9designs, the highly controversial marketplace for crowd sourced designs, continues to march through the torches and pitchforks to build a pretty interesting business.
It took four years for the company to get to 100,000 contests, and it expects to double that by the end of this year. The amount of money it’s paying out to designers is on the same trajectory: The company paid out $29 million to designers in the first four years of its life, and expects to pay another $25 million to designers this year. Designers have already earned double this month than they did a year ago in January on the site, and the number of design contests being run on the site has doubled year-over-year as well.
99designs is also investing in some game mechanics to keep designers motivated: Things like ratings, leader boards and more contests and recognition for good work. (That may sound silly, but it can be effective. Tech blogs contort themselves in countless ways to inch up the TechMeme leaderboard.)
Nicholas Sheriff of New York says: “If many in arrogance want to leave free money on the table, let them do so. It’s not a question of if, but a question of when. Those who understand this are reaping the benefits, those who won’t are missing out on a tremendous opportunity for growth both personally and professionally.”
Put another way: That $25 million is going to go to someone this year. Designers have two choices: Get in the game or keep complaining on the sidelines.