Today digital marketplace Envato boasts stats that every startup founder dreams of; over 6 million members within its community, users in over 200 countries and over 1.5 million active buyers and sellers spending and making money via the various Envato product platforms, which between them house over 9 million creative assets.
The company first launched ten years ago in 2006 and is arguably one of Australia’s first startup success stories, albeit perhaps one of the least vocal about its success media-wise until recent years. This is reflective of the persona of the company’s founding team, who chose to have a dedicated focus on product and customer prior to looking at building their own personal profiles in the public eye.
Like many successful companies, Envato was launched in a relatively short amount of time. Original founding team Cyan and Collis Ta’eed had just gotten married and were making decent money as freelancers when they had the talk about what they ‘really’ wanted to do. Travel the world was one of those things, and the other the pair both came up with was creating an internet business, originally so they could work from anywhere while they travelled.
The pair decided to launch ActiveDen, a site that allowed users to buy and sell Flash assets. However, as Collis shared with Startup Daily in an interview backstage at the first ever Sunrise Conference, it was not the smoothest of starts.
“The first six months leading up to launch [were tough]. We launched in August  but by July the site wasn’t finished, we had blown all of our savings, I was living with my in-laws, I had borrowed money from my parents, we had finished our credit cards; it was a pretty depressing time and we still weren’t really sure if anything was going to come of it,” Collis said.
“We did manage to happily get to launch like one month later and got a few sales but even then it took another 18 months or so before it could actually even pay us, so in that time effectively we just did two jobs. The ones that actually paid for our living and the one that was building the company.”
The story is undoubtedly familiar to many startup founders, but it shows that the most important thing to do is launch – everything grows or fails from there.
Nowadays the Envato Marketplace includes the platforms themeforst, codecanyon, videohive, audiojungle, graphcriver, photodune and 3docean. There is also the Envato Studio, which allows users to hire developers and designers, Envato Elements, which offers users graphic assets, and Envato Tuts+, which has over 21,000 free tutorials teaching users skills in disciplines like coding, photography, design, and video.
Just last month the company also launched Envato Sites, a website builder of sorts targeted at the small business sector.
For the last 10 years the target customer of Envato has been centered around designers and developers, therefore making Envato Sites a new venture of sorts for the company. Cyan told Startup Daily in March this year that as a business they will be experimenting with marketing to the small business community first before investing aggressively in a particular tactic.
“We’re going to dip our toes in and learn, then dip our toes a little bit deeper before we jump in,” she said.
This is the tactic that has fuelled Envato’s growth since its launch. Having started out with a graphic designer, two web designers, and a physicist – “a bit of a left field cofounder, but he introduced a fantastic skillset around rigorous research and all those sorts of other things that designers potentially aren’t as strong at,” said Cyan – the team has simply learned on the job.
Though Cyan said the team has gotten better at expecting and preparing for growth over time, learning to plan ahead and thinking about the next stage of growth, she said that, for a long time, Envato was reactive, simply dealing with problems or opportunities as they came along.
“We weren’t prepared for [this success]. Obviously, you’re always hopeful, and as time goes on you reach one metric of success and think, alright, why don’t we shoot for the next metric of success, that would be really great. But as a founder you’re constantly learning.”
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Featured Image: Envato Employees | Source: Envato Press Kit