Last updated
Threadless Logo.png
Type of site
Headquarters401 N. Morgan [1] [2] Chicago,
Key peopleJake Nickell (founder, CEO)
Jacob DeHart (founder, CTO 2000-2007)
Thomas Ryan (CEO, 2008-2012)
Jeffrey Kalmikoff (CCO, 2003-2009)
Harper Reed (Lead Engineer, 2005-2007; CTO, 2007-2009)
Products Apparel/prints not also t-shirts prints but also phone cases, shoes, bags, notebooks, etc..
Parent SkinnyCorp LLC

Threadless (stylized as threadless) is an online community of artists and an e-commerce website based in Chicago, Illinois, founded in 2000 by Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart. [3]


Threadless designs are created by and chosen by an online community. Each week, about 1,000 designs are submitted online and are put to a public vote. After seven days the staff reviews the top-scoring designs. Based on the average score and community feedback, about 10 designs are selected each week, printed on clothing and other products, and sold worldwide through the online store and at their retail store in Chicago. Designers whose work is printed receive no cash, but receive 20% royalties based on net profits paid on a monthly basis, as well as cash and Threadless merchandise. [4]

History of the company

Co-founders Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart started Threadless in 2000 with $1,000. Threadless began as a T-shirt design competition on the now defunct, a forum where users experimented with computers, code, and art. [5] Nickell and DeHart invited users to post their designs on a dreamless thread (hence the name Threadless), and they would print the best designs on T-shirts.

Shortly after the first batch of shirts was printed, the founders built a website for Threadless and introduced a voting system where designs could be scored 1 to 5. By 2002, Jake Nickell had quit his full-time job, dropped out of art school, and started his own web agency called skinnyCorp, with Threadless continuing to build under the skinnyCorp umbrella. The company moved from his apartment to a 900-square-foot office.

A new batch of T-shirts was printed once the previous batch had sold out. In 2000, Threadless would print shirts every few months. By 2004, the company was printing new shirts every week. By 2004, Threadless was big enough that skinnyCorp did not need to continue outside client work. The company moved to a larger warehouse space. In 2004, profit was around $1.5 million, and in 2006 it jumped to $6.5 million. [6]

In a 2006 Wired article, Jeff Howe coined the term crowdsourcing. [7] Jeff Howe soon associated Threadless with crowdsourcing.

In 2008, Threadless was featured on the cover of Inc. as “The Most Innovative Small Company in America.” [8] Though Nickell did not disclose revenues for the article, Inc. estimated $30 million sales and a 30% profit margin. "Threadless completely blurs that line of who is a producer and who is a consumer," said Karim Lakhani, [9] a professor at Harvard Business School who was quoted in the article. "The customers end up playing a critical role across all its operations: idea generation, marketing, sales forecasting. All that has been distributed."

In 2010, Abrams Image published Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World's Most Inspiring Online Design Community, written by Jake Nickell. The book features a decade of Threadless designs, interviews with many of the designers, and a year-by-year breakdown of how the company has grown and evolved.

The company is using a Marketing strategy called Co-creation which is allowing its customers to be the product developers or designers.

In October 2017, Threadless announced that they acquired Bucketfeet, a shoe company specializing in artist-designed footwear. Bucketfeet similarly produces on-demand products and has their own network of artists and its net worth was 50 million dollars. In 2018, Threadless will integrate Bucketfeet and their artists into its website. [10]

In summer 2020, when the face covering became a new norm due to COVID-19, Threadless started to sell masks with designs from its art community, stating that the portion of sales would go to a non-profit organization MedShare.


Printing techniques

Screen printing

Most Threadless T-shirts are printed with the screen printing technique. Plastisol or water-based inks are applied to the shirt through mesh screens which limits the areas where ink is deposited. Threadless printing techniques include gradients and simulated process, UV color change, oversized printing, puff, belt printing, vinyl, super glow, flock, embroidery, suede, metallic, blister, foil, and high density.

Direct to garment printing

In September 2011, Threadless announced Threadless Labs on its forum. [14] Through Threadless Labs, the company will begin experimenting with new products and printing. The first Threadless Labs experiment is Direct to Garment (DTG) printing, a process of printing on textiles and garments using specialized or modified inkjet technology. Threadless now prints four new DTG T-shirts each week in addition to the week's 10 new screen printed shirts.

Artist Compensation

Originally Threadless offered a $2,500 prize for artists that won a weekly design challenge, with the introduction of new terms and a shift in the company in 2014, the weekly design competition awarded a $250 gift code and artists retain all rights to their work and receive royalties on each sale. Threadless started Artist Shops in 2015, which allowed artists to sell T-shirts printed with any design directly to customers and receive royalties. Since the program rolled out in 2016 there have been over 100,000 Artist shops. However, many artists feel that without the $2,500 prize for winning the weekly design competition, the incentive to use Threadless has decreased. [15]

Retail locations

Threadless store in Chicago Threadless Store.jpg
Threadless store in Chicago

In August 2007, Threadless announced the grand opening of a retail store. [16] In January 2014, Threadless announced it had closed its 3011 N. Broadway St. location in Chicago because its sales has declined . [17]


Competition of Market share: The growth of digitalization has increased the number of people on various social networks: it has also increased competitors. In the early days, Threadless captured most of the market. Now, with increasing competition, the cost to cost to maintain and grow customer capacity is greater.

List of some competitors sharing the market with Threadless because of global digitalization and competition. Top Competitors of Threadless 1. Spreadshirt. $120 Million. 2. Custom Ink $373 Million. 3. Teespring $63 Million. 4. Homage. $33 Million. 5. T-SHIRT HELL. $20 Million. 6. UNTUCKit. $147 Million. 7. CafePress. $85 Million. 8. RushOrderTees. $22 Million.

Duplicate of Business Model: Companies emerge and follow other company’s businesses strategy. Digitalization has opened the platform to search and copy ideas. It gives no uniqueness to your product or idea since anyone can reach out to it in the digital world.


In October 2010, Abrams publishers released a ten-year retrospective of Threadless T-shirt designs and the company's history. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Topcoder is a crowdsourcing company with an open global community of designers, developers, data scientists, and competitive programmers. Topcoder pays community members for their work on the projects and sells community services to corporate, mid-size, and small-business clients. Topcoder also organizes the annual Topcoder Open tournament and a series of smaller regional events.

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User innovation refers to innovation by intermediate users or consumer users, rather than by suppliers. This is a concept closely aligned to co-design and co-creation, and has been proven to result in more innovative solutions than traditional consultation methodologies.

Crowdsourcing Obtaining services, ideas, or content from a group of people, rather than from employees or suppliers

Crowdsourcing is a sourcing model in which individuals or organizations obtain goods or services, including ideas, voting, micro-tasks and finances, from a large, relatively open and often rapidly evolving group of participants. As of 2021, crowdsourcing typically involves using the internet to attract and divide work between participants to achieve a cumulative result. The word "crowdsourcing" itself - a portmanteau of "crowd" and "outsourcing" - was allegedly coined in 2005. Crowdsourcing is not necessarily an "online" activity; it existed before Internet access became a household commodity.

Co-creation, in the context of a business, refers to a product or service design process in which input from consumers plays a central role from beginning to end. Less specifically, the term is also used for any way in which a business allows consumers to submit ideas, designs or content. This way, the firm will not run out of ideas regarding the design to be created and at the same time, it will further strengthen the business relationship between the firm and its customers. Another meaning is the creation of value by ordinary people, whether for a company or not.

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  4. Submit a Design to Threadless |
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  14. Introducing Threadless Labs and our first experiment! |
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  18. Threadless book