Jana Eggers, Spreadshirt, CEO, Customisation startup, T-Shirt printer, customised t-shirts

After four years at Spreadshirt (including three as CEO) Jana Eggers is standing down from the T-shirt customisation startup from Leipzig to concentrate on new challenges. Eggers made the announcement yesterday in a post on the Spreadshirt blog, but was silent as to the reasons for her decision.

Spreadshirt is a platform for design-your-own clothing and print-on-demand and is considered to be one of the pioneers in this space in the German market. Lukasz Gadowski, who went on to become a founding partner of Team Europe Ventures and one of Germany’s most successful web entrepreneurs, began his career with the launch of Spreadshirt in 2001, which has since grown into a global business employing at its peak 300 staff. In July 2007 Gadowski took a backseat role as chairman and Jana Eggers replaced him as CEO.

Possible reasons for the departure of Jana Eggers

In November of last year Gründerszene reported job cuts at Spreadshirt. The platform had struggled to achieve its targets for the financial year despite a number of cost-cutting measures and although the business had continued to grow it was struggling to turn a profit. At the time, Jane Eggers sounded understandably downbeat:

„We are disappointed and frustrated that we have not been able to achieve goals that we saw as possible. Yes, the economy has impacted our business. We look across multiple indexes and see that we are trending better than ecommerce in general and the t-shirt sector specifically. However, we take responsibility for our business, and we should be more flexible in an unstable economy. We also see areas where we did not execute as well as we should have. We are reducing projects so that we make sure we execute well on our strategy of creative, self-expressive fashion, where we continue to see more opportunity for growth. „

There are few clues in her blog post as to why Eggers would choose to depart the company now. In her announcement, she says she „remains one of the biggest supporters of the idea and the team behind Spreadshirt,“ adding that „the vision we have developed over the last few years … represents an extraordinary opportunity. In the field of personalised clothing and print-on-demand, Spreadshirt will continue to develop significantly.“ All of which leaves her decision to go looking somewhat perplexing.

In November 2009 at the time of the layoffs, we speculated on the potential vulnerability of Eggers’s position. In February that year the company had closed a new funding round with a €10m investment from Accel and Kennet, taking total investment in Spreadshirt to €18m. Under the circumstances of poor financial performance, cost-cutting and redundancies, investor frustrations must have been acute and the Spreadshirt board was probably under a great deal of pressure.

Almost exactly a year ago, Jürgen Gauger and Philip Rooke were brought in to strengthen the senior management team. Eggers begins her blog farewell with the announcement that Rooke, VP and managing director of the retail business and shop partners, has now been appointed to the board. No surprise there, since Rooke has increased the number of products sold per partner by 45% in the past year. That Eggers is not being immediately replaced suggests that the investors are happy that the current management team is on the right track.

The future of Spreadshirt

Eggers will stay on as Spreadshirt’s CEO for a short transitionary period while the board scout for a successor „at the international level“. Whether she has been pushed or has taken the decision to leave herself after not achieving her personal goals is unclear, but speculation about her departure is likely to focus on the mini-crisis of 2009. In Philip Rooke the company appears to have gained a highly competent new manager, who can be a big asset for Spreadshirt in the long-term. There can be no doubting the huge potential of the business. After all, in spite of some unfulfilled objectives, Eggers herself points to the fact the company doubled in size during her time at the helm. As one of the founders of the wave of customisation startups, it would be good to see Spreadshirt taking its versatility and creativity and turning that into a profitable business.