2013.2.21

Japan’s Designclue wants to build Asia’s largest logo crowdsourcing market

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From left: Kyohei Teshima (CGO), Keisuke Shibata (CEO), and Akira Kudo (web developer)

Kyohei Teshima (CGO), Kensuke Shibata (CEO), and Akira Kudo (web developer)

See also this story in Japanese.

Designclue is a service that lets you crowdsource logo creation to freelance designers regardless of their location or nationality. It’s run by the Tokyo-based startup called Purple Cow, which recently announced it had fundraised 14.7 million yen (approximately $157,000) in a seed round from Incubate Fund and East Ventures. We had a chance to interview all the three members of the startup, Kensuke Shibata, the CEO; Kyohei Teshima, the chief global officer; and Akira Kudo, the web developer.

What exactly motivated you guys to launch this service?

Shibata: I was studying in high school in Canada, and our CGO Kyohei Teshima was studying in the UK. As both he and I were outside Japan, we saw a variety of services for outsourcing tasks to emerging countries. We didn’t really call it ‘crowdsourcing’ in the past, but it was an [early] form of today’s crowdsouricing concepts.

Kyohei and I met each other while working at DeNA as interns. We were so inspired by the concept of The World is Flat, the best-selling book by Thomas Friedman, and started working together exploring an innovative project that might disrupt the global market. With the idea of building up a global project-sharing platform without considering language barriers and cultural gaps, we won a grand prize award plus 3 million yen ($32,000) at an entrepreneur contest from Skylight Consulting. That’s where my colleague Akira Kudo joined the team too.

When thinking about what was the easiest category of crowdsource-able tasks [unlikely to be impeded by] language barriers, we concluded we should focus on a platform specializing in logo design.  Since we started working on it, we’re haven’t been interested in business in a specific country but rather one that works in the global market. [1]

Can you tell us how the system works?

When you order logo design here in Japan, it will usually not be very cheap due to high labor costs in the country. And it can also be very hard for most Japanese people to order such work from overseas because of the language barrier. Our service allows users to easily place orders from independent foreign designers.

The website has multilingual interfaces to easily facilitate this. We’ve developed a non-verbal interface that allows users to let the designers know what kind of tastes you like or what kind of additional changes you want by just choosing selective designations or pointing [things] out over the artwork on screen.  Users can receive many design proposals at affordable rates from registered designers in emerging markets.

How do you monetize this?

We charge our user almost 20% of the ordering fee as our commission (this can vary according to some order criteria) when the design artwork is delivered to the user. When a user submits the order, we’ll charge our fee including the commission. And after that user then selects one of the design proposals, Designclue will pay the designer. So, Designclue plays a sort of escrow role in terms of money flow. All payments on the platform are processed via PayPal.

What kinds of business are using the service the most?

About 50% of all orders on the platform came from Japanese startups, followed by large-sized IT enterprises which accounted for 30% of orders.

How geographically varied are the designers?

About 30% of registered designers comes from Indonesia, followed by the Philippines, the US, India, Serbia, and the UK (in descending order). There was even a South African freelance designer who could make a living for three months as long as he accomplished a single task.

It seems that in Indonesia the locals are aggressively developing their skills to make a living.  Many people are using [similar services] like 99designs.com and are used to submitting their artwork ideas as side jobs.   99designs is an English language site and helps them work with Western countries.  But for the Indonesian designers, we are a way to enlarge their business opportunities to non-English-speaking countries, including Japan.

Can you share any interesting metrics about your service so far?

123 design proposals are delivered for an order on average, and 95% of all the order requests are completed with users satisfied with the outcome. We have 800 designers in 60 countries, and more than 85% of all the designers came from outside Japan. We’ve handled more than 100 transactions during the last six months since the site launch.

What do you foresee for Designclue in the future?

We think we’ll be moving towards the realization of a project sharing platform, where users can easily split their tasks to small pieces and outsource to freelancers.


Designclue was chosen as one of the finalists for the SF Japan Night event that will take place in San Francisco in early March.

They’re currently hiring Ruby developers, preferably English speakers.  If you are interested in joining them and being a part of a platform that may disrupt the global market, please feel free to contact them.

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  1. After this point, all three pitch in to answer various questions.  ↩
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Masaru Ikeda

Masaru Ikeda

Masaru started his career as a programmer/engineer, and previously co-founded several system integration companies and consulting firms. He’s been traveling around Silicon Valley and Asia exploring the IT industry, and he also curates event updates for the Tokyo edition of Startup Digest.

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