Shutterstock founder shares mantra for startup success


Jon Oringer, who started the world’s leading subscription image marketplace, spoke about his passion for new businesses and the qualities he looks for in budding entrepreneurs during a virtual conversation with the Miami Herbert Business School. .

Jon Oringer, Founder, Former CEO and Executive Chairman of Shutterstock, shared his mantra for startup success – learning and executing all facets of how the business works – in a lively conversation with Dean John Quelch and Michael Wilson, keynote speaker and director of entrepreneurship programs, as part of the Knight Venture Leader series hosted by the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School.

This advice has been proven successful for Oringer, who single-handedly managed all aspects of the startup he launched in 2003 while providing the initial sales funding to grow the business and become a global provider of marketing tools. photography, video footage, music and editing. .

“When Shutterstock started, I was the first photographer, the first customer service rep, the first engineer, the number one customer research target, the number one marketer, the number one website writer. I filled all the roles, ”said Oringer. “These are things I thought about when hiring people and always thinks about when I advise other entrepreneurs.”

Launching his technology career while still in college in the late 1990s as the Internet grew, Oringer developed a wide range of software products and sold them online. Despite the dot-com bubble crash at the time, he continued to sell.

“I was a one-man show with a group of contactors who would help me fix bugs, improve the product, and work on the next version. I was selling the software for hundreds of thousands of dollars from my dorm, ”he said.

“It got addicting as I got more and more sales,” he said, “but what haunted me was the need for images. To support growing online businesses, people would steal images and receive cease and desist orders. He remembered thinking that this model was unsustainable.

“The need for images kept growing. And when I started getting traction, I knew the bar was really low and I had to go, ”Oringer said, adding that“ a subscription model made sense ”.

He bought a camera and started taking his own photos – thousands of generic and simple images suitable for e-commerce – and took care of getting the model, ownership, and business permissions.

“I needed a lot. And honestly, they weren’t that great, but they got the job done, ”he said. He put his other projects aside to focus on growing the business, a much more difficult area for him than the product side.

“While it may have seemed organized and deliberate, it was chaos like any other business,” he recalled. He started to build product teams; and a few years later he hired a CEO, formed a board of directors, and the business continued to grow.

With nearly 1,000 employees today, the company achieved sales of $ 667 million in 2020.

After 17 years as CEO, Oringer handed over the reins of the company in April 2020 to become Executive Chairman of Shutterstock, a role that gives him the time and energy to do what he loves most: guiding and supervise startups.

“Without a doubt, my favorite moment is starting, starting a business early,” he said. “In my new role, I get the best of all worlds: I have a CEO and I can set up a lot of businesses alongside. ”

Oringer, who recently moved to Miami, started the Pareto Pre-Seed program, a tech incubator that aligns its unique skills with Miami’s rising tech scene.

“Miami is like New York in the early 2000s, except it moves a lot faster,” he said. “It’s that kind of rapid growth where every week you hear about a new company moving, about a new funding round. When Miami has its first IPO, it will be pretty amazing.”

The company’s name comes from that of Vilfredo Pareto, an early 20th century Italian economist who developed Pareto’s efficiency concepts: 20% of the pea pods in his garden were responsible for 80% of the peas.

Oringer pointed out that Pareto seeks to be as diverse as possible and has several women entrepreneurs as part of its investment group. It welcomes applicants with all types of ideas to apply.

As Pareto searches for smart candidates, Oringer said high marks might not be the best quality of an entrepreneur. He admitted that he was “not a very good student” and that he certainly didn’t get any Aces.

“What you need is that courage, that persistence, and to know that the second you start, there will be three more competitors who are well funded,” Oringer said. “So you have to stay focused, calm, have your strategy and execute every day – that’s the skill set we’re looking for. ”

The founder of Shutterstock said that when he first launched the global supplier, there were thousands of stock photographers shooting on film, and many saw his business as a downgrade from the professional realm.

“There were angry people – there are always when things change – but I thought I was democratizing photography,” he said.

Shutterstock now receives images from around two million photographers, according to Oringer. “And that only scratches the surface of people who want to sell their images,” he said. “We created a market for a lot of people to sell their photographs and that market just didn’t exist before.”

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