BY ADEOLU ADESANYA||
It is a regular thing over at CreativityTurf for us to generate a list of successful individuals and businesses to study their story and business model. For some months now, I have had the name of Jon Oringer on my table to work on; he made over a billion dollars, by taking his photo stocking site public.
Personally, I have been involved in building a couple of websites over the past year, and getting suitable pictures was just pretty difficult and anytime I came across a good one, it just had to have ‘Shutterstock’ written across it! Now fast forward a few weeks ago, I was chatting with a member of the CreativityTurf team, telling me about a billionaire he just came across, Jon Oringer, he talks about him for some minutes, expressing his unbelief the simplicity with which this guy amassed wealth and then mentions Shutterstock. The name instantly clicked, so decide to profile him.
Jon Oringer is in the business of Photography, but photography from an uncommon angle. Shutterstock the company he founded in 2003 as a one-man business went public in 2012 and has brought him a networth of $1.05 billion according to Forbes. Shutterstock is a company that sells photos to its members who use them for their websites and newsletter.
Interestingly, Jon came-up with he idea while doing something entirely different. Jon was creating a software and was still trying to get people to renew their subscription and he needed images about general stuff to send out to them, but he realized good general images were difficult to get, and that’s how the idea for Shutterstock came about.
Although before him, companies like Getty Images existed that specialised in stocking images of places and things that could be used by website designers, but those companies were too expensive for small companies and individuals. And so the journey began for Jon, he bought a good camera for a thousand dollars ($1,000) and started taking pictures of almost anything and everything, but especially for objects photographers weren’t interested in taking.
In the first year alone, he took over 30,000 pictures and posted on the website he created, and he generated traffic and users by advertising on Google AdWords. Gradually his business grew, and he couldn’t keep up with demand. As common amongst start-ups, he made sure he did all the jobs himself – shooting the pictures, designing the website and attending to customers.
There is a common advice we give at CreativityTurf, that for some businesses, you don’t need for everything to be perfect before you start, sometimes its actually advisable to get your business out there and learn on the job. This is what Jon did, and in the process he listened to complaints of the customers and noted the area were he could improve his business.
Another distinguishing thing Jon did, which most start-ups these days do not think about, is that Jon focused on making profit from the very beginning. The model of the business was simple, photographers submit images and video to Shutterstock and as each photo is downloaded by a paying customer, the photographer gets a fee for it, so it is a win-win-win for all parties. And his business has grown so big, that photographers have actually taken it as a full-time job to be submitting images to the site.
Shutterstock has become a public trading company, which features over 28 million images supplied by artists and photographers, and with a declared net profit of $47.5 million for 2012 and Jon Oringer the founder is said to be worth $1.05 billion all achieved in a space of nine years.
At CreativityTurf we know it might be difficult to start out such a business like this, but what is important is seeing through the challenge and deciding to turn into a business. We know not every challenge is a business idea, but if you are attentive you will get to see the business in those peculiar challenge.