Threadless: The Renewal of an Online Community
Threadless, an online apparel company and artist community which Jake Nickell founded in 2000, continued to maintain its status as a top company in the online apparel industry during its second decade. From 2010 to 2020, Threadless continued to operated its crowd-sourcing platform, while it transitioned away from traditional screen printing to a digital print-on-demand model. Concurrently, the company jettisoned its warehouse and built a worldwide network of manufacturers that could print and ship Threadless orders on demand. Threadless also launched a new platform called Artist Shops that allowed graphic artists to sell apparel in uniquely branded online stores, with the option of having Threadless manage their pricing and promotional events. The software Threadless developed to facilitate its manufacturing network and Artist Shops platform also led Threadless to increasingly view itself as a technology company performing intermediary services, rather than merely an online apparel company. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 accelerated the company's transition, triggering the sale of Threadless's office and a move to working from home. Nickell wondered what the next steps for the company should be.