Jacob DeHart, 25, and Jake Nickell, 27
Threadless.com, Chicago
Projected 2007 Sales: $25 million to $30 million
Description: Online T-shirt design company

Threadless is a community-centered online apparel store run by skinnyCorp of Chicago, Illinois, since 2000. Co-founders Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart started the company with $1,000 in seed money after entering an internet t-shirt design contest.

Members of the Threadless community submit t-shirt designs online; the designs are then put to a public vote. A small percentage of submitted designs are selected for printing and sold through an online store. Creators of the winning designs receive a prize of cash and store credit.


Designers upload their t-shirt designs to the website, where visitors and members of the community score them on a scale of 0 to 5. On average, around 700 designs compete in any given week. Each week, the staff selects about ten designs.Each designer selected receives $2,000 in cash, as well as an additional $500 for every reprint.

On occasion, special contests—known as “Loves Threadless”—run in association with various sponsors. These contests set a theme for designs, with a selection of additional prizes being awarded to the chosen winner; special prizes often relate to the sponsor. The success of this concept led to several spin-off projects by the same company, including ongoing design competitions for t-shirt slogans at OMG Clothing and neckties and wallpaper at Naked and Angry. The competition from OMG Clothing was later integrated into the main website with the introduction of Threadless TypeTees. Multiple other companies have adopted the community model created at Threadless. Nevertheless, in mid-2006, Threadless expanded in a more traditional direction, adding shirts designed by selected artists. These designs, known as Threadless Select designs, are not subject to the voting process.

In the open source community, a Threadless t-shirt or design is considered to be crowd sourced because the designer and the company retain all rights to the design. As the “source” of a design—i.e., its vector graphics file—is not available for download, it cannot be considered “open source”.

Threadless shirts are run in limited batches. When shirts are sold out, customers can request a reprint. However, reprinting occurs only when there is enough demand, and the decision to reprint is ultimately up to company. New shirts are released on Mondays

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