Shutterstock CEO: ‘I started with my own pictures and some code I wrote’

14 Jun 2018

Shutterstock CEO Jon Oringer. Image: Shutterstock

Shutterstock CEO Jon Oringer has built a digital empire that counts more than 1bn images. He tells John Kennedy why Dublin was selected as its newest tech and engineering hub.

“It started in 2003 and I got the ball rolling with some of my own photos and some bits of code I wrote, and it evolved from there,” Jon Oringer says nonchalantly.

The casual attitude belies the laser-focused driving force behind a global digital empire headquartered in New York that counts more than 1bn stock and editorial images, 1.8m paying customers, 100,000 contributors and 1,100 people in offices dotted around the world.

‘We are going to build stuff here’

In its most recent financial results, Shutterstock reported revenues of $557m. That will make you think the next time you look at some photos you shot or some lines of code you wrote.

Indeed, since the company’s founding in 2003, it has paid out more than $5m to Irish-based artists, photographers, videographers and musicians.

Scaling a digital empire

Oringer was in Dublin this week to launch Shutterstock’s newest tech hub in Dublin. The operation will employ 40 people and 22 have already been hired, including engineering roles.

“We are going to build stuff here,” Oringer emphasised. “We are already working on two of our products here; this includes our editorial product, which is our new sports and entertainment infrastructure, but also Bigstock, one of our brands of photography that we are migrating to our platform.”

When you think of the scale of the Shutterstock platform – we are big fans here at – it is mad to think the business is just 15 years old.

“The landscape has changed a lot. We have evolved into many different types of content, starting with images, but now we are adding video, music, and tools and workflow enhancements to our site. It has been an evolution.

“The needs of our customers have also changed over time. Our customers are businesses and they need more and more images every day. We sell about six images every single second to 1.8m businesses around the world. And, as that grows, we continue to grow with them.

“The businesses that we sell to need these images to drive the sale of their products and services. At the end of the day, we are a tech company that builds technology solutions for creatives and businesses.”

Managing such a rich digital infrastructure that comprises high-resolution photos, video and audio is a challenge, and Oringer said that one of the biggest efforts of late has gone into bringing it all together under one common architecture.

“All of our assets will soon be in one media service and we can slice and dice that content in different ways, share it the right way with the right customers, and offer them exactly what they need at the right time.

“That requires a lot of code, a lot of management, data, meta data, behavioural data, and all of that is coming together under one platform and that will drive results for our customers.”

The nature of Shutterstock’s customer base is changing. Before, it was primarily for editors and publishers; now, as you’ve noticed, Oringer talks about businesses.

“Once, it used to be about finding that magical image for the cover of your magazine. Now, even the very nature of publications is changing. Publishers are understanding that some images market better than others. They need analytics to measure the impact of their image choices, and we want to be there with them to help them through that journey.

“It’s about data, making sure contributors too have what they need to produce their optimum work. It is about buyers understanding how their image choices will perform for them and we want to continuously help them get to their end result.”

So, why was Dublin the right choice for Shutterstock? Because, Oringer states matter of factly, Dublin is right in the centre of Shutterstock’s world.

“We are a global marketplace and most of our images are sold outside the US, and so we do need footprints outside the US. We have chosen specific locations based on how these locations will work out for us, based on customer needs.

“We work from the customer first and then backwards. The engineers in this office will think globally and think of our product from the customer point of view.

“What we have in Dublin is a location that is not too far from our headquarters but far enough away to connect to key parts of the world, to understand our customers better and drive business for those customers,” Oringer said.

The editorialisation of business

Looking to the future, as Oringer pointed out, mainstream businesses and not solely publishers are some of the biggest spenders on the Shutterstock platform.

“I think we’ve evolved into more of a tool over time. We are with you and helping you find the right image and drive the right outcome with that image, helping to discover content that will be more on-brand for your business and do things you were unable to do before.

“Users can now edit on our platform and measure success on our platform.

“What we are also witnessing is the editorialisation of the business world, and quality content matters more than ever.”

Oringer concluded: “We are not just selling to publishers any more, we are selling to businesses of all sizes and types – graphic designers, Fortune 500 companies, data agencies, you name it.

“But they all have something in common: they are using our images to drive a productive outcome and we want to help them achieve that outcome in the best way possible.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years