The co-founder of College Humor has quietly found success with his newest website
Then, in 2006, he sold them all to media giant Barry Diller for $20 million.So what has Abramson been focused on since? T-shirts.
"From the beginning, I've always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to create the Vimeo for custom T-shirts," Abramson told Tech Insider. "T-shirts were something that, unlike other garments or products, they can be higher-margin and so mass appealing. You can have a variety of different designs targeted at a variety of different people."
Abramson bought back BustedTees, an e-commerce site focused on funny T-shirts from College Humor, Saturday Night Live, Funny or Die, and other brands, from Diller in 2011. But he wanted to expand beyond comic tees and create a space where artists could sell their work.
So, in 2013, he founded TeePublic, an e-commerce site that allows artists to upload designs to the site that are immediately manufactured and sold, with printing and shipping costs covered completely by TeePublic.
And TeePublic has been quietly killing it. The site has been cash flow positive since its second year, and Abramson expects TeePublic to sell 1 million T-shirts this year alone.
And it's doing it all without outside funding, a conscious choice Abramson (who has a side gig as a venture partner for venture capital firm FirstMark Capital) made to run his business on his own terms."Our vision since day one has been to try to build a platform that empowers designers to be entrepreneurs," Abramson said. "We're designer-first and customer-second."
Artists upload their designs to the site, and then their design will immediately go on sale on the site, with TeePublic footing the bill for printing and shipping. Every design will be printed and remain the creative property of the designer.
Though tees remain the heart of the site, designs can also be sold as hoodies, crewnecks, smartphone cases, laptop cases, notebooks, mugs, posters, or canvas prints.
T-shirts either cost $14 or $20, with designers bringing in $2 or $4 per shirt sold, respectively.
Abramson said that its product team is frequently looking for new ways to make designs more discoverable so designers can boost their profits. TeePublic also provides resources for designers to help them promote their site, including tutorials on how to promote their shops and space in the site's email newsletter to customers.
"We're always thinking of development features that allow designers to be on the platform and make it easier for them to sell," he said. "It's not completely altruistic. The more money that a designer can make, the more they'll promote their site. That benefits them, but it also benefits us."
Jamie Stone, an Orlando, Florida-based artist behind Punksthetic Art, says TeePublic's simple platform was its main appeal. Stone has sold 769 products in the three years he's been selling on the site.
"They had a cool, simple-to-use platform that made it easy to upload designs and share them with my followers," he said. "It allows customers to buy your products consistently and without much of a lull."
"And I have to commend them on how many sales they tend to have, which brings in a lot more sales and exposure than my other shops," Stone said.
Casandra Ng, an artist based in Malaysia who has sold 100 products since opening up her shop in 2014, had similar praise.
"What I like about TeePublic is its user interface design, it is simple and efficient," Ng said. "And artists still receive better royalties compared to other platforms."
But of course, TeePublic isn't alone in the world of e-commerce companies focused on T-shirts. In fact, it's a pretty saturated market, with competition like Yoshirt designs, Threadless, Redbubble, and Neatoshop. Both Stone and Ng sell their designs on multiple platforms.
"Back in 2000 to 2001, it really felt like the Wild West and a land grab. It felt like if you had an idea, you could go out and do it and get some traction before even anyone else got on it," Abramson said. "Now, almost every time I see something I like, it turns out that there are six other high-level teams trying to solve the same problems."
But Abramson has still found a way to be successful. He wouldn't disclose specific revenue figures, but he says TeePublic is the fastest-growing business he's worked on. The company grew by 150% in 2015, and Abramson said he's expecting the company to grow by another 80% this year."We continue to grow at a pretty amazing rate, and I don't see any reason why we can't continue to do it at that rate. Every day, every couple of weeks, we make noticeable changes to the website," he said.
"I don't think we're going to have a business that looks wildly different from today," he said. "But it will be bigger and better."