99designs ramps up European plans with purchase of German rival 12designer

Australian start-up 99designs has opened the doors of its Berlin office after making its first acquisition in German design marketplace 12designer, one year after raising $35 million.


99designs, founded in Melbourne in 2008 by Mark Harbottle and Matt Mickiewicz, is the world’s largest online marketplace for graphic design. The site spans more than 190 countries.


Businesses can source graphic design work by launching design contests, working one-on-one with individual designers or purchasing design templates from the site’s readymade store.


In addition to Australia, 99designs has established a strong presence in the United States and Canada.


In April last year, 99designs received $35 million in funding from US venture capital firm Accel Partners and prominent angel investors including former eBay executive Michael Dearing.


One year on, 99designs has announced its first ever acquisition, purchasing Berlin-based design marketplace 12designer for an undisclosed sum.


Backed by Spanish company Grupo Intercom, 12designer is the leading creative design marketplace in Germany and the second largest in Europe after 99designs.


The acquisition signals 99designs’ ongoing focus on global expansion via localisation.


Germany is the company’s number one non-English language market, its fifth largest overall, and one of its fastest growing.


To date, European small businesses and start-ups account for approximately 15% of the 155,000 graphic design contests held on 99designs’ English-language site.


The 12designer acquisition will allow 99designs to better meet the needs of European customers by providing support in their own languages and time zones.


“We’re very excited to welcome 12designer founder and CEO Eva Missling, and her talented team, into the 99designs family,” chief executive Patrick Llewellyn said in a statement.


“We believe their deep regional marketplace expertise and multilingual capabilities will prove instrumental in accelerating our delivery of truly localised, world-class design services.”


“This acquisition enables us to build significantly on our existing momentum and resources in Europe, and gives us an ideally situated base in Berlin.”


“As the tech start-up and design hub of Europe, there is no better place from which to implement our aggressive regional growth plans.”


In conjunction with the announcement, 99designs has appointed Missling as its new general manager of Europe.


Missling will be tasked with optimising localisation of 99designs’ services for European markets, accelerating growth in Germany and across Europe, and building a team in Berlin.


She will also continue to oversee 12designer, which boasts a community of more than 20,000 designers interacting with customers in German, French, Spanish, Italian and English.


12designer will continue to operate as a standalone site in the near-term.


According to Missling, the 12designer team is eager to join 99designs to “further our shared vision of connecting businesses seeking… high-quality design services with skilled designers”.


Meanwhile, Llewellyn told StartupSmart he sees opportunities in Latin America and Asia.


“We see opportunities in countries like Brazil, where there is a vibrant small business economy, as well as countries like Japan where there is a strong appreciation for creative design,” he says.


“We’re still early in our international expansion plan and we’ll be approaching each new market on a case-by-case basis.”


“That being said, where we find like-minded, innovative teams that share our vision of finding better ways to connect businesses with talented designers, partnering or acquiring is certainly an option.”


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