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Niall O'Loughlin of 99designs talks to Startacus

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by Startacus Admin

99designs is the world’s largest online graphic design marketplace, connecting startups, small businesses, marketing agencies and other organizations with more than 300,000 graphic designers from 192 countries around the world.

Since its founding in Melbourne, Australia in 2008, 99designs has hosted more than 250,000 design contests for customers and has paid out in excess of £50 million to its design community.

We chatted with Niall O’Loughlin, 99designs Marketing Manager for the UK and Ireland about the benefits of crowdsourcing your design requirements, Niall O'Loughlin 99Designstheir expansion plans and some handy tips on how you should look at internalising your startup (if that is on the agenda of course!).

Hi there Niall, cheers for taking the time to speak to us. How important are the UK and Irish markets to 99designs ?

The UK and Ireland are very important markets for 99designs. The UK is currently our 3rd biggest market worldwide and with over 4 million SME’s in the UK, we see great opportunity for further growth going forward. We are well known in the UK start up scene based on our innovative business model, MVP strategy and investment from Accel partners (Groupon, Facebook etc). We continue to evolve our product and services based on consumer feedback and designer requirements, and it is these conversations and interactions which have encouraged the  organic growth of our community.

Ireland is one of our fast growing markets. With such momentum building in the tech startup scene in the last few years, we see a lot of potential in this market. The startup and tech eco system is particularly strong in Dublin and when you couple 99designsthat with the current uplift of SME growth, you have the perfect combination of innovation, talent and demand for good design. We also have a strong designer community in Ireland, which we try to meet with regularly and share suggestions about the platform and service.

What are the key benefits of crowdsourcing your design requirements?

Crowdsourcing your design with 99designs benefits the consumer as it provides a fast, affordable, creative and interactive service to small businesses and startups worldwide. Essentially, if you are looking for a logo design for your business, you can tell a crowd of designers what you want, how much you will pay, and your deadline. Interested designers will create a finished design specifically for you. By interacting with your designers, you have the opportunity to make tweaks and updates along the way. You’ll receive 50+ different logo designs, from which you can choose your perfect design. People love crowdsourcing their design as it increases the quality, inspires creativity and comes at a transparent and affordable price.

What key tips would you give to a startup currently making plans to internationalise?

Making the move into an international market is a big step for a UK/Irish based startup. If you have a cross market product and want to tap into an international customer base, there are a number of things I would say must be considered. Looking past buying new domains and translating your website, there are payment options to consider, pricing structures, purchasing power and internet penetration to think about.

1. The first piece of advice is to utilise your current native market as much as possible. There is so much that you can learn from your current consumerinternationalising base that will transfer to the international market. Identify your current challenges and assess if they are likely to re-occur in new markets.

2. Set realistic goals and place as much capital behind them as is necessary. One practice that we have followed at 99designs is to “go global but stay local”. This means placing a regional country manager in each country where we are present. This eradicates time zones and language barriers and allows us to pick up on cultural and economical insights which help us to intelligently drive the business.

3. Invest in technology that will make your international push as seamless as possible. Localizing your website and customizing your payment methods will build consumer trust. We have found that adapting country specific payment methods has dramatically increased our conversions across many markets.

4. Lastly, be brave. The move into a foreign market may be challenging, however the benefits greatly outweigh the challenges. Plan well and stick to your guns. You will soon see success across international markets.

How does the size and strength of the startup community in UK and Ireland compare to the rest of Europe?

Our European operations are run out of our offices in Berlin, which for me is the perfect hub to internationalise or grow your business. With a wealth of international talent available as well as a reasonable standard of living, it is highly attractive to both companies and employees.

Nevertheless, the UK and Ireland are equally as exciting. Looking at “tech city” in London which is home to the Google campus and accelerators like Seedcamp, Oxygen or Level39, we witness how great local talent and accessibility to funding are key elements in building a successful community hub.

Ireland’s start-up scene is still relatively small compared with other European hubs like London and Berlin but has gained a lot of traction in recent years. There has always been a wealth of innovators and entrepreneurs across Ireland and local government is beginning to ramp up its support for startups across the country. We regularly attend events in both cities, so next time you see us –come by and say hi.

99designs uk

In terms of developing the UK and Irish market - any sneak peeks you can share with the Startacus community about your plans for the next twelve months?

I suppose the ongoing goal which we have as a company is to continue to support the community that has grown organically around this great interaction between businesses and designers. You can expect to see us on the ground at events across the UK and Ireland promoting good design and supporting small businesses and startups in creating a perfect visual identity which resonates with their target audience.

Cheers Niall and we look forward to hearing more from you and 99designs over the coming months.

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Published on: 28th May 2014

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