When Cyan Ta’eed and her partner Collis launched Envato in 2006, iPhones and Facebook weren’t around yet and startups were virtually unheard of in Australia.
“Back when we started and we said we were launching an online business, people would say ‘what?’” Ta’eed tells StartupSmart.
“It was not the fashionable thing to do – it was considerably bizarre.”
Ten years on
Now, 10 years later, Envato is a leading Australian tech company, with the online creative community now boasting 7 million members and one of the most visited marketplaces in the world.
In its decade of existence Envato has generated $400 million in earnings for its members, led the way in terms of tech diversity and grown into a tech giant worth more than $50 million.
And Envato is celebrating its 10th birthday with a new goal: to generate $1 billion in earnings for this online community across the next 10 years.
“Whatever it takes in order to do that, we will gear all of our strategies and goals around community earnings,” Ta’eed says.
“When the community succeeds, we as a business succeed.”
Reflecting on launching Envato 10 years ago, Ta’eed says the startup community was unrecognisable when she and her partner Collis came up with the idea.
“There’s a lot more funding now – there are accelerators and there is so much more to equip you in your entrepreneurial journey,” she says.
But the advantage of launching a tech company at that time was there was more of an “open playing field”, she says.
“There was so much land to grab at that point in time,” Ta’eed says.
“Now we would have to do it in a completely different way. We wouldn’t have the opportunity to bootstrap it in such a saturated market.”
Disrupting the way forward
Ta’eed says that one of the biggest drivers behind Envato’s sustained success is the founding team’s ability to continually diversify their product offering.
“It wasn’t down to strategy, it was down to quite an organic excitement around launching new things,” she says.
“We personally felt we would like people to be able to buy and sell all of these other things.”
This approach helped the startup dodge some major bullets while the digital world transformed rapidly around them, she says.
“We were also selling Flash when we started,” Ta’eed says.
“We had one competitor who was focusing solely on Flash. We were still larger than they were but we were having this existential crisis on whether we should focus on Flash.”
They eventually decided to diversify their offering and when Flash met its demise the competitor disappeared while Envato thrived.
Now this focus on R&D is a core part of Envato’s operations.
“We launch a couple of different smaller startups within the business at any given time,” Ta’eed says.
“Some of them don’t take, some of them do.”
Most recently she says the company has taken a big risk with the launch of Envato Elements, a platform offering unlimited downloads of graphic templates, fonts and assets for a monthly subscription.
“In effect it’s a little bit disruptive to our own platform,” Ta’eed says.
“It’s really important to not be thinking about how you can grow but how you can be disrupted and to strategically disrupt yourself from time to time.”