50 fastest-growing start-ups
StartupSmart Awards 2011
6. Red Bubble
Founders: Martin Hosking, Paul Vanzella, Peter Styles
Revenue: $3.32 million
Head Office: Victoria
RedBubble has become such a well-known name in the online world that it’s hard to believe that the business is only four years old.
At a stage when most start-ups are beginning to find traction, RedBubble is embarking upon a strategy of gradual world domination, having already achieved a significant foothold in both the US and Europe, as well as Australia.
The raw numbers are impressive. RedBubble has 1.8 million unique visitors per month, while almost one million items have been shipped to 140 countries. Over 66% of the business is outside Australia.
A total of 6.5 million works have been uploaded from the 150,000 contributing members and a total of 330,000 people have joined the site.
The site works by acting as a shop window for emerging artists. The artists, mainly designers of t-shirts and wall decals, provide the designs and RedBubble fulfils the rest, such as manufacture and delivery.
It’s a model that, four years since launch, still stands out from the plethora of online retailers that have sprung up in Australia.
“There are only a handful of successful Web 2.0 companies to come out of Australia – RedBubble is at the absolute forefront of them,” insists Hosking. “Australia's record with global internet companies is pretty dismal – none are within the top 500 in the world.”
“RedBubble is breaking this barrier and emerging as a truly global play with an enduring value proposition for a huge target market. RedBubble is to artists/designers what LinkedIn is to professionals. This is compelling.”
Hosking was an early convert to the internet – he worked on his first web venture back in 1995. The strong growth of RedBubble led to initial teething problems with supply, but Hosking is adamant the business isn’t purely about high-volume eCommerce. Its model is one that involves the artists at every level.
“There would’ve been a lot of easier ways to make money than build RedBubble but there aren’t nearly as many interesting ways to do something as compelling,” he says.
“RedBubble as a site, as a company, creates an enormous amount of value and we capture just a small portion of that.”
“We have a clear proposition but it’s hard to communicate sometimes. Our model is very rare. I can’t think of anyone else who is doing it the way we are.”
“That’s a good and bad thing. A good thing in that we’re out on our own, a bad thing in that it can be hard to communicate that.”
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