Life after t-shirts: Ventureburn gets the exclusive behind Springleap’s pivot

Springleap made a name for itself selling t-shirts based on crowdsourced designs. It was more or less an African version of Threadless, with artists’ designs voted on by the Springleap community and the winning design emblazoned on t-shirts which go up for sale. While the company claims to have been reasonably successful, founder Eran Eyal decided that it was time for a change.

Speaking to Ventureburn, Eyal detailed how he took complete control of the company and set about transforming it into a premium design community aimed at helping brands crowdsource design. In our discussions he revealed a couple of facts that we can now share with you exclusively.

Eyal’s first step was to make sure that Springleap was his first and only focus. In order to do that, he sold up some of his share in crowdsourcing social network Evly, injected some capital and bought out the other partners in Springleap (although co-founder and Eyal’s life-long friend Eric Edelstein has stayed on as a silent partner).

The next step was laying out the vision for the re-imagined Springleap. According to Eyal, the premium part was important from the get-go. It had to be if the company wanted to get big designers doing work for big clients.

Eyal tells us that meant the company couldn’t just copy the model used by 99designs, the world’s largest online graphic design marketplace.

While he clearly respects the space that company has managed to carve out for itself, he says that the relatively small prizes on hand for the winning designs mean that the platform is only really useful to small to medium-sized players. While it gives away around US$2-million a month, the vast majority of that comes in relatively small chunks.

As far as Eyal’s concerned, that means you’re less likely to get good work. “For US$200 you get what you pay for,” he told us.

By way of contrast, Eyal said, Springleap has never given away less than US$2000 for a creative brand design challenge it hosts.

On the face of it, that attitude seems to be working. Springleap currently claims to have a community of around 18 500 creatives, to whom it has paid out over US$3-million. It also has a client list that includes the likes of agency giant Ogilvy & Mather, as well as Kraft Foods, Samsung and Nokia.

Eyal reckons that Springleap has been able to get these clients because its high payouts bring in a level of work that is on par with what they would get if they went to an agency.

Exploring new territories

Eyal also revealed to us how Springleap is looking to move beyond its online crowdsourcing platform. One way it’s doing this is with a Facebook app that connects clients with the Springleap platform and allows them to run design competitions on the Facebook pages of several other partners.

“This makes a lot of sense,” Eyal told us, “because it respects the laws of how networks are created”. It also means, he says, that everyone is linked to the same conversation, something that isn’t always the case when running a social-based competition.

At the moment, Springleap usually embeds the app by getting you to provide it with admin access to your Facebook page. Understandably however some might be reticent to give over that much control. In such cases, Eyal told Ventureburn, the company can provide you with a spec sheet to do it yourself.

In the near future, brands will also apparently be able to go to the Springleap site and install it themselves.

The campaigns so far seem to suggest that the model works. According to Eyal, Volkswagen doubled engagement in the December/January period, usually the quietest time for its social presence.

Beyond design, Ventureburn can reveal that Springleap is moving quietly into the TV commercial space with a model that Eyal believes “shake up the spec work model”.

Anyone who misses being able to buy Springleap t-shirts will also be pleased to hear that it’s planning on revamping its ecommerce section to the platform — something which provides an extra avenue for the designers — along with a collaboration with custom t-shirt crowdfunding platform Teespring.

On distant shores

While Springleap remains a South African-based company (for the moment at any rate), it’s increasingly playing in foreign markets, with clients in the UK and the US.

Finding new customers in the latter will theoretically be made easier by the hire of Evan Walther (of the gun-manufacturing family) to head up business development for it in New York.

It’s also competing in international startup competitions, including the upcoming Dublin Web Summit, where it is one of 100 companies chosen from around the globe and is gunning for the title of “hardest working startup“.

Ultimately, Eyal told us, Springleap is about “helping solve problems” and reducing the pain of sourcing quality design to an “absolute point of zero”.

Given the nature of tech though, we’re not sure how easy that last one will be.



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