Springleap has traveled from its offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, to Brooklyn to set up its global headquarters and bring a new model for crowdsourced design to the “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue.
The company started as a design competition website, allowing brands to post competitions and offer prizes to the best designers for various campaigns. “That in itself was quite remarkable,” says Springleap founder Eran Eyal.
Springleap won a slew of awards, including the United Nations World Summit Award for innovative e-business; MentorCamp Global Finals in Canada, and a most valuable presenter by Microsoft. But now the company’s won something even better — cold, hard cash to the tune of a $400,000 round which brought it to New York to try to shake up the world of design.
Financing for the initial round came from local South African and U.K. investors, including Colenso Capital, Clearwater, Kevin Gaskell and Crystal Bay Capital. Founded in 2007 as a crowdsourced platform for T-shirt designs, the company has since become a way for clients to access creative and design talent.
“The pivot at Springleap made a lot of sense, but we are also backing Eran’s ambitions and vision here,” said Colenso Capital’s Tim Leclecrq. “In a short time, he’s brought a world-class team and advisers together around Springleap and positioned the business for huge potential.”
In addition to being part of South Africa’s thriving economy of technology startups, the investment interest in Springleap comes at a time of increasing attention from the global advertising industry on acquiring local advertising, communications and digital agencies, Springleap said in a statement.
“The model Springleap is developing can sit at the heart of any agency to help them flexibly scale and access new varieties of talent and skills across Africa,” said Clearwater chief executive, Derek White.
The company’s clients include Samsung, SAB, Nestle, Kraft and Ogilvy.
“What we see is a marketplace of creators and brands and agencies having a much more scalable creative model,” Eyal says. The company is currently raising a larger round of financing to pursue a more robust vision than just design and talent competitions (although these days, with hiring and developing talent so competitive — running competitions is probably not a bad business).
Eyal says that the competitive aspect at the heart of Springleap’s model is better for companies. “A business doesn’t get one design, they get five radically different designs.”
In the beginning, designers were paid to pitch and the company offered high-end rewards for winning designers, but the company’s vision is expanding. “We’re figuring out constantly with the creators who have looked at our history. We have a bigger vision, which we believe will fundamentally change the way stuff works in the design category and the research category,” Eyal says.
The company is currently raising a new round of capital to bring that vision to market and has been in talks with investors on both coasts. Already the company has a sales pipeline of $3 million, Eyal says.
The advertising market is huge, with companies spending some $580 billion on the production of new ads. Springleap has a way to go after what Eyal estimates is one-third of that total spend (which is a pretty massive market).
“We’re interested in how the agency-class creator thinks,” Eyal says. To that end, the company will look to build out an analytics and research component to its business to institutionalize the thinking of the best minds at the best advertising firms. Think Don Draper on-demand. “We’re tapping in to the meta-consumer. The guy who tells the consumer what they like and don’t like.”