In August 2014, Twitch partnered with Teespring, an e-commerce platform that enables individuals to design and sell custom t-shirts with no start-up costs. In the eleven months since, Twitchcasters have launched over 1,000 Teespring campaigns that have collectively sold more than 70,000 shirts. The 70 shirt per-campaign average is not too impressive, but the potential for big pay days is there, as demonstrated by Lirik, who has sold more than 11,000 shirts to date.
”We’ve found that we’re able to go out and give these Twitchcasters the ability to increase their revenue by 30 and sometimes as much as 50 percent,” said Jack Altman, head of business development at Teespring. ”It helps creates a positive cycle, where they can go from spending 10 or 12 hours a week on the side of their day job doing [Twitch] two working on it all the time for 40 or 50 hours a week.”
To get started with Teespring on Twitch, users first upload an image of the design for their shirt or hoodie. The vast majority of the apparel is screen printed, which means only solid colors can be used. They then set the price (the average is $22) and the minimum number of orders that must be placed before a shirt goes into production (Twitch requires it be no lower than five). Twitch charges $2.50 for each shirt on top of Teespring’s fees for materials and printing, and places its logo on the right sleeve of each shirt. The shirts are featured on the individual Twitchcasters’ pages and sold in the Twitch store.
”When you do e-commerce on your own, you have to deal with printing, fulfillment, customer service and getting your web site up and running with payments,” Altman said. ”We strip away everything, so the only thing you have to do when you use Teespring is create your design and market your product.”
The seed for Teespring was planted in early 2011, when the Brown University watering hole the Fish Co. was shut down by Rhode Island State Police for serving underage drinkers. Students Walker Williams and Evan Stites-Clayton wanted to show their support for the bar by making ”Free Fishco” t-shirts, but they didn’t have the capital to pay for the printing. So they created a web site that took pre-orders on the t-shirts that wouldn’t be processed until they collected a minimum of 200 orders. The duo promoted the offering on social media, and wound up receiving in excess of 400 orders. After being approached by others asking them to create custom campaigns for their causes, Williams and Stites-Clayton decided to turn their crowdfunded apparel concept into a full-fledged business.
Rhode Island angel investors Bill Cesare and Mark Weiner provided the initial $600,000 in seed funding, and it went on to score $20 million in Series A financing from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz in January 2014, and $35 million in Series B financing from Khosla Ventures the following November.
Today, the company has approximately 300 employees spread across its headquarters in San Francisco, satellite offices in Rhode Island and London, and a production facility in Hebron, Kentucky.
Prior to the partnership with Twitch, Teespring officials noticed that Twitchcasters with relatively small audiences were moving an impressive amount of product using their platform. So it convinced Twitch to do a Teespring beta test integration with 24 users.
During the beta test, ”we saw tens of thousands of sales from a small number of casters,” Altman said. ”Maybe even more important than the monetary aspect was that the engagement was so strong. Twitchcasters really liked it, because their community was posting pictures of themselves wearing the shirts on Facebook and Twitter and asking for more.”