We just sold Crew to Dribbble

Mikael Cho
4 min readApr 6, 2017

Today is bittersweet.

It’s the last day I will work on Crew, the company I co-founded 5 years ago. And the last day I get to work with ten of my Crew teammates.

But it’s also the day an exciting new chapter starts for Crew and continues for Unsplash.

A few months ago, we announced Crew and Unsplash would operate as separate companies. When we decided to split Crew and Unsplash, our intent was to create a better situation for both companies.

Unsplash has been growing at an incredible rate and we were doing it a disservice if we didn’t give it more focus. Crew, meanwhile, was also growing but not at the rate we needed it to. We weren’t profitable yet, so we needed to reduce the team and put enough money aside for what we thought was needed to get Crew in the black.

After splitting them, we had many discussions for the right strategy to help Crew get profitable and build for the long-term. As months went by we realized that Crew really needed one thing: more time.

Unsplash needed a bigger budget to keep up with growth so we didn’t have much room to support Crew with money. We threw around many ideas for what we could do but the idea that stood out was selling Crew to someone that could help it thrive under more stable conditions.

If we were going to sell Crew, however, we needed it to be in good hands. Someone who respected designers, our team, and what Crew stood for.

One of the first people I called was Andrew Wilkinson, founder of the design agency MetaLab and builder of The Berkshire Hathaway of The Internet.

I first met Andrew a few months ago at an event. For years, I looked up to the work he and his team at MetaLab had done creating elegant products. And I loved Andrew’s philosophy on not screwing up companies he acquires. So it was a pleasant surprise when Andrew told me he just bought a majority stake in Dribbble and was interested in chatting more about possibly buying Crew.

Andrew first introduced us to Zack Onisko, Dribbble’s CEO. When Zack and Andrew shared the future plans for Dribbble we were smitten. We saw how combining Crew and Dribbble could accelerate both of our plans for creating life-changing platforms for designers.

We shook hands, as Andrew likes to do, and started working out the deal.

Today, I’m proud to say that Crew has officially joined forces with Dribbble.

As a designer and design appreciator, Dribbble was the first online platform I looked up to. It’s where I spent hours being inspired by untouchable work like Konstantin Datz’s boxing glove icon and Markus Magnussen’s Kick Push animation. And where I was first introduced to my design heroes.

Over the last 5 years, we fought for Crew like our life depended on it. We worked out of a basement, went through 2 business model changes, and 2 name changes, all in service of creating a place where quality, creative work was valued. Crew has grown to support designers from over 32 countries, attracting over $40 million in projects. We came a long way from our Mailchimp and Wufoo days.

There were many ups and downs. But the most rewarding part was fighting to create something positive alongside some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

Selling the company you started and CEO’d for 5 years is a weird thing. I can no longer login to my mikael@crew.co email. But I’ve had an incredible, unforgettable time. Building Crew, Unsplash, and all our quirky things has been the time of my life.

I know Crew and my Crew teammates are continuing on to do great things. But it’s hard to say goodbye. I’m honored they chose to spend years of their life fighting to make Crew happen. They took Crew to places I never imagined and I learned so much from everybody. They worked their asses off and never doubted when things got tough. I’m proud to have had the chance to work alongside them and I know there will be many more great things to come.

So what does this mean for Crew today? It won’t change much. Crew will continue to run mostly as is. Our dream of helping creators find work they love will remain alive. It will just be as part of the Dribbble family.

As for Unsplash, the sale of Crew means we move forward with even more focus. We have big things in the works along with an amazing squad. If you’d like to join us, we’re hiring a few people.

For those of you who’ve read this and followed along our journey so far, I really appreciate you. We wouldn’t have gotten to do any of this if it weren’t for your support and care.

Starting a new chapter wouldn’t be complete without a slide show. So here’s a tribute to Crew.