Alexy Kuzma, Stocksy.com/803329
Their start-up story was the stuff of fairytales. But in 2012, three years after selling iStockphoto to Getty Images for US$50 million, Bruce Livingstone and Brianna Wettlaufer decided to start all over again. The pair, along with a small team of iStockphoto veterans, founded Stocksy – a rapidly growing photographer’s co-operative where the photographers own equity in the company, with a finely curated collection of stock photos and a distinctive aesthetic driven by a relentless ambition to make stock photography better than it has been before. Where this industry often pays photographers around 20 percent of profits from each license, Stocksy passes on 50 per cent on all photos, as well as paying dividends.
CEO Brianna Wettlaufer and vice president of product Nuno Silva took us behind the lens to look into the new story Stocksy is creating.
We decided to start again
Brianna: I think a lot of us, having left iStock, didn’t think we would be able to do it again; we had poured out our blood, sweat and tears in the iStock days and it wasn’t in our plan to do a second company. But after speaking with everybody we realised there was something fair that could be built that could be different.
The co-op model is truly game-changing
Nuno: With the co-op model for our photographers, they all have an ownership stake and an ownership mentality – so they work harder for it, but they are also seeing the results because we have 50 per cent royalties and then 75 per cent on extended licensing, which is actually quite substantial. And so we are able to create a sustainable living for them.
Spending time is worth it
Brianna: We hand-select every photo that comes in – we aim for every photo to have aesthetic merit and something special. Instead of trying to literally convey concepts and ideas, an approach which has given stock photography a bad name, we really aim to challenge people in how they can present an idea with something original.
Buyers like co-ops too
Brianna: When we first started, the whole idea that we were a co-op wasn’t important to clients; they wanted to see the product proven first. But now that the product’s been proven, they are really starting to care about the ethics of shopping with us and knowing the money is going back to photographers is actually important to them.
The appeal is broad
Nuno: We get a lot of younger designers pitching concepts to their art directors and creative directors, but we get all kinds, from really large agencies to freelancers to individuals who are just trying to create a website. We’ve been very fortunate that we appeal to a large range but we’re keen on the younger, more adventurous types who want to get away from the status quo of traditional stock agencies.
We’re determined to grow with integrity
Brianna: We’ve been approached by lots of VCs [venture capitalists] and people wanting to license our collection and it’s hard to not second-guess the decision to say no and wonder if it would benefit the company. But at the end of the day, we have said no because we will not let go of the integrity of our product, or work with people who won’t uphold our values and who won’t pay our photographers 50 per cent. Being able to do that and still continue at the growth [rate] we have is my favourite part of the journey so far.
Kara Riley, Stocksy.com/853474