 just for being a listener of this show.

In this interview, I get to the bottom of this incredible success story.

PLUS, I answer a listener question about the best ways of accessing podcasts, and I deliver a short but sweet Inspirational Quote of The Week.

It’s time to hit PLAY on Australia’s #1 marketing show!


Episode Timeline

  • 5. 00 Did you know that 60% of online access is now via smartphones? Make sure that your website is mobile friendly with help from Netregistry.
  • 6.45 A shout out to American Airlines for being responsive on Twitter and looking after my son and his mates.
  • 8.30 Get your free power pack upgrade with 99Designs and launch a contest for some awesome design work today!
  • 9.00 What are the best ways to access your favourite podcasts?
  • 11.15 I’m hosting a free webinar for my forum members in December – all about “speaking from stage”.
    Join the Small Business Big Marketing Forum today and be part of it!
  • 13.30 Introducing this week’s guest, Patrick Llewellyn, CEO of 99Designs. What is life really like in Silicon Valley?
  • 17.00 Should you head over to Silicon Valley, or is your business more suited to home ground?
  • 19.00 Patrick talks raising $35 million of capital for 99Designs.
  • 21.00  The beginnings of 99Designs. How the company started and how it has evolved.
  • 27.00 The advantages of using a contest platform to create design assets.
  • 30.00 How does Patrick respond to the idea that 99Designs takes work from graphic designers?
  • 36.15 How does 99Designs acquire new customers today?
  • 49.00 Why Patrick admires MailChimp – what are they getting right?
  • 53.00 What are Patrick’s favourite apps and gadgets?
  • 54.30 My top 3 learnings from chatting with Patrick
  • 56.00 Inspirational quote of the week!

Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode


My Top 3 Learnings

This week’s top three learnings from my chat with Patrick:

1. Look for things in your business that get traction and create offers around them.

2. Put an emphasis on design. How is your logo, website, and signage looking, and how can you improve it?

3. Don’t be taunted by anything or anyone. You are capable!

Over to you!

Let me know YOUR #1 takeaway from this episode by leaving a comment below.
My guest and myself personally read and respond to every comment.


6 thoughts on “214 – Come behind-the-scenes of 99Designs – the world’s largest design competition marketplace, with their driven CEO Patrick Llewellyn.”

  1. As a designer, I have always been one of those people who you say “cracks a sh#t” whenever 99Designs is mentioned. I have always thought of them as the Bangladeshi-style sweatshop of designers being paid peanuts for the work that they do. So I would like thank-you for this frank interview with Patrick and putting in the hard question about the design communities perception of how they operate (I was hoping you would – even if they are your sponsor!). Although Patrick is probably making quite a bit of dough these days, from your discussion with him, it sounds like he still has the same values that were personified in his original SitePoint forum which I lurked around in the early days of my business.

    When you think about it, no designer could possibly rely on making a living through 99Designs competitions but for a newbie, it could be used, as pointed out in this interview, as a great way to get your foot in the door and get noticed by businesses.

    Thanks again Timbo and keep up the great work!

  2. Hey thanks Greg. This tiny room in this world for designers of all talents, experience levels and motivations to get work. 99Designs is just one of those places. On the other side of the coin, 99Designs really is an amazing resource for small business owners wanting to crank out some great design, on a limited budget. Thanks to tuning in Greg, and go Rusty Mango!

  3. Hi Tim
    Really enjoyed the interview with Patrick and for the great behind the scenes look into 99Designs. Loving your podcast each week and learning heaps of great stuff…along with some good inspiration. Have a great day!

  4. Thanks Glen, I’m really glad you enjoyed this episode. Patrick certainly shared both some business and marketing gems.

  5. Howdy Timbo!

    I, like you, also believe that you can read the cover of a Malcom Gladwell book and get the jist of it without reading the whole thing.

    With that in mind I’ve been watching the ‘competition’ marketplace with great interest waiting for a ‘tipping point’. Thing is, I’m not sure which way things will go. Will designers eventually become frustrated with putting in effort for little or no reward? or will the majority of the design market head this way (including those that have responded angrily in the past to your comments on topics such as outsourcing or off-shoring)?

    Will the ‘competition’ marketplace be left with designers that can’t get work elsewhere or will it be full of high quality designers that will push out the weaker ones?

    Having put that out there, I think one of the great advantages of competition sites is that despite the need to complete a brief a lot of people don’t really know what they are after until they see it (a point confirmed by Mr Schramko in a recent podcast). For this reason businesses like 99 Designs are a great benefit to small business owners that don’t have their own marketing team.


  6. I, like you, aren’t sure where the market will settle on this one. But as in any market, us consumers have quite some influence. And as someone who doesn’t know what they like until they see it, a design service like 99Designs is gold. People may say I have to say that as they sponsor my show, however that’s not the case. I’ve been using them for years and in fact found my best designer on 99Designs about 6 years ago. As always, thanks for your insights, Fat Badger.

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