Start-up thrives without venture capital

Few companies have the luxury of knocking back lucrative investment offers.

Few companies have the luxury of knocking back lucrative investment offers.

But super-successful digital goods company Envato is proudly privately owned, and chief executive Collis Ta'eed plans to keep it that way.

Melbourne-based Envato is the start-up behind nine online marketplaces, including big names ThemeForest, CodeCanyon, VideoHive and GraphicRiver - all market leaders.

From its humble beginnings in a Sydney garage in 2006, when Envato was founded by Mr Ta'eed, his wife Cyan Ta'eed and best mate Jun Rung, the company now employs 80 staff in Australia and another 70 internationally.

"We've certainly come a long way," Mr Ta'eed says.

"It took us three months for our revenue to reach $1000 a week, another year for it to get to the level where we were at $1 million a year. Now, seven years later, revenue is in excess of $10 million."

It's no wonder venture capitalists and growth equity companies regularly come knocking.

But Envato's co-founders have resisted the lure of cash injections and expressions of interest.

"Lots of them come our way - they sense an opportunity," Mr Ta'eed says. "You never know what the future may hold, so I usually maintain a relationship with them".

With the company growing at such a rapid pace - 12,500 people sell their products through Envato's network of sites - Mr Ta'eed says it wouldn't make sense to accept investment offers now.

He is also steadfast on the company remaining in Australia. "There's a lot of talent here in Melbourne and there's a start-up hub here too," Mr Ta'eed says. "We're proudly Australian."

Envato may have some of the oldest code, graphics and website theme marketplaces, but its management team is youthful. Collis is 33, Cyan is 31, and Mr Rung is 36.

"Sometimes it feels very strange, I have to admit," Mr Ta'eed says. "Every now and then, especially when we have meetings, I look around and think, 'Where did all these people come from?' "

FlashDen, which sold Adobe Flash-based products, was the company's first marketplace. It was renamed ActiveDen after Adobe complained of trademark infringement.

Since ActiveDen in 2006, the company has launched eight marketplaces, including PhotoDune in 2011.

Envato's most successful products have had the advantage of being the first to the market, but PhotoDune went up against leading site iStockphoto, which has been around since 2000.

But PhotoDune is now one of its busiest sites, with nearly 3 million images for sale.

Development of the company's latest offering is Microlancer, where freelance digital authors sell everything from logo designs to book covers, was largely shaped by customer feedback.

"Our mission statement is to help people learn, so wherever they are, whatever they do, they should be able to sell digital goods."

Envato also runs 14 tutorial sites offering technology online tutorials, eBooks and courses on everything from web design to game development.

Mr Ta'eed says he is focused on harnessing growth and building a happily productive workforce.

"We try to give our staff autonomy and the space to develop so they don't feel like they're being micromanaged," he says.

"As a company, we also have to be careful and cautious. I'm always reading about companies that became too comfortable, so we need to stay grounded."

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