Matt Mickiewicz, the co-founder of Australian-based start-up 99designs, has been named in Inc.com’s 30 Under 30, alongside the founders of Dropbox, Foodspotting and Grasshopper.
Mickiewicz is the only co-founder of an Australian business on the list, which is an annual run-down of the top young entrepreneurs in the USA.
The entrepreneur founded 99designs in 2007 along with 37-year-old Mark Harbottle. The idea evolved from Harbottle’s previous company SitePoint, a marketplace in which web developers and designers can outsource their projects.
99designs allows users to access cheap designs by running contests, with designers from around the world bidding to work on tasks set by users.
The company makes its money on listing fees and optional add-ons to the contest, with listings starting as low as $95.
While Mickiewicz works from his home office in Vancouver, Harbottle lives and works in Melbourne. In addition to a Melbourne office, 99designs also has an office in San Francisco and employs a total of 27 staff.
The company has more than 100,000 developers across 192 counties and has paid $19 million to designers in the past three years.
Earlier this year, 99designs received $35 million in funding from venture capital firm Accel Partners, known for its investments in Facebook, Groupon and cloud-based storage solution Dropbox.
Other prominent angel investors involved in the funding round included Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, Survey Monkey CEO Dave Goldberg and former eBay executive Michael Dearing.
Mickiewicz says the beauty of 99designs is that because it is an internet marketplace, location is unimportant, enabling designers to compete for business solely on the quality of their work.
“We’re providing risk-free graphic design from a single, trusted source,” Mickiewicz told Inc.com.
“You don’t have to work with designers individually, negotiate contracts, go to meetings or review proposals. You create a brief, name your price and then get dozens of options to choose from with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. That’s unheard of.”
In the next 12 months, the company plans to double its workforce, focus on customer service and build out a strong marketing team.
“80% of our customers are still word-of-mouth and we only want to help our growing team of over 100,000 designers to get more business,” he said.
Other young entrepreneurs featured in Inc.com’s 30 Under 30 include Dropbox founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, aged 28 and 25 respectively.
Founded in 2007, the cloud-based file-syncing service allows users to access and share their digital files, photos and videos from almost any mobile device or computer.
The San Francisco-based start-up now boasts more than 25 million registered users, but it took plenty of hard work to get there.
“I think we started like most of these tech companies begin – just a couple of guys in their boxers coding in a dark room. We just kept our heads down and built,” Houston says.
Other high-profile start-ups featured on Inc.com’s 2011 list include restaurant-sharing app Foodspotting and Grasshopper, which provides virtual phone systems to small businesses.