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Jul 15, 2020    Burn Book

The Emerging Tech Startups We’re Having Our Gen Z Teams Stalk: Part 11


If there’s one good thing that comes out of 2020 (although we think there will be a lot), it’s that millions of people suddenly have time to do things they didn’t know they wanted to do, or didn’t have the time or energy for post-normal-work days. Whether facing layoffs and furloughs and unemployment, or just going remote and gaining hours a day not spent on commuting and unproductive office related things, people suddenly found themselves with time to try new things.

2020… Y’know…

We’re not the type to shame anyone for not learning a new language or mastering a new hobby amidst… (the pandemic? the mental health spiral? the murder wasps? the protests?) …2020. In fact, we think people desperately need to just chill and rest for a minute with everything going on. But with that said, we’re over the moon to see how many people, young and old, discovering a routine involving home businesses and time for their passions. With Millennials setting the stage for more remote work, small entrepreneurial ventures, freelancing, and Zillennials and Gen Z following suit, small businesses, startups, and self-employment had an influx of energy this year. (Obviously not the same story for brick and mortar small businesses in shut-down cities.)

So when we braced ourselves to look at a “where are they now?” list of startups that were doing well pre-2020, we were happy and only a little surprised to see some thriving, like Penji.

Freelancers, small businesses, startups, and amateurs alike often enter the world of passion-fueled business with a curiosity for design. Most know the importance of a logo, but few are well-versed in the necessity of branding as a whole, and how a logo and color palette are just one small part of strategic branding, product naming, and performance marketing crucial to success.

Differentiators Make Waves

We all know something similar to 99designs. WordPress and Wix have logo-generating partners. Even Canva and sites that remind us of 2002 clip art have CTAs (calls to action) everywhere for generating your own logo. Others flock to Upwork for a cheap designer, and those with enough to spend flock to places like DesignHill. Penji did it differently, which is what caught our eye (and that of Inc. 5000) after being founded in 2017.

For a flat subscription, Penji provides access to top designers practically on-demand/ with same-day updates on projects. Depending on which tier you go for, they can give unlimited designs for multiple brands, and don’t just leave it at logo files. They do illustrations, site and app design, and there’s no limit of how many you ask for in a single month. At a few hundred at the lowest, it’s competitive against design contractors and one-off projects, and with probably more communication and iterations allowed (as far as we can tell–as a branding agency we have our design needs covered).

Still raising funds, hiring people, moving to a larger office, and rolling out new services, 2020 is certainly not a down year for Penji, and that’s something special.

This is Our Time Down Here, Goonies

For all the kids ditching traditional work, for all the entrepreneurial spirits, for all the people for whom 2020 was a turning point, Penji is the kind of startup that becomes part of their stories. And we’re, obviously, really into this anti-template, individualistic, industry-churning stuff. The only thing that can stop them and their clients is backwards momentum to the way things used to be, and backburning strategic integrated marketing efforts or failing to productize.

Our expert opinion? (Somebody definitely asked)– 2020 will be a milestone year for everyone, but especially for Penji and other people embracing the non-traditional.

Let Your Curiosity Take Control