Crowdsource design giant 99designs launches $99,999 student fund

Crowdsource design giant 99designs has launched a $99,999 fund for design students, promising cash for winning entries, as it celebrates its 99,999th design contest.


99designs was founded in 2007 by Mark Harbottle and Matt Mickiewicz. The idea evolved from Harbottle’s previous company SitePoint, a marketplace in which web developers and designers outsource 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.


99designs has built a community of more than 125,000 designers in more than 190 countries, and has paid its designers a total of $25 million to date.


Earlier this year, the company received $35 million in funding from venture capital firm Accel Partners, known for its investments in Facebook, Groupon and Dropbox.


Having recently recorded its 99,999th design contest, Harbottle said the company was keen to celebrate.


“What better way to celebrate than by offering additional support to design students across the globe as they acquire the skills they need,” Harbottle said in a statement.


Jason Sew Hoy, 99designs chief operating officer, says students need to enter themselves into the Design Student Reward Program on the company’s website.


“Then for every single contest they win from that point onwards, they receive $99 from 99designs [in addition to the client’s payment],” he says.


“Typically, they can earn anywhere between $200 and $1,000 as a result of winning a design contest.”


The company will award 1,010 $99 bonus payments until the $99,999 cash pool runs out. According to Sew Hoy, the competition is designed to help students kick-start their careers.


“Design is more important than ever these days. You only need to look at the likes of Apple and Steve Jobs, and how he brought design to the forefront of modern media,” he says.


“This competition enables students to work with real clients and put their skills into practice on real projects. They get to build their portfolios… and earn money.”


Applicants must be enrolled in a design program at a college or university. They also need to present a valid student email address or a copy of a current, valid school-issued ID.


Sew Hoy says students should ensure they listen to the clients they’re creating designs for, which means paying close attention to the brief.


“It’s important to evolve your designs and respond to the customer’s needs – go on the journey of the collaborative design process,” he says.


This isn’t the first time a former start-up has launched a competition for like-minded businesses or individuals – Australian tech start-up NLYZR is running a competition for a $50,000 website optimisation makeover.


According to NLYZR founder Craig Wilson, the competition is being run to celebrate the launch of the company’s SEO system.


“The first and most essential challenge for any business wanting to compete online is to be easily found in search for relevant search terms. This alone can make an incredible difference,” he says.


Similarly, software company Atlassian regularly supports start-up events in a bid to help other businesses succeed.


“[Atlassian-hosted events enable other start-ups to] learn from our success but also our own learning process. It wasn’t that long ago that Atlassian was a start-up itself,” spokesperson Joris Luijke told StartupSmart.


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