Platform vs. product: Teespring

It’s nice to have concrete examples of sometimes theoretical concepts. I recently read a post on Venturebeat about Teespring, a YCombinator startup that pulled in $750k in April selling t-shirts.

Teespring t-shirt

A Teespring user’s design

Well, actually they don’t sell t-shirts, they provide a risk-free platform for people to design, market and sell their own t-shirts using a Kickstarter-ish crowdfunding model. Make your material, design and quantity selections and the base cost changes accordingly. Set your selling price and see how much you’ll clear per shirt. Run a campaign for up to 21 days and when enough people have pre-ordered the shirt, Teespring prints and ships.

When the transactions clear, you get your money, and Teespring gets theirs. If your design didn’t attract the minimum number of pre-orders, Teespring lets everyone know, and nobody is out any money. No risk save for a bit of time.

Teespring has built a brilliant platform and focused their effort on making the use of that platform as frictionless and pleasant as possible. I’ve given my 13-year old a challenge of developing his own shirt and campaign, and told him he can keep all the proceeds. It’s a fun little economics lesson that lays out the relationships between COGS, price, demand and marketing in a stunningly clear fashion.

It’s a perfect example of the power of a platform vs. a product.

You can see the test campaign I put up at


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