Dribbble was born a side project, a labor of love created by one designer (Dan) and one developer (Rich). And for most of our history, that’s how we rolled. We took a lot of pride in being hands-on in almost everything Dribbble did. But as 2012 neared its end, running what had grown into a highly-active, high-traffic community with only two full-time employees was taking a toll. Personal setbacks made matters worse, and last year closed on a downer.
We couldn’t solve everything that ailed us in 2012, but we realized we needed to make our lives easier and, in turn, make Dribbble better. Thus 2013 became a year of investment, in which we poured significant revenue back into the company in order to make it stronger and more sustainable for the long run.
How much did we reinvest? Here’s a graph of Dribbble revenue over the last 3 years:
Revenues have increased at a roughly linear rate, but the big change in 2013 was a dramatic increase in expenses, which shifted from 18.6% to 45.4% of total revenue as profits actually declined from 2012. While this probably means that we’re terrible at business, we hope it indicates that we’re committed to reinvesting earnings (Dribbble has taken no funding) to meet the demands of the scale we’ve reached and strengthen our product and community.
So what exactly did we invest in?
Growing a Team
By far the most critical improvement we made was growing our team, bringing in not only hands to help, but new ideas and energy. Samuel Fine (Community Manager) and Tristan Dunn (Developer) came on board in March. In the summer, we welcomed Patrick Byrne (Developer) to the team. And Susanna Baird (Writer), who had been writing features for our blog all year, joined us in the fall.
It’s hard to overstate how important and re-energizing it’s been for us to have a team in place that has, quite literally, made our service better, faster, more stable and more responsive. Please join us in a New Year cheer for Sam, Tristan, Patrick and Susanna!
The other area in which we made huge improvements was our technical infrastructure. In 2013 we:
- Moved our application to be hosted at Blue Box. They’ve been great as they provide hands-on assistance with application configuration and both emergency and day-to-day operational issues. They also have expertise in Ruby, Rails and Chef. We highly recommend you check them out if you’re operating a reasonably complex Rails application. (No, we’re not being paid to say this.)
- Fully-scripted our deployment environment with Chef.
- Upgraded to Rails 3 (which was long overdue). Now on the verge of Rails 4.
- Upgraded to Ruby 2. We now run Ruby 2.1.
- Added lots of view caching, reaping significant improvements in our server response times.
- Built numerous internal support and abuse detection tools. (Though we still have a lot of work to do here.)
- Moved our shots and attachments to Amazon CloudFront. We hope that you’ve noticed the speedup on the front end, especially those of you in Europe and Asia.
We also had some help along the way, particularly with regard to our hosting move. In particular, we’d like to thank to the fine folks at RubyTune, particularly Joshua Sierles who’s a brilliant, dedicated and trustworthy consultant to have in your corner. RubyTune helped us on multiple occasions navigate turbulent operational waters and and we can’t recommend these guys highly enough. (We’re not being paid to say this, either; they’re just awesome.)
We were thrilled to invest more time in 2013 facilitating and attending meetups where designers could meet and converse face-to-face. (We discovered that eating and drinking with designers is fun, too. Who knew?) While everything we do is aimed at providing a space for designers to congregate and share, we love being able to help designers make more personal connections by getting to know each other, old-school.
We were fortunate enough to have a bit more time and resources in 2013 such that at least one of us was able to make it to meetups in the following cities hosted by some fabulous partners:
- Salem @ Dribbble HQ
- Austin @ SXSW, sponsored by Happy Cog, Creative Market and Microsoft
- San Francisco @ Dropbox
- Washington, D.C. @ Canvas Co
- Boston @ Thoughtbot
- San Francisco @ Adobe
- Chicago @ Threadless
- Toronto @ Shopify
A lot of time, effort and money was put into organizing these events. We are SO grateful to these companies for supporting the Dribbble community and contributing their resources toward making it even better.
Along those lines, we’re thrilled to mention that we’re partnering with the fine folks at Shopify to work together on more/better Dribbble meetups around the world in 2014 as our Global Meetup Sponsor. Look for an announcement with specifics later this month, but Shopify has been a wonderful meetup host and partner — they power our Equipment Store — and we’re excited to expand our relationship with them as we scale our meetups.
We also added some business infrastructure that comes with growing up a bit — a new health care plan, a stock option plan, a vacation plan (or commitment to a lack of one), a new accountant, payroll … at times, the list seemed endless as we just wanted to get back to working on product. While we can’t say these were always fun to deal with, we’re glad they’re settled going forward.
