Collis and Cyan Ta’eed are the founders of Envato, an online creative marketplace. They founded Envato together after having ran a freelance design agency together out of Australia. Collis studied math and science while Cyan earned her degree in design.
Sramana: Let’s start at the beginning of your personal stories. What leads up to Envato?
Collis Ta’eed: I am half Iranian and half English. My father is from Iran and my mother is from Yorkshire. I grew up in Papua New Guinea, which was one of the last places to be reached by the outside world. I was born in England, and when I was three my father moved to Papua new Guinea to run an IT firm.
Sramana: An IT firm in Papua New Guinea sounds like a story in and of itself!
Collis Ta’eed: He definitely has some interesting stories to tell. He was nominated for a Smithsonian award for the work he did there. I grew up there and did not leave until I was 17, which is when I came to Australia to do my university studies. During university I studied math and science and came to the conclusion that it was not for me.
I finished my degree, but after I graduated I managed to teach myself design. I went online and learned how to do web-based programming and design. I joined a group that was focused on design and that is where I met my wife. I did join that group to meet women, so I guess it worked! A few years later we got married and we started a freelance business that was the precursor to Envato.
Sramana: How about you Cyan, are you from Australia?
Cyan Ta’eed: I was actually born in New York. My father is Greek-Australian and my mother is French. When I was three they decided they wanted to move back to Australia because they enjoyed living there. I ended up growing up in Sydney. I completed high school in Australia and after that I started working on a graphic design degree. I met Collis a few years later and the story converges.
Sramana: What year was it when you started your freelance design business?
Collis Ta’eed: We started that in late 2004. Cyan had just graduated with her degree.
Sramana: What happened next? Was the freelance agency successful?
Collis Ta’eed: We started a company called GoodCreative. We wanted to do a huge amount of charity work, so we did design work for film festivals and homless shelters. We did OK and employed one person. We made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot. We would often have a lot of rush jobs, and the stress was high.
Cyan Ta’eed: That stress led us to talk about a business that we could do online. We had been selling some of the things that we made such as flash files on photography sites. Those sites were not exactly how we wished them to be, and there were things we felt we could do better.