Founded back in 2008, 99designs was bootstrapped for its first few years before raising a big $35 million round led by Accel Partners. The round’s a bit smaller this time around, but CEO Patrick Llewellyn said this was “not about the money we could raise.”
Instead, by taking money from Recruit Strategic Partners (the Silicon Valley-based venture arm of Japanese advertising and human resources company Recruit Holdings), Llewellyn is hoping to build a partnership that moves 99designs into Japan, and more broadly into Asia.
“We have an established business and model that doesn’t require significant capital to fuel its growth, but gaining access to real local market knowledge and distribution channels, coupled with the opportunity to gain broader access to enterprise customers within the Recruit network, was an opportunity too good to pass up,” he said.
Accel also participated in the new funding, with the firm’s venture partner Rob Solomon joining the 99designs board.
As for why he’s interested in Japan in particular, Llewellyn pointed to the growth of labor marketplaces and the on-demand economy, as well as the country’s “steep history in design” and large market.
He added that 40 percent of 99designs’ business currently comes from outside North America, up from 20 percent three years ago, thanks to growth in Europe and Latin America. (99designs was founded in Melbourne, Australia and still has an office there, but it’s now officially headquartered in San Francisco.)
“Our aim is to get our business to a 50/50 split over the coming years, and Asia represents the next step in this strategy,” he said.
And while 99designs has built its reputation as the place where businesses can get a new logo, it recently partnered with Jimdo to offer a broader package that also includes website creation.