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Design Inc. shuts down self-service platform, blames poor growth and business model

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Five months after pivoting away from its 99designs-like service into a more relationship-based marketplace, Design Inc. announced that it’s reluctantly shutting down its self-service platform. The company cited traction that was less than expected and a flawed business model. While the service is no more, Design Inc. said it’s “not going anywhere just yet” and would be spending time trying to “figure out the answer” to what’s next.

“We are still dedicated to bringing excellent product design and design thinking to the world, but we want to take a moment and reevaluate how we approach our offering,” the company wrote on its website, explaining the news. It appears that while Design Inc is giving up on its marketplace, it’s not done trying to help designers improve their careers.

Launched in 2016 by Marc Hemeon and Bjoern Zinssmeister, Design Inc. wanted to be the “operating system for designers”, being a valuable resource to creative professionals for finding jobs and building relationships. It started out as a 99design-like service, but then pivoted to its current incarnation where companies submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) and are matched with designers.

In a Medium post, Hemeon said that “hundreds of companies” have benefited from the service, but “not everything has been working as planned.” He declined to cite specifics about what did and what didn’t work. At one point, Hemeon told VentureBeat that it counted brands like Nike, Google, Twitter, GoPro, Adidas, Evernote, Netflix, Uber, and Salesforce as customers.

Designers with an account on Design Inc. will receive refunds for outstanding credits over the next week. All data from accounts and profile will be removed.

Design Inc previously raised $2.3 million in venture funding, backed by Harrison Metal, David Tisch’s BoxGroup, Collaborative Fund, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Okapi Venture Capital, and 500 Startups.

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