For Minted, Crowdsourcing Means Money

It was nearly two years ago that I re-connected with Mariam Naficy, co-founder of beauty site She had just launched, an online service based in San Francisco that sold custom stationary based on crowd-sourced designs. Having been a big believer in crowdsourcing long before it became fashionable, I knew Mariam was onto something — though it wasn’t clear how big the service was going to be.

Minted sells things like personalized wedding invitations, holiday cards and party invites, among other such things. How works is designers submit their designs to the site’s ongoing design competitions.  The community chooses the winners, who then get their products sold on Minted. The winning designers win a cash prize and a commission on the sales of their designs in perpetuity.

I caught up with Naficy recently and got an update on, which raised $2.5 million in initial funding in 2008 and since then has been working off that capital. She said that Minted’s sales grew 5.5 times in 2009 and are on target to grow four-fold again in 2010. If all things go well this holiday season, sales could easily soar past $5 million. Nearly 100 percent of the company’s revenues are coming from the sales of products based on crowd-sourced designs. Even though the site sells some branded stationary, “the crowd sourcing model is clearly working for us,” she says.

With thousands of designers having signed up, Naficy is now thinking about expanding to other verticals, especially where designs can be used to customize various different products. Nevertheless, in order to go after these new markets, the company needs to beef up its infrastructure.

To do that, the company has named Niniane Wang its CTO. Wang was a founding member of Google’s Desktop Search (s goog), led Gmail monetization, and founded Google Lively. Prior to Google, she had worked at Microsoft (s msft) where she served as engineering lead on the popular franchise Flight Simulator. With Wang on her side, I wonder if Zazzle and CafePress are in her sights? Naficy didn’t comment, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

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