by Collis Ta'eed, CEO, Founder, Reformed Web Designer.
They say that people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a year. If that is true, then imagine how much we underestimate what can be accomplished in a lifetime.
When I look back at the seven years of Envato's life so far, I certainly underestimated what this company and community was capable of achieving. And this in turn makes me wonder how much more we can do in the next seven.
In our first years of existence we were firmly engaged in what I would call Product-Building. As a founder this was what I signed up for. I love making stuff, and I wanted to make products and platforms that helped other people make stuff. During those first years we built a lot of products. Maybe too many! The more successful ones are still around. The not-so-successful ones you probably won't remember: Miiingle, Netsetter, LinksGuy, the Psdtuts Wiki, NorthxEast, NotByTheHour, and lots of others. As a team of makers we were busy learning what worked, what didn't, and what was sustainable.
By about year three, we had found our feet. We had a few successful product lines, a team of twenty or so people working full-time on them, and the wind at our backs. It was at this time we changed gears into a new phase of the company that I would call Company-Building.
As a web-designer turned founder, this was not really what I'd signed up for. All of a sudden there was an increasing amount of things we had to do that were nothing to do with making products. Instead there was staffing, offices, management, culture, comms, structuring, security, finances, and the like. I think this stuff must be easier for business veterans. And I often wondered if maybe there was some book I was supposed to have read. For me this was a world of learning as hard and fast as I could.
It's been four years that we've spent in this Company-Building phase, growing from twenty people to two hundred. And this last year I felt I finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel. I think there's a new phase of Envato's life on the horizon. But before I tell you about it, let me tell you how we got here.
Deciding Who Envato Is
You remember how when you were a kid, people would ask what you wanted to be when you grew up? As a child when you get asked this question you think it's all about what job you will do. My two year old son is currently thinking he'll be a driver - he's unsure whether it will be trucks or race cars he'll be at the wheel of.
But as you get older, you start to realise that you really need to be asking yourself who you want to be when you grow up. Truck or race car driver, it doesn't really matter. What does matter is what you stand for, what you make time for, and who you are to the people who know you.
It's a bit the same for a company. Once you have a product that has some traction and is self sustaining, you find you have a lot of choices in front of you. What kind of a company do you want to be? What's going to be important? How will you behave? What will you aspire to do? Who will you serve?
These last four years of company building were really a backdrop to answering these important questions. On the face of things we were creating an organisational structure, finding an office to call home, growing our infrastructure, hiring people, and a million other mechanical tasks involved with scaling a company. But the whole time something much more fundamental was going on.
Underpinning all that activity, were decisions about what culture we would have, what we would value, how we would make decisions, whose interests we would put forward and what we would make time for.
The reason I believe our Company-Building phase is coming to an end is not just that we've laid a lot of groundwork and infrastructure. It's not just that as CEO, I've learned a lot more about how a company works.
It's that we figured out who we are as a company.
When the Community Succeeds, We Succeed.
This year we published our company values both internally and out to the world. And our pivotal value was that "When the Community Succeeds, We Succeed."
It was a fundamental decision point. We decided that the only way we were prepared to succeed was if we were helping others succeed. From that value we drew out others. If we were going to help the community succeed, we were going to have be fair, we would need to be honest, we'd need to not just be about the bottom line, we'd need to be outcome focused, and we'd need to be people focused.
This value decided our future. For better or worse, we have decided to try to help the community win. It's something that everyone who works at Envato values, and something that I personally believe passionately in.
How We Helped the Community Succeed in 2013
With that in mind, you might wonder how we helped the community succeed in 2013. Well, I'm glad you asked. Here's a little rundown I prepared earlier:
- We helped our community of authors, affiliates, freelancers and instructors take their lifetime earnings with Envato past $140,000,000.
- We passed 720 hours of educational video content and 16,000 free tutorials and articles.
- We worked hard on communications with our community, adding more touch points like new blogs, an elite manager, new community team members, video updates about us, and more.
- We launched a market for freelancers to offer services in a new way, creating another platform for earning, and laying the groundwork for new interesting ways of distributing our community's products and skills.
- We built new, more accessible hubs for Tuts+ and Marketplaces to make our sites clearer and easier to use.
- We began publishing educational content on a new subject area - Electronics! - extending the breadth of topics we cover.
- We sponsored events and meetups around the world for WordPress, Ruby and Startups, while also starting to back projects and initiatives that are good for the community like Ghost and Macaw.
- We began publishing learnings from our company here on Inside.Envato and on WeBuild.Envato.
- We supported charities around the world, through our annual team charity contribution (total lifetime contribution is well over $500,000), as well as by supporting team members' charitable activities like Movember, Blog Action Day and NewDayBox.
- We built our gorgeous new Envato HQ, and offered it up for local events and groups like Be Responsive, Net Squared, Installfest, Lean Startup Training, and many more.
- We held community meetups in Australia, the USA and the UK, to make sure that there were face to face conversations happening between our staff and the community.
These were some of the ways we tried to serve the community. There's plenty more we can do, and will do. Which brings us at last to what's next for Envato.
Now that we know who we want to be, we have to live up to it. That's why I believe that we are now entering a new phase of Envato's life, that I would call Community-Building.
As the new year dawns, we'll be posting here on Inside.Envato about our 2020 Vision. We'd like to ask the community to help us decide what Envato's future looks like.
There's an African proverb that a fellow entrepreneur once shared with me, and I think it's a beautiful description of what we at Envato want to do.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”
See you in 2014.