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Startup Stories: Alec Lynch, Founder & CEO of DesignCrowd and BrandCrowd

DesignCrowd founder & CEO, Alec Lynch, stopped by to chat about how COVID-19 accelerated their business and success in the start-up world.

by hao-nguyen on December 2, 2021

Alec Lynch is the founder & CEO of DesignCrowd – an online design business with two products DesignCrowd.com and BrandCrowd.com.

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Hey Alec, great to have you back on with us. It feels like forever since we last spoke about work-life balance. For those who may not know, can you tell us a little bit about DesignCrowd and BrandCrowd?

BrandCrowd.com is a design platform that helps small businesses create just about anything they might need – from logos and business cards to posters and letterheads. The flagship offering is our logo maker. We have the #1 logo maker in the world with over 70,000 premium logo templates.  

BrandCrowd is part of DesignCrowd which I founded in 2007. I started the business because buying design has traditionally been an expensive, slow and painful process for small businesses. Our mission across both DesignCrowd and BrandCrowd is to help people everywhere launch and grow their dream business with the best designs the world has to offer. BrandCrowd and DesignCrowd offer a cheaper, faster and more creative way to get design done.

One of the big trends during the pandemic lockdowns was that lots of people were launching their own side hustles. I’d imagine that this would have driven quite a bit interest for for your products?

COVID-19 has driven a global small business / start-up boom. In 2020 there was a large spike in new businesses created in the USA and between May 2020 and August 2020 we saw a corresponding spike in people using our logo maker. Over the last 6 months global demand for logos has returned to more ‘normal’ levels.

Switching gears a bit to yourself as a founder. You’ve been running DesignCrowd for over a decade now. What have ben some of the biggest challenges you’ve run into, and what lessons did you learn from them?

Over the last 10+ years, the business has had plenty of challenges and I’ve made plenty of mistakes. The most important lesson I’ve learned relates to speed. Speed is just so important. Speed is important for innovation, customer service, partnerships, solving problems, hiring talent, beating the competition. It is an important ingredient for just about everything – especially success.

That’s really interesting. Is there a particular situation that you can recall where speed was especially important, and was the difference between success and failure?

There have been many ideas (product, partnership or marketing) that we’ve had over the years, that we’ve sat on and then seen someone else act on. This might not lead to failure, but it might reduce the impact or benefit.

Related to that, in your experience, what do you think are the key traits for success in the start-up world?

Two important things you need as a start-up founder are: ideas and persistence. A great start-up begins with a good business idea and a clear idea for the future (your vision). Then you need persistence to get it live, to win your first customer, to get your first investor, to make your first profit. And you will need more ideas along the way to solve the challenges that will come your way.

The most important thing a founder needs to do to be successful is: to start something! The only thing that separates an entrepreneur from a wannabe entrepreneur is: they took their idea and they got started. If you have a great idea. Start now and do it fast!

How about for someone who’s interested in working for a start-up? How would you describe working in that environment to someone who’s looking to transition over?

If you’re thinking about transitioning from a role in a big company to a small company, whether you’re joining as an early team member or planning to launch your own start-up, the biggest difference is that you’re going from being a small cog in a big machine, to a big cog (or the only cog) in a small start-up.

No matter what role you’re taking on, you’re going to be more important to the success of the smaller business, you’re going to have more responsibility and you’re almost certainly going to be more senior.

Expect it to be more challenging, with more uncertainty, more problems to solve and more hard work to do. There’s no-one who is going to fix challenges for you, you are now the one that needs to find the solutions. The good news is that it will be more rewarding, you can have more of an impact, you’ll learn more and, if you work hard enough, you’ll probably be much more successful.

So then when you’re hiring new people for your team, what are some particular skill sets or traits that really stand out to you?

Important skills and traits vary by role. That said, for many roles we hire for at DesignCrowd and BrandCrowd, I like people who are able to be scientific in their approach.

This means they can come up with strong hypotheses and quality ideas and they can take a data-driven and logical approach to their work with the ability to run experiments, tests and analysis of data to find the best outcome. To me, a scientific approach is important in many roles in a start-up, from product roles to marketing roles, and it is essential for the overall success of a start-up.

One last question for you before we let you get back to it Alec. What’s your vision for BrandCrowd?

Our vision is to be the #1 design platform in the world for small business and to become a large, global SaaS company based here in Australia. One day, we hope to IPO in Australia.

Thanks Alec, that’s a great note to end on. It was great to chat with you as always and we’ll definitely continue watching your journey.

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