Silicon Alley’s First Billionaire Aims To Dominate Images On Web

New York’s first tech billionaire ($1.3 billion, to be exact)  looks to ride the proliferation of screens, smartphones and bandwidth to turn Shutterstock into the world’s largest marketplace for buying and selling images. Right now that title belongs to the Carlyle Group-owned Getty Images, but over the last few months Oringer, 39, has inked a deal with Facebook for its advertisers, launched offerings of high-end photography and raised $276 million in a secondary offering–all while expanding and simplifying his library of 25 million images and a million videos searchable in 20 languages. What began ten years ago with one $1,000 Canon Rebel and a 600-square-foot office has exploded into a platform that adds 20,000 new photos a day from 40,000 contributors in more than 100 nations. Shutterstock, Olaf Oringer’s 295-person photo website shares have now more than tripled to a $2.5 billion market value since their debut on the NYSE last October.

“We’re moving faster and faster. Right now we sell three images per second!

Thanks to this breakneck usage Shutterstock is on pace for $230 million in revenue this year, a 35% jump from 2012. Ebitda should be $49 million, up 39% from last year. Stock photography will be a $6 billion market, and Oringer is betting he can snag $1 billion of it. “If I wanted to do something else I wouldn’t have gone public.”

The emergence of microstock–the low-priced, generic images that customers don’t want to shoot themselves–knocked the photo industry on its heels. Shutterstock and a competitor, iStockphoto, were selling images that once cost $500 for $1. Incumbent Getty Images ended up acquiring iStockphoto for $50 million in 2006 and then took itself private in 2008 at a 65% discount to its pre-credit-crisis high. “All the trends line up with what Jon’s doing today, but he saw it when others didn’t–he saw it ten years ago,” says Jeff Lieberman of Insight Venture Partners, which invested in Shutterstock in 2007.

That year Shutterstock grew to 30 employees, who handled Web development, customer service and billing. Oringer was struggling to run the place. “I had never worked for a company before, so I spent a lot of time bringing on operational help,” he says. In 2010 he hired a chief operating officer, Thilo Semmelbauer, who’d done stints at Weight Watchers and jobs site TheLadders.com. Oringer is looking to expand Shutterstock’s foreign business, with an office now in the U.K. and one soon to come in Berlin.

He is also betting that video will be as ubiquitous in advertising and media as photos are now. When it is, he’ll have millions of cheap, high-quality clips ready for download. “We create marketplaces,” says Oringer. “As we continue to grow, the question is, how do you keep the company as innovative as it was 15 employees ago? We’ve been able to do it up until now and will continue going forward, but it’s not easy.”

Read the full interview on Forbes 

See and purchase our Reeldealhd stock video on Shutterstock

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