Startup Analysis

Envato’s Cyan Ta’eed launches new venture Milkshake: Why the serial founder loves the early-stage hustle

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Cyan Ta'eed

Envato, Hey Tiger and Milkshake founder Cyan Ta'eed. Source: Supplied.

Having founded Aussie startup stalwart Envato and ethical chocolate brand Hey Tiger, Aussie entrepreneur Cyan Ta’eed is launching yet another venture, this time getting back into the tech space with a website-building app for Instagrammers.

Ta’eed dreamt up Milkshake as she was getting to know influencers through Hey Tiger, which she found resonated well with social media audiences.

“Hey Tiger is such a visual brand, it was something we found resonated, and went quite viral,” she tells StartupSmart.

When the team started working with influencers, “we realised how incredible they are at what they do”.

The influencers themselves are entrepreneurs, Ta’eed says. They’re stylists, designers, models or photographers, but “they’re being underestimated to some degree”.

The serial founder identified an underserved “incredibly savvy” market of people, predominantly women, who had a strong social media presence, but often no website. If they did have one, it was often neglected and out of date.

Milkshake is designed to bridge that gap, allowing influencers to create websites plugged into Instagram, which are nice to look at, easy to navigate, and easy to update or redesign via mobile.

It’s intended to empower the women in this space, and help them assert themselves as entrepreneurs to be taken seriously, Ta’eed explains.

The founder’s own Milkshake site is likely to be up and running in the next couple of days, she says, and select influencers she has a relationship will soon be invited to “have a play”.

The product is likely to be released in full at the end of next month.

“Sense steering”

This is Ta’eed’s third business venture, with each seemingly sitting in an entirely different space.

And while she remains passionate about each one, she admits she’s in “a privileged position that I get to work with people who are incredible at what they do”.

She doesn’t personally have app-design experience. Rather, she brings problem-solving and savvy and critical thinking, as well as a strong sense of how people engage with online products.

“I can now work with people who are really incredible at figuring out how we’re going to solve that problem once we’ve identified it,” Ta’eed says.

She spends a lot of her time “sense steering”, she says, or explaining the vision and direction the business will go in. It’s the team that is “steering the ship”, she adds.

Any founder who has their fingers in a lot of pies, and who says they don’t rely on the people around them “is probably not being honest”, Ta’eed suggests.

“One of the areas I’ve realised I’m very strong … is finding amazing people, coaching them and helping them when they need that, but also just leaving them alone to do what they do best.”

Running fast

At Envato, Ta’eed is barely involved in the operational day-to-day business at all any more. Even before starting work on Milkshake, she was much more involved in Hey Tiger.

Ta’eed’s co-founder and husband Collis Ta’eed is still chief executive at the business, and the pair talk about it for hours every night.

“I love Envato and I’m very passionate about it,” she says.

But, the serial entrepreneur says something she has realised over time is the area she’s strongest in is “the early stages of things”, she says.

“As things get bigger, I arguably have less to offer and I need to bring in big guns,” she explains.

“You get to the stage where you feel less engaged when something gets to scale.”

At Envato, things got to a certain scale, and while Ta’eed is glad she built the startup to where it is today, and for everything she learnt along the way, it was no longer in the exciting growth stages.

“If you ask me whether I’m interested in diving deeply into international tax law or if I’m interested in creating something new that’s really exciting for women, I really know where my interest lies,” she explains.

“Businesses go through life cycles just like people, and Envato reached a level of maturity where it just didn’t need me that much anymore.

“A product like Milkshake, it needs an entrepreneur, it needs a founder. It needs someone who enjoys running really fast and getting something out to market.”

A wonderful luxury

Now she’s headed up three businesses, Ta’eed’s advice to other entrepreneurs is just to launch. Something she feels Envato could have done better is not waiting for the perfect product, just getting something out to market, she says.

“You think you’ve got to launch it with every bell and whistle,” she says.

“But it’s really important just to launch something and see how the market reacts to it, and be ready to adjust and pivot.”

Being able to do this is a “wonderful luxury” for tech startups especially, she says. It wasn’t something she could do with Hey Tiger “and that was absolutely terrifying”.

For tech startups, “provided they can pay rent, they can make it free, they can get people on it, get people engaging with it and see how it goes.”

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].

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