21 Jul 2015 Interview With Stocksy United CEO Brianna Wettlaufer
Speaking with the crew at Stocksy was far too interesting to leave it at just a simple overview, so I asked Brianna Wettlaufer, Stocksy CEO and Co-founder, a few questions to share with you all.
Brianna has taken Stocksy to some amazing heights, as you’ll read below, and receives some very high praise from her colleagues. I’m sure, like me, you’ll enjoy these amazing insights into just how far Stocksy has