Empowerment by Design
Superside is the leading Creative-as-a-Service (CaaS) company that helps over 450 ambitious brands get great design and creative done at scale.
SEEKING MARKET EFFICIENCY
Market efficiency is fundamental to how economics explains the world. At its most simple, the concept seeks to explain how markets work by matching suppliers and purchasers with the goal of maximizing overall benefit in the system. The challenge for economists is that most markets are inherently inefficient – with barriers to competition that stop capable suppliers from engaging with willing purchasers to the potential benefit of both.
It is exactly this issue that trained economist Fredrik Thomassen is trying to solve through his company, Superside.
Fredrik figured out early in the game that a global online labor market is the only way to overcome geographic barriers and equalize the global playing field, allowing for greater economic and social opportunities that benefit both the creative and the customer.
GROWING A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
Fredrik’s path to creating a groundbreaking outsourced creative solution began in a small Norwegian coastal town. The arrival of the internet and all the people, places, and information it contained was a revelation for the then 13-year-old who previously only had access to a single television channel. From that point forward, he spent his time in online forums, playing video games, and building his own computers.
Following his curiosity about the wider world and the systems that connect it, he earned an MSc in econometrics and mathematical economics from The London School of Economics (LSE). His focus on the underlying causes of varying global economic development between countries and regions would become one of the forces behind the founding of Superside.
Following university, Fredrik spent five years as a journalist before accepting a marketing role at McKinsey & Company, where he hoped to deepen his understanding of business at a global level. During this time, he discovered the challenges and shortfalls within the traditional outsourced creative models, along with the economic benefits offered to those able to freelance their talents.
His next journey was to Indonesia where he co-founded the fashion e-commerce startup, Zalora Group. While helping build the company into the country’s largest e-commerce startup, Fredrik witnessed a vibrant emerging economy fueled by the talent and dynamism of its people. However, he also noted the huge disparity in income between Indonesian creatives and their North American and European counterparts—a problem he set out to solve.
The final component that would lead to the formation of Superside was the confidence that remote work would undergo a major transition and become a staple in the modern workplace. In the 21st century, with increased accessibility and faster internet connections, many jobs could be done from home. As Fredrik remarked, “The pandemic kind of proved our point. Working from home worked better than most people expected.”
“The pandemic kind of proved our point. Working from home worked better than most people expected.”
Combining these disparate ideas together, Fredrik set out to build a new company that would level the playing field for global creative workers.
With increasing access to high-speed internet and acceptance of remote work, there were no longer any borders to accessing an extremely talented global talent pool. Indonesian creatives produce the same quality as creatives in New York or London. The only thing missing was a way to connect the businesses needing the work to the people providing it.
In 2015, along with Fredrik’s co-founders, CTO, Jing Kjeldsen; COO, Haakon Heir; and Sondre Rasch, Konsus was born (the predecessor of Superside). The goal was to develop a remote work platform that provided access to coveted jobs for the most talented creatives all around the world, wherever they were based.
Starting as a highly curated marketplace, recruiting only the top 1% of global creative talent and connecting them with businesses of any size, from mum and pop shops and startups to established companies and large enterprises in need of creative services; it soon became clear that at least a subset of customers didn’t want to constantly sift through talent. In order to help businesses identify their design needs and match with the right people for each creative project, a layer of creative project management was added. They also began to see a pattern with some businesses needing a wider range of creative capabilities for a greater number of projects of varying size and complexity—a gap in the marketplace that neither agencies nor freelancers could properly fill.
Through participation in Y Combinator’s Winter 2016 program, Fredrik and team experimented with different models and customer types in an effort to find product-market fit. In 2018 when the team began experimenting with a subscription model, things started to fall in place.
WORKING THE PROBLEM
In 2019, the new rendition of Konsus, Superside.com went live— a design subscription service to get good creative done with speed, quality and price in equal balance.
