Stockbyte buys back stake from VC firm

28 Nov 2003

Online stock photography pioneer Stockbyte has bought out the 30pc stake held in the company by venture capital firm ACT Venture Capital for an undisclosed sum.

ACT bought a 25pc stake in Stockbyte in 1997 and a further 5pc in 2000. The repurchase of the shareholding marks Stockbyte as one of the first Irish start-up companies to repurchase stock from a venture capitalist. The transaction was facilitated by Bank of Scotland (Ireland) Ltd Business Banking, Deloitte Limerick and Arthur Cox & Co.

Stockbyte founder and CEO Jerry Kennelly commented: “ACT’s involvement helped us to get on our feet. Today, Stockbyte is recognised as a major player in a global market dominated by two giants, Getty Images and Corbis. Our management are confident of their ability to consolidate their position and match or beat the leaders creatively, technologically and commercially.”

Stockbyte’s main competitors are Getty Images, which has a $2.37bn market capitalisation and Corbis, owned by Bill Gates. In an independent industry survey published last year by Font Shop Germany, Stockbyte was among a group of three companies cited as the most relevant in the royalty-free stock photography industry. This sector is valued at $500m globally.

Established in 1996 by former photojournalist Kennelly and his wife Johanna, Stockbyte was the first significant European publisher of royalty-free stock photography, a model that allows users to buy a software type licence for images. The company was a pioneer of using the internet as a sales and delivery channel in 1999 when it supplemented its CD collection with single image downloads. This is the fastest growing segment of the market today.

The recent transaction makes Jerry and Johanna Kennelly the sole shareholders in Stockbyte. Kennelly said the shareholding allows the business to continue developing from its base, which will safeguard the 35 Tralee-based jobs in an increasingly mobile global industry.

Next year will be Stockbyte’s most productive year ever, with at least three major product releases planned already.

Among the companies that subscribe to Stockbyte’s services are AOL, Weight Watchers, Gillette, Avon, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, The Times and Sunday Times Newspapers, BBC, Oxford University Press and Macmillan Publishing.

By John Kennedy