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99designs expands into non-English speaking countries – StartupSmart

Crowdsource design giant 99designs has begun launching localised versions of its site, including an Australian version supported by more local sales and marketing staff ahead of an international expansion effort.


While the company will launch localised sites in Australia, Britain and the United States, it also plans to break into non-English speaking communities eventually, with founder Mark Harbottle revealing plans for a Spanish version.


“We’re doing the English speaking ones first because they are the easiest, and Australia is the second biggest market. But we do eventually want to build in a Spanish version, and then from there see what’s next.”


“We get a lot of customer feedback. I was speaking to someone the other day and he said he had to use Google Translate in order to speak to a particular designer.”


While the Australian site will be the first to receive a local makeover, as it makes up 10% of overall business, Harbottle says there is definitely scope for non-English speaking versions of the site to reduce confusion over both language barriers and currency issues.


“There’s not really a whole lot of text on our site, it’s really just design based. But when you have communication between two parties, it has to happen on the fly.”


The Australian version of the site will ensure that designers have access to local support staff, and will be able to pay in Australian dollars. Harbottle explains the new localisation effort comes after customers complained there was no local support.


“We heard from customers that they were being charged in US dollars, and they were getting charged by their banks for conversion, and they had to reach a US number to get phone support. That’s not convenient.”


The company is well placed to localise its effort – Harbottle registered dozens of domain names in preparation for international expansion.


“I’m glad I did this, I went around the world by GDP and grabbed the domains for the top 80%. We acquired them on the quiet, because otherwise the price would have gone way too high.”


Harbottle says the effort will be funded by the money received through Accel Partners investment last year, which provided the company with $35 million.


“We didn’t really have a marketing team at all. So we’re looking at hiring a vice president of marketing in the United States, and we’re double the size of team here and adding more developers.”


“We want to spend a lot on sales and marketing here, use that money to double the team and have some parallel processing here.”


“After that, we’ll tackle the non-English speaking markets.”


Harbottle also says the company will be putting more money into nurturing its developer community, by introducing scholarships and more training events – but denies this is in response to backlash against crowdsourcing from some segments of the developer community.


“It’s a tough road for a designer. You’ve got to try and win a contest, you might go through 10 before you win one. So we want to train them up a bit more.”


“There’s definitely some segments of the design community that don’t like what we do, but we’re never going to win those guys over. We want to focus on our existing customer base that likes what we do and are making money.”


This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

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