From the outside, the shift to subscriptions may have seemed like a simple change in revenue models, but the impact was more profound. That change was fundamental to shifting customer mindsets to a longer-term approach more aligned with the needs of “ambitious companies”. In parallel, this helped Superside move from attracting those who were looking for short-term, low-cost piecework to those with a desire for constant help over time—thus, driving recurring revenue for Superside.
Superside learned to attract modern marketing, creative and business teams that didn’t just need high-quality creative—but also in increasing volumes and with fast turnarounds. Since internal creative teams are continually overwhelmed by the volume and speed of requests, and they’re almost always having to say no to the “execution layer” creative work in favour of long-term strategic projects, Superside found a wedge in.
These changes have been driven by a desire to continuously improve the service for its target audience. Fredrick remarked, “we’ve had a slow and steady ‘cockroach’ approach to make sure customers are happy and so we always have money in the bank to pay our employees.” The methodical, forward progress of the company has proven important to the success of Superside.
2020 brought a global pandemic, which, amid the chaos, further accelerated the shift toward remote work. The pressure for brands to compete in constantly expanding digital channels also increased. As enterprise marketing and creative teams braced against an even larger crucible, this period served as a proving ground for Superside, growing ARR from $30 million to $45 million in 2022.
2023 is bringing a new topic to the table: generative AI. In the late '80s, the world witnessed the emergence of the first graphic design software. Worldwide, designers were divided -- some argued that using computers would remove some of the human touch and lead to lower quality outcomes. "Early adopters, however, gained a competitive edge and accelerated their growth,” Fredrik noted.
Now, we find ourselves at a similar crossroads. Generative AI is already transforming the design industry and has the potential to become the most significant paradigm shift ever seen. AI can be utilized in a multitude of ways and Superside is already envisioning the impact, working alongside it.
Superside has organized hackathons and developed custom AI pipelines for customers, as well as invested in technical research and training from a top-down perspective. Furthermore, the company is fostering a 'bottom-up' approach by encouraging individual curiosity, adoption, and experimentation with a vast array of workflows within its world-leading creative community. Superside is ensuring that the impact of generative AI on its business remains positive, continuing to deliver on its promise of hassle-free design at scale and generating maximum value for its customers, hand in hand with AI. As Fredrik puts it, “Generative AI can help our expert creatives unlock new possibilities for scalable design using innovative tools, processes, and pipelines. This allows them to push the boundaries even more and deliver truly unique and high-performing work.”
“We’ve really struck on something critical and we’re hyper-focused on building out our core services and tech. We strive to alleviate bottleneck design, move faster and deliver reliable creative performance for all our customers.”
Fredrik is leading Superside’s evolution into the best CaaS (Creative as a Service) provider, offering every customer access to a global network of top talent spanning more than 75 countries, 500 top-of-the-line creatives and a comprehensive range of ad creative, brand design and video production capabilities with turnarounds in as little as 12 hours.
Fredrik’s vision is to have Superside liberate its customers from the “shackles of overburdened in-house teams” and give them a better alternative to traditional outsourcing models. It’s the only fully managed solution that can either work with agencies and freelancers or replace them altogether—enabling creative projects of any size—whether strategic or production-driven.
“We’ve really struck on something critical and we’re hyper-focused on building out our core services and tech,” Fredrik comments. “We strive to alleviate bottleneck design, move faster and deliver reliable creative performance for all our customers.”
The company’s drive for steady, sustainable growth means no huge changes, but rather consistently adding talent and building out service areas that make sense, such as 3D and AR/VR. The focus is on deepening relationships and continuing to add value for Superside’s customers and, as Fredrik comments, “Our growth has been driven by larger deal slices. We have four times the revenue compared to three years ago, but are working with almost the same number of customers.”
Those deeper relationships have another benefit beyond steady growth, “They close the loop with our original goal – more opportunities for more people in emerging markets to do great work for brands that were previously out of reach.” This is successful market efficiency at work.