Shutterstock is one of New York tech’s quietest success stories. From a nondescript Financial District office, the company grew to $219 million in revenue*, with 250 employees, hosting millions of photos, one of which sells every two seconds. The company IPO’ed in one of 2012′s rare public market bright spots for tech companies. Shutterstock hasn’t been lumped in with many of the “depressed” public tech companies because it serves creative and media industries, even though, as its management says, it’s run like a data-driven tech company.
After Shutterstock’s February annual report exceeded analyst expectations, the company’s stock has nearly doubled, hitting an all-time high of $45 per share this month.
That quiet powerhouse culture is a reflection of its founder and CEO, Jon Oringer. Unlike other recently IPO-ed CEOs I’ve encountered, he is cool and relaxed when talking about pretty much anything, from the company’s stock performance, the tedium of quarterly earnings calls, or even his site’s most ridiculously silly stock images. Oringer launched the site initially to host his own library of photos, which he says “would not be accepted today” by the company’s heightened standards, which reject half of all submissions.
Oringer and some industry peers curated sets of photos last night at a Chelsea art gallery launch party for Shutterstock’s latest venture. He’s now more CEO than photograher, and in that role, he’s directing the company’s calm, methodical focus to a new, ambitious endeavor that aims dismantle the crown jewel of competitor Getty’s business. It’s an upscale royalty-free service called Offset.
Managed rights images make up the majority of Getty’s $1 billion in revenue (the rest is through its Shutterstock competitor, iStock). That’s not terribly efficient revenue, though, as most of it involves a human, a handshake, and a complex contract. Offset seeks to upend that entirely, as the first set of high-end images sold royalty-free, online, without an agent. The images will cost between $250 and $500 to use. Images of this quality aren’t available royalty-free elsewhere, a Shutterstock spokesperson said.
Offset is the exact opposite of some of the zany downmarket stuff Shutterstock gets knocked for (PandoDaily is guilty of piling on). The dedication to quality was even apparent in the launch party invites, which were etched onto a heavy slab of shiny ceramic.
Offset currently has 100 hand-selected professional photographers. The company is slowly letting in customers, and will officially open the site in the coming weeks once it has enough images to return results on every search.
The company is also expanding into stock video, Oringer says. As cameras that shoot high resolution 4K video become cheaper and more prevalent, the market for B-roll is poised to explode. Video is already a small but fast-growing part of Shutterstock’s income, but it is not yet big enough to break out in quarterly earnings reports.
*Outlook for 2013.