Q & A with MycroBurst co-founder Joe Witte
Joe Witte is the co-founder and Executive Vice President at MycroBurst, a crowdsourcing site for companies and individuals who want custom logos and designs. Reuters Small Business interviewed Witte about building a tech startup and how Mycroburst balances work with clients and designers.
First off, can you briefly describe MycroBurst? How it works, etc.
I’ve always described MycroBurst as an eBay for design services. We have a community of more than 35k designers representing more than 100 countries. They participate in design contests for our customers (aka Project Holders), who require anything from a brochure, postcard, website or logo design. What makes our marketplace so powerful, is that a Project Holder will typically receive dozens, and typically more than 100 design concepts from our design community to choose from. And that’s in one week. Our platform makes it easy to communicate with all the designers, and easy to review the concepts side by side.
Where did the idea come from?
Previously, we had a design team that provided services to our clients via online transactions. Many of our designers were leaving in order to freelance for sites like eLance. And after seeing this model work for other crowdsourcing sites, we felt that this was where the future was with sourcing design services. After we shifted in 2009, it was apparent that everyone was happier. Our designers had freedom, and our clients received far greater choice, and flexibility in a faster delivery method.
MycroBurst relies on a crowdsourcing model that actually helps pool talent for clients. Are there any other sites that you think are operating a similar model (not necessarily with design), and how has that affected MycroBurst?
We are actually a member of a “Crowdsortium” which had more than 100 crowdsourcing companies such as UTest, CrowdFlower, and GeniusRocket. Some of the other services that are crowdsourced include videos, website/application testing, content writing, labeling, research, translation, and the list goes on.
Who do you consider your competitors to be (Behance network comes to mind)?
Behance is really a community of designers who can share their work, and has job listings for designers. But business owners can’t really connect with them to source design services. Other competitors include LogoTournament and CrowdSpring.
Have there been any major shifts in the MycroBurst strategy/business model along the way?
We are always pivoting. It’s a very new model, so we are learning daily about how to educate our customers and designers, use technologies to make the process more efficient, and make better connections between our project holders who may have special requirements, and designers who have the skill set to fulfill them. For example, now that we have a pretty large community, rather than just growing the community and having sheer volume, we feel it’s important to foster a stronger community with specialized skill sets. We are building our relations with our community and working to get more revenue in their pocket. We’ve set up a FaceBook community just for designers.
What are your biggest challenges in the space?
As most entrepreneurs would attest, running a small business, especially a tech start-up, is a chess match. So we have to balance our limited resources with prioritization on meeting increasing designer demands and tools which help them become more efficient, with applications which may increase sales, or our UX (user experience). Aside from that, creating awareness that we exist, and educating new customers that there is now a better way to get design. And the reality is that we have two sets of customers. Our paying customers, and our designers, who are an extension of us. Managing both and being the intermediary for global projects can be interesting sometimes.
Can you expand on that? The challenge, and how you serve your two groups of customers?
It comes down the old saying that we can please most of the people most of the time, but not all the people all the time. Our Net Promoter Score is in the 70’s, which puts us on par with Apple and Amazon. So our clients are really happy. But there may be a client who can get frustrated with some designs that miss the mark that are submitted from designers who don’t have a strong grasp of English, or are novice designers. We try to explain that the volume of designs makes it easy to eliminate those concepts, and focus on the quality designs that are submitted. On the flip side, designers can get frustrated by our customers who wait a long time to pick a winner, or in some cases, don’t pick a winner at all, which is understandable. So we are continually updating our policies and user interface in order to make the process more efficient for all parties.
Are you profitable? Do you have any numbers/figures you can share to give us the size of your business and operating space?
We are profitable. We doubled in revenue last year, and have paid out more than $4 million to designers since we launched MycroBurst in 2009. We’ve completed more than 20,000 projects ranging from logo designs, to websites even to Mitt Romney t-shirts. The global design market is anticipated to reach $35 billion globally by 2015. If you think about web design, book covers, business cards, brochures, postcards, and newspaper design, it’s pretty big.
Any tips for would-be entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting a business?
Be flexible, because your business will continually evolve. Remember that you are either growing or shrinking. Old technologies fade, and new technologies come in. Self-educate and be prepared to do tasks that you don’t enjoy. Mostly, be humble and learn from others, and learn from your mistakes.
Image: REUTERS/Vincent West