DesignCrowd COO tells why the $10 million business is expanding overseas

Australian crowdsourcing website DesignCrowd today announced it has opened a new office in the Philippines, in a move to support the company’s rapid growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

Founded in a Sydney garage six years ago, the online marketplace now has a turnover in excess of $10 million. DesignCrowd allows users to upload design briefs online and then choose from thousands of designers.

DesignCrowd’s new office will be located in the central business district of Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. Although the company has launched its website in a number of countries, this will be the first time the business has staff on the ground in a country besides Australia.

Chief operating officer Chris McNamara told SmartCompany DesignCrowd is experiencing huge growth, particularly from small to medium-sized businesses which are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of crowdsourcing.

“We believe there’s value in providing localised support for those businesses,” he said. “We’re seeing a demand for our service from graphic designers and users of the market as a way to acquire clients they would otherwise never reach.”

The Philippines is the sixth-biggest market for designers on DesignCrowd, and McNamara says he expects the new office to roughly double in size by the end of the year.  

“We’re planning on further growth for this office and for the Manila office to become a regional support hub,” he said.

McNamara says the international expansion meant the business came across some unique and interesting challenges.

“One of the biggest challenges in commencing operations overseas is related to the hiring process and the ability to acquire really high-quality staff without being on the ground,” he said. “For us, the way we’ve gotten around that is we’ve used a strategy of hiring former DesignCrowd designers as service consultants.”

McNamara says having people on the ground in the Philippines who already knew of DesignCrowd was really important, and thinks if other businesses were to take a similar approach when expanding overseas it would save the managers a substantial amount of time and effort.

“It means from day one our new staff have a really robust awareness of our business and how our website actually works,” he said. “They can start being productive and effective very, very quickly.”

Crowdsourcing design has become increasingly popular with businesses over the past few years, with some designers raising concerns that it is not an effective option. While McNamara says the crowdsourcing model is “incredibly disruptive”, he remains adamant that crowdsourcing offers a better alternative to traditional design firms.

“I don’t think we could have anticipated just how explosive the demand for crowdsourced design has been,” he said. “Our model is one which is deliberately structured to be scalable and for that reason we’re able to cater for high levels of growth quite easily.”

So what’s next for DesignCrowd? McNamara says the business will be opening more international offices in the next six to 12 months.

“First cab off the rank will be offices in San Francisco,” he said. “The United States represents our single largest source of both designers and clients. We will be looking to support further growth by opening an office on the ground.”

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