Melbourne-based Envato celebrated its first decade last year. It has been one of challenges, lessons and highlights, as Envato’s executive director and co-founder Cyan Ta’eed shares.
Web designer Collis Ta’eed and his graphic designer wife, Cyan, were at their local swimming pool in Ashfield, Melbourne when the idea struck. In between their swim laps they came up with the idea behind Envato – a platform that facilitates the buying and selling of stock files. It could be a passive income generator, they thought.
It evolved to become Envato – a platform hosting digital marketplaces that facilitate the buying and selling of images, audio files, visual effects, codes, WordPress themes and more. Today, it has more than 1.5 million buyers and sellers and more than 6 million community members working across its various marketplaces. In 2014, Envato was named Australia’s coolest tech company by JobAdvisor, was listed as one of the best places to work in by BRW in 2015 and took the honours in JobAdvisor’s Coolest Company for Women competition that same year. The accolades are well-deserved; Envato’s journey hasn’t been a walk in the park.
Diagnosing the gap
Collis and Cyan wanted to do something to give them a passive income stream so that they could travel. They ran a small web design agency and realised that there was a gap in the market for a platform facilitating the selling and buying of stocks, especially flash stocks. They worked late into the night on the idea for six months, during the day they worked on clients’ projects, so that they could bring in enough money to pay for all the outlays of the new business.
It became more than a passive income idea. They maxed out our credit cards; they borrowed money from Collis’ parents and were living in Cyan’s parents’ basement to work on Envato. So when they launched it, there was this real need for it to succeed quite quickly. In that first week they made $100.
Envato’s recipe for successful growth, apart from developing a platform that filled a niche in the market, is due to 2 main factors:
Never underestimate the power of connecting with like-minded individuals and talent, your traditional competition can also be your best clients. Due to to being involved with the design community, they knew people who wanted to come on board early as sellers. But this was a very ‘chicken and egg’ scenario. Sellers aren’t interested until you have buyers and vice versa. But because they were already part of the community, people decided to give them a go and started to put their stuff up on the website. Slowly but surely they started getting more and more buyers, along with stock that wasn’t available anywhere else.
2. Provide people with value sans the price tag:
The thing that really took off was when they offered 10,000 free credits to buyers during the initial weeks to spend on whatever they wanted. It was a small investment on their part, but people got hooked onto the product right after that and, when sellers started seeing money coming in, they started putting up more stuff. That really got the ball rolling.
With 180+ employees and contractors working all over the world, here’s how they manage workflows and ensure that everyone is on the same page:
Champion a flexible working environment:
The team at Envato make use of practical applications like Trello boards, Slack and Google Drive and ensure that everyone’s hardware is really up to the task. Having a team that works anywhere and everywhere has become a norm for them.
It isn’t just the people working remotely who have this flexible work arrangement either, every employee does. In fact, they encourage every member of their team to work from home for two days a week, at least. Having an online business has meant that everything is always accessible for everyone.
Set and communicate goals clearly:
In order to drive results and your team’s progress, you not only need to set goals, you also need to communicate these clearly to your team. While this goal setting requires a bit more rigorous management, it is what drives the Envato team.
By putting together the goals for the team for the week, the month or the project, they are able to track it all up on the board, highlighting progress and also clearly defining where everyone’s individual pieces fit.
Focus on results:
Over the last couple of years Collis and Cyan made the decision to stop caring about what ‘work’ looks like, whether it’s a bum on seat from 8am until 5pm or not. Instead, they focus on results.
You see, if they started focusing on what work looks like, then it would be impossible to promote a remote, flexible work environment, or run their business successfully. This flexibility is part of the reason they won that Coolest Company for Women title in 2015, and is part of why they have just celebrated their 10 year anniversary.
So, What’s Envato’s plan for the next five years?
Well, they’re looking at a subscriptions model that enables members pay a fee and buy whatever they want, whenever they want, skipping the checkout process, and are looking at hosting website themes and that’s now in the testing phase. One thing is for sure, Envato isn’t going anywhere.