Jon Oringer is the founder and CEO of Shutterstock, a stock photo agency based in New York. In the first part of the interview, he tells us what is needed for a successful start-up and how to find his first employees.
Jon Oringer comes from New York. He studied mathematics and computer science at Stony Brook University and did his master's in computer science at Columbia University. In 2003 he founded Shutterstock with the aim of offering royalty-free images at affordable prices. He started with 30 of his own photos. Today it works Companies as a global marketplace for visual content based in New York, has 250 employees, is listed on the stock exchange and sells over 30 million photos, illustrations, vector graphics and videos. According to Forbes and Bloomberg Business Week, he's Silicon Alley's first billionaire.
What do you do first when you start your working day - at home or in the office?
No question: eMails. Unfortunately, I have the smartphone right next to the bed, so I can always call or eMails can react. What is also next to the bed is a notepad for new ideas.
How did you establish Shutterstock?
I've always been an IT enthusiast. At the age of five I did the first programming steps and then earned a few dollars with the repair of computers as a teenager.
With this business, however, I would not have gotten far, that was clear to me early. It was not too bad, because I had a lot of other ideas. Above all, I have always had the courage to start something new. Before Shutterstock I have already founded ten other companies - more or less successful.
And so Shutterstock came into existence?
When Shutterstock started, I was just finishing twenty and had developed a pop-up blocker. And noted:
No matter which way I wanted to approach new customers, I always needed image material, but had little budget. So it would have to go to others, I thought, and then the business idea Shutterstock grew up.
According to 10 company foundations: What motivated you to go through a project like Shutterstock?
Just like with the previous foundations, I was very convinced of my idea. Whether Shutterstock would be successful, of course, I did not know.
What I knew, however, was that I wanted to create something successful. If the whole thing had developed differently, I would probably have realized a new idea soon. Fortunately, the business was very good after six months and the demand for Shutterstock pictures was great right from the start.
Is this strong inner conviction responsible for the success of Shutterstock?
I try to challenge myself constantly. It is important not to step on the spot, but to keep evolving. Learning is a process of constant small changes. You make mistakes, learn from them and then continue.
Shutterstock's success is ultimately the result of previous mistakes. And now I am always looking for ways to improve the company. For example, I'm trying to figure out how to get new developments to market faster, improve marketing, etc.
What distinguishes your working style?
I work very methodically, quickly and efficiently. My work is an integral part of my life; I don't separate work from the rest.
This is part of having your own company. I don't know it any other way either: it's probably because I've always done my own thing and never worked differently.
Are there moments when you don't work?
Yes. For example, when I'm sleeping. I also take breaks and go to the gym several times a week, for example.
Or I go for a walk or take photos. Traveling is also something that really inspires my creativity.
How many hours do you sleep per night?
On average 7 hours a night. It would be fantastic to get by with less, but unfortunately I can't do that.
But when I notice that my productivity is declining, I do a power nap.
Have there been setbacks in the company's development from which you have learned?
The ten previous companies I founded have all gone down in the sand, but something good has emerged, Shutterstock.
Who were the first people you hired?
As a first step, I hired more programmers. Shutterstock is designed as a hub between artists who sell their works across the platform, and customers looking for new footage.
I knew I had to optimize and expand the marketplace, so that both sides would like to work with Shutterstock. Some of these first-time employees are still in the company - David Chester, our chief architect, and Dan McCormick, SVP Technology. Even today, we are very technology driven and, for example, continuously improve the search possibilities.
Then what about the development of Shutterstock?
Already in the first year, I hired employees to help me with the technological development. I also worked with first external photographers.
You have to imagine, in the beginning I did everything myself, went through the streets of New York, searched for suitable motifs, edited and uploaded the pictures, and at the same time took over all other tasks.
As I knew on the one hand that I can no longer do it alone, but also that I was right with my idea and from Shutterstock what can be quite big.
How is your company structured and what has changed over the course of time?
From the One-Man-Shop we have now grown into a company that is strong through 470 employees. We continue to employ a great many programmers with different focus areas to continually improve the technology behind Shutterstock and to develop new offerings that make finding the material easier and more exciting.
The structure has changed greatly with the growth of the company, and the most difficult was to keep the original culture in spite of its size and maintain effective communication structures.
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