Community Stories, Inside Envato

Staff Reflect on Envato’s $1 Billion Community Earnings Milestone

It’s been eight years since Envato first set an ambitious milestone: $1 billion in community earnings. Here, some of the staff who have been with the company nearly every step of the way reflect on the journey to now.

Portrait for David Scott By David Scott
Posted 09 Nov 2020
Two people talking illustrated speech bubbles

Kate McInnes, Envato’s Content Specialist for Design, remembers vividly the day the company announced it was aiming to hit $1 billion in community earnings and it all happened in a hotel conference room in Kuala Lumpur in the early months of 2012. “Envato was showing the signs of becoming a pretty big business and a lot of the discussions we were having at the staff conference were about our vision for the future and establishing goals and the company values. I was new to my career then, so I assumed that businesses went to big conferences and CEOs announced all sorts of crazy goals all the time!” 

“However, the thing I learnt about Collis over the following years was that he sets ambitious goals but makes sure they are grounded in reality. When Collis said $1 billion in KL, my first thought was, ‘wow, how long does that take?’ My second thought was, will I be at Envato to see it happen?’” 

“I guess I have both of those answers now!” 

Photo of postcard of Envato staff
Kate McInnes (third from right) reflects on the trip that set the $1 billion goal in motion

At the same time on the other side of the world, Envato’s Author Growth expert Josh Sprague was sitting on a rock in the woods of rural Tennessee and dialling into the meeting. “I remember the meeting well as I had just moved to our farm and I was thinking how blessed I was to be where I am, doing what I love. I don’t remember being surprised when Collis put it out there as, to me, he has always been very ambitious and entirely optimistic about our future.” 

“What's more, I don’t think anyone on that call doubted we would achieve this milestone. It was a worthy goal and one we all looked forward to seeing come to pass.”

From Little Things, Big Things Grow

For Co-Founder Cyan Ta’eed, her memories of that fateful Malaysian conference prompt feelings of both fear and excitement. “It felt a bit terrifying to say the $1 billion goal out loud. It was a real “let’s just work hard and figure it out” moment. But luckily we have an amazing team at Envato, and everyone was more inspired by that goal than almost any other that we might have come up with.”

Eight years later, and the $1 billion goal has finally been realised. More than 81,000 authors have earned through Envato since 2012, with millions of customers and a dedicated global staff community helping to deliver an ambitious target well ahead of its expected 2021 arrival. And yet, even as the company was growing rapidly, the goal never felt completely certain. 

The $1 billion goal felt almost unrealistic when we set it.

Cyan Ta’eed

“The $1 billion goal felt almost unrealistic when we set it,” says Cyan. “It certainly wasn’t something we thought was a sure thing - it almost seemed laughable. We knew the right metric for us, the one we were passionate about, was how much money our authors could make. How we would get there was a completely different matter.”

“But it goes to show you can accomplish a lot over almost fifteen years. The fact that we’ve reached the $1 billion goal the same month Collis hands over the CEO role to Hichame feels very symbolic to me. It’s a wonderful milestone.”

Product Manager Kelly Dent, who joined Envato just months after the goal had been announced, agrees that the idea of hitting $1 billion was a major point of unification across the business, one that engaged everyone and underpinned the company's goals of enabling creatives to earn online. “It was something that felt meaningful. It was - and still is - a number that is hard to really wrap my head around but at the same time I know it means more of what we were already seeing happening in the community.” 

“This number represents that many more people are able to take control of their lives and make more important choices for themselves and their families! Some people might be able to lean right into being an ‘Envato Author’ and create a career, some might have been able to save for just one thing they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford. Knowing we’ve had this kind of real impact for so many is amazing and I think it will be a hard task to find this kind of connection again in another company.”

A Truly Global Impact

The journey from that fateful day in KL to now is one full of happy memories for many of Envato’s longest-tenured employees, many of whom have had a front row seat to the highs and lows of how the business has evolved. But it is the impact Envato’s activities have had on its global creative community that is the point of most pride for staff. 

For Justin French, Envato’s Chief Experience Officer, the milestone is more than just a number. “I feel like it undersells the true impact Envato has had over the years, as I like to think about all the businesses that were started, the client projects that were completed, the new skills people learned and the new careers that we helped kickstart in some small way.”

“I know the earnings generated through our ecosystem has been able to quite literally change so many people's lives for the better,” reflects Mark Brodhuber, a Content Specialist who, outside of the founders, is currently the longest tenured staff member at Envato as he closes in on 12 years with the company. “I've heard so many stories from authors who dipped their toes in, hoping to earn some extra income on the side. And within a few short years were able to quit their jobs and become Envato authors full time. Many of them were successful enough that they could create larger businesses, employing staff and changing the lives of other people as a result.”

However, it is another memory - one of food at the company’s first ever meetup - that sticks in Mark’s mind when he reflects on what makes Envato, well, Envato. “In 2010, everyone from all over the world flew into Chicago for a really great team meetup. We had all been working together for a while at that point, but it was still the first time most of the remote people got to meet everyone from HQ and also other remote workers.”

“Cyan organized a team-building exercise, where we all split into teams and competed in a large scavenger hunt around the city. One of the tasks was the team had to eat an entire deep-dish pizza without using their hands. We underestimated the amount of time it took a deep-dish pizza to be made and really should have got that one done first. But after a long wait, the pizza came out and I bent down to take a big bite, burning the entire roof of my mouth. As miserable as that was, the entire activity was a blast, and meeting everyone for the first time is something I'll never forget.”

The offending pizza, forever immortalised in this photo.

Driven By Values

Systems and Projects Director Kathryn Grant had just started at Envato when the goal was set, which coincided with another important milestone - writing the company’s values, with Kathryn one of the leading voices championing for a value that enshrined a commitment to diversity and inclusion. “That sums up what it means to be Envatian, and it’s absolutely a reflection of our founders; passionate people who want to make Envato and the world a better place.

“The earnings goal definitely seemed completely far-flung. I remember being a bit gobsmacked when we reached 500 million. I never imagined that we would actually make it, or that I would still be working here if we did.”

“I think the thing that stands out for me is not what has changed, but what has stayed the same,” continues Kathryn, “and that is that at the heart of this place is a real, true and unwavering ambition to be a force for good in the world. Not for marketing or PR or any disingenuous reasons, but because that truly is our heart.”

For more on the $1 billion milestone, check out our Meet the Makers series of interviews in our new Community Stories hub. It includes creative tips from our community, as well as their pick of the most inspiring authors.