The Bigger Picture
Jon Oringer founded Shutterstock to provide an easier, more affordable way for businesses to license images. His challenge now: to become a revenue leader.
Jon Oringer had a basic litmus test for the dozen or so dot-coms he started fresh out of graduate school: Each business had to appeal to him as a customer. One of those startups was Shutterstock Inc. (NYSE: SSTK), which Oringer launched in 2003 to solve the problem of finding affordable stock photography for his software businesses’ Websites and e-mail campaigns. “The shots I wanted cost $300 to $500 each at traditional stock agencies, but I could only afford $10 a photo,” says Oringer, now 38 and CEO. And for a sawbuck, Oringer’s only choices were stale images he saw everywhere.
SHUTTERSTOCK’S IMAGESA taste of the company’s stock photo options
But serendipity intervened. With digital single-lens-reflex (SLR) cameras dramatically dropping in price, amateur photographers like Oringer, who holds degrees in mathematics and computer science (Stony Brook University, ’97) and a master’s in computer science (Columbia University, ’98), were able to take professional-quality photos quickly and easily — and for much less than what stock photo agencies were charging. Oringer studied hundreds of Websites to determine what kinds of images small businesses were using in their marketing, hired models and, with a $1,000 Rebel SLR from Canon Inc. (NYSE: CAJ), shot 100,000 photos ranging from New York City street scenes and still-life photos of fruit to people performing office tasks, which he winnowed to a collection of 30,000. For a $49 monthly fee, customers could download 25 photos a day from Oringer’s royalty-free image library. Within a couple of months, Oringer had no time to devote to his other startups. “I wasn’t able to shoot quickly enough to keep up with the demand for new images,” says Oringer, who realized Shutterstock’s potential when companies of all sizes began subscribing.
IN MY OWN WORDS
Jon Oringer, founder and CEO, Shutterstock; certified helicopter pilot
My idea of a perfect day off is… When my unread e-mail is at zero.
Best management advice I’ve ever received... Be patient.
My definition of leadership is... Encouraging entrepreneurship at every level. Empowering your team to solve problems.
My biggest pet peeve in the office is... When people make assumptions without trying something for themselves.
The quality I admire most in people is... Persistence.
If I could meet my 20-year-old self, I would say... Keep going. Keep failing. You’ll figure it out.
Oringer didn’t invent the subscription model for stock photography, but what he did next was novel: In 2004, Shutterstock became the first subscription-based global stock photo marketplace. A reported 35,000 contributors in 100 countries now upload their photos, illustrations and videos to Shutterstock’s library, earning 25 cents to $120 per download and $2.50 to $120 per footage clip. The more images a contributor sells, the greater his or her price per download — a clear incentive for participants. Unlike many other stock agencies, Shutterstock doesn’t demand exclusivity from its contributors. “We made an important decision from the beginning that we’d have an open marketplace model,” Oringer notes. “Shutterstock is all about volume, so exclusivity isn’t the right dynamic for us.”
The company says it adds 10,000 new images per day, making it the largest subscription-based provider of stock images with a collection of more than 23 million photos, illustrations and videos. The company began adding illustrations in 2004, and video was added in 2006 as more digital marketers began using it and digital video cameras became more affordable. With more than half a million customers spanning 150 countries, and at two downloads per second —generating an average $2.26 per download — the company expects total revenue to increase by 37 percent in 2012, to $165 million. It expects revenue of approximately $206 million in 2013, up 25 percent more.