Oh yeah, the website
A lot of the work we did on the site in 2013 was below the surface — as our service has grown and evolved, we seem to spend far more of our time behind the scenes. But we did make quite a few incremental improvements — a new, improved shot uploader, autocomplete for buckets, location search for jobs, Stripe integration for smoother purchasing experiences, pretty PDF receipts, Twitter Card integration for shots and projects, and many others. But most importantly, we had a major product release: Teams, which allows organizations to share their designs, products and jobs with the Dribbble community. We’re thrilled that some of the best brands on the internet — Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and many more — are already sharing and promoting the products they’re building on Dribbble. We currently have over 400 teams on Dribbble and will be working on improvements that we hope will inspire many, many more to share their team work with the community in 2014.
In May, our team gathered in South Carolina for ConvergeSE to do some learning, sightseeing and team bonding. Many thanks to the excellent web community in Columbia, SC, conference organizers, speakers and attendees. We had a great time talking shop, taking advantage of the local craft beer scene and meeting members of the Dribbble community.
In October, Patrick, Tristan and Rich attended the Wicked Good Ruby Conference in Boston, after which the entire team gathered at Dribbble HQ in Salem, MA, for a week of coding, conversation and planning. We even caught a hockey game, and though the visitors won, we didn’t let them Bruin our day.
Members of our team also popped up a few times during the year to speak at events:
- Dan & Rich were part of a panel on design communities at HUGE in Brooklyn in May, and Q&A conversations at Fresh Tilled Soil in Watertown, MA, and BubbleConf in September in Amsterdam.
- Patrick gave a talk “NPM Modules for Fun and Profit” at NodeMN in September
- Sam gave a talk “People Are People, Too” at Refresh Boston in November
Many thanks to these organizations for having us!
But enough about us. What happened in the community? A smattering of statistics from 2013:
- Over 330,000 shots were shared by designers to the tune of more than 102 billion pixels, bringing the site total to 172+ billion pixels. We’re not sure what this means, but we love counting pixels.
- Over 1 million comments
- Over 3.2 million follows
- Over 9.3 million likes
- Over 121 million unique shot views
- Over 205,000 new users signed up, bringing our membership to more than 460,000
- Over 76,000 work inquiries were sent to 7,700+ designers
- Over 1,700 jobs were posted
- Over 21,000 members bought Pro accounts
- Over 13,000 designers debuted their work on Dribbble bringing the total number of designers sharing work to more than 42,000. In case you didn’t realize it — the designer population on Dribbble is still very small! Yet as the stats above suggest, the level of participation and attention on your work is incredible. We continue to marvel at the strength, quality and impact of this community.
Shots or it didn’t happen
The most popular 20+13 shots of 2013:
What’s cooking in 2014?
Normally we (okay, Rich) is loathe to talk much about about what we’re going to do, but we have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment and are excited to share some of what we’re working on at the start of 2014. Current efforts include:
- Major updates to our site for faster navigation, more powerful streams and greater personalization
- New, improved API (finally!)
- Growing the community while maintaining its ethos
- More and better meetups around the world
- A bigger, better-stocked Equipment Shop - shirts, hoodies, mugs, oh my!
- Business cards for our team. (It’s about time; meetups are getting embarrassing.)
We have much more planned for the rest of 2014 as we hope to return more of our attention to product and community improvements now that we’ve built a team and addressed some growing pains.
Thanks so much for supporting this odd little misspelled hoop-themed operation whose impact has grown beyond our wildest dreams. Your participation and, specifically, your willingness to spend some of your hard-earned money because you thought this community was worthwhile, allowed two guys with families, with zero funding, who live and work outside a tech hub, turn a side project into a business that now feeds 13 mouths (mouth #14 is on the way). Through full-time hires and project engagements facilitated via the site, thousands of designers around the world are generating income from Dribbble as well. That’s a pretty amazing grassroots effort and you should be proud of yourselves. We’re sure proud of you.
For those of you that made a financial contribution to Dribbble by buying a Pro account, job, team, t-shirt or newsletter ad, it’s directly because of you that we’ve been able to grow our operation and work toward putting a better product on the court in 2014. For that, we can’t thank you enough.
We wish you a happy, healthy 2014 and, as always … happy Dribbbling.