Home Feature Story CrowdSPRING – A Springboard For Creative Ideas

CrowdSPRING – A Springboard For Creative Ideas

crowdSPRING co-founders Ross Kimbarovsky and Mike Samson
crowdSPRING co-founders Ross Kimbarovsky and Mike Samson


The creative agency business that insists on the traditional way of sourcing for work could be in peril. Not because of the worsening global economy, although that is one reason, but because of one little company based in Chicago called crowdSPRING.

You see, the current old-school business solicitation by creative agencies involves pitching by agency suits to brand marketers and other decision makers in the hopes of landing some outsourced creative work. A company puts out a tender – which could be open to all agencies, or a closed one involving a few selected ones – and this launches an entire pitching process which could take many rounds and months before an agency is finally selected.

That’s where crowdSPRING comes in.

Tapping on the Wisdom of Crowds

Founded by Ross Kimbarovsky and Mike Samson, crowdSPRING was started to help people from around the world access creative talent, and to help creatives from across the globe find new customers. Ross and Mike spotted an opportunity in the market – why not let the buyer specify what they want, name their own price, and decide the length of their project? And instead of sifting through bids and proposals and choosing a designer based off of that, why can’t buyers choose from actual designs that are created to meet their specifications?

So crowdSPRING created a platform where a buyer can put out an open project where creative agencies all over the world can submit actual designs for the buyer to choose from. Along with tools for payment, intellectual property protection, project management, communication, and file handling services, it’s ideal for business matchmaking.

“Our target buyer is an entrepreneur or small business that previously would have not known where to start to get custom design or would be unable to afford it,” says Kimbarovsky. “We truly believe we’re expanding the market and in the current economic climate, we’re not only an alternative resource for small businesses, entrepreneurs and even large corporations whose creative budgets have been significantly slashed, but also for creatives, from amateurs to professionals, that need another stream of income.   We continue to see our numbers grow from both the creative and buyers side, so we know we must be doing something right.”

The numbers prove it. Since its launch in May 2008, crowdSPRING has hit the $1 million mark in total awards escrowed, attracted some 200,000 entries from 18,000 creatives from more than 140 countries on some 3,000 projects to date. Think of it – that’s 70 entries per project, which a buyer can choose from completed designs within a stated budget and time period. In the traditional process, a buyer would be hard-pressed to find the time to sit down for more than 5 different pitches.

“By providing a level playing field for creatives, where success is based solely on talent and not resume, experience, education, or fancy offices, crowdSPRING has opened incredible opportunities to creatives around the world who previously had few opportunities to compete in the traditional creative industries,” says Ukraine-born Kimbarovsky.

“And by promoting community building, sharing and education, crowdSPRING has empowered its community of creatives to compete on a global scale – working for clients from more than 40 countries, including thousands of small businesses, agencies and some of the world’s largest brands.”

A Meeting of Two Minds

Ross and Mike have known one another for 20 years. The seed of the idea was formed over a series of lunches in the summer of 2006. Mike was working on outsourcing portions of the video post-production workflow and Ross had just led a website redesign for his law firm – with unspectacular results from a top vendor. Noticing a new trend on the Internet involving crowdsourcing, Ross called Mike and said “we should talk”.

Lots of research, homework, US$3 million in angel investment and iterative steps later, crowdSPRING was born. Today, almost three years later, the team has grown to nine people.

What Measure, Success?

A measure of success, aside from the growing crowdSPRING community, was garnering respect and credibility from the industry. Samson was selected to represent crowdSPRING and the cause for crowdsourcing by sitting on a panel at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival called “Is Spec Work Evil – The Online Creative Community Speaks”. He was joined by some of the most respected names in the design world including David Carson, Jeff Howe of WIRED magazine, Jeffrey Kalmikoff of skinnyCorp/Threadless and Forrester‘s Jeremiah Owyang.

But the team is not about to let success get to their heads.

“With every accomplishment that comes our way, we still face challenges just like any other small business.  We are a small company, still in our infancy and one of our biggest challenges is managing our own capacity. Outsourcing and crowdsourcing lets us remain a small company by leveraging our community and others to help us succeed”.

Despite the state of the global economy, crowdSPRING has expansion plans in the pipeline. “Moving forward, we will soon release a copywriting channel, for everything from blog content, marketing blurbs and PR materials, to books and resumés.  We will eventually also roll out an audio and music channel and a video and motion-graphics channel.”

crowdSPRING's home page
crowdSPRING's home page


  1. […] Lastly, crowdsourced contests are also popular. In this case, a crowd is asked to submit ideas for a project, but only the winner or winners are compensated. While the risk is greater in terms of getting paid, winners are paid much more than they are in the other categories. Contests are great for things like business names or logo designs. Major platforms include Squadhelp, 99designs and crowdSPRING (previously featured here). […]

  2. I submitted my first design on crowdspring and it won. I was told I was awarded a $500 prize all I had to do was send them my proofs which I did. Weeks roll by with me asking “do you need anything else?” over and over with no response. Finally right before the 30 days are up the buyer says “We are not happy with your proofs we changed our mind.” So this is after crowdspring had announced I was a winner and the buyer had already posted my design all over their website. (Of course they took it down and are trying to act like they never had it posted) When I brought this to their attention My profile was deleted from crowdspring, no money, zilch. So not only did I lose the $500 I lost all the work I had put into about 50 designs that were still in contests.

  3. Well, you may have spend $$ to go a good school, learn a bunch of stuff about branding, marketing, and logo creation. If that is the case, you might more than likely be pissed that this site is even in existence.


    You could be a very well read person, who is just as good or even better than a degree holder, and just can’t get on your feet because you do not have a degree, then you are happy to get work, and sharpen your skill, so you would love this site.

    This is just the way it is. I say, stay well informed, know all there is to know about CS, then do what works for you.


  4. And the thing is that the customer could just rip off the good works from the contributions and not having to honor any contract and pay anyone.

    Too much FREE ideas for all..your works might end up being used by others.

  5. good story, tried it out a while back but the price point is probably not Asian centric.
    however it is a good source for *ideas* (doing it the asian way)….

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