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Idealog—in the ideas business

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

News that Australian company DesignCrowd had launched in New Zealand didn’t go down too well with our readers a few weeks back. But 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 (, 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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Bleedin ozzies, Just a copy of what we and other did.

NZ's own home grown (established in 1997 in Auckland) is an alternative with a firm focus on Logos. We prefer to introduce the client to the designs or design rim via a Logos and then let the Designer develop a longer term relationship with the client for the other marketing resources that naturally derive from the brand identity. Version 2.0 due to launch shortly.

Mind you we're a little envious of $3m investment - I guess that pays for a lot of PR.

I recall DesignCrowd declined comment on a previous article (noted by Idealog above the comments section of this article). Reason possibly being, that it’s pretty hard to justify DesignCrowd do, if you’re a designer.
It would have taken quite some time to come up the pro-crowd sourcing points above. And I too would say the same superficially positive statements if I had a million dollar business creativity farming.

Alec, answer this; how you can justify asking people to design for free? Do you think this will have a negative impact on the field of design? Do you have any respect for design?
Tell me what positive outcome there will be for the 103 out of 104* people who aren’t paid for the work they spent hours doing?
Good ideas shouldn't come cheap, further, they shouldn't be given away for free. This will severely devalue design.

I hope that design schools are taking action against having their future graduates study to serve businesses that don't intend to pay them.
Come to think of it, I suppose the copious amount of graduates pumped out may have given a reason for DesignCrowd to exist.

Designers, do your best to let people know that crowd sourcing will affect our careers in the long run, to the point where the respect we often deserve for our creativity, will soon not be given.

This is ridiculous, and I’d like to let DesignCrowd know that a good step towards getting your numbers in the NZ market up would be putting New Zealand on the map on your promo video.

One more thing, crowd sourcing is a great way to get mediocre results.

*Figure based on average entrants to a project.

Sounds great.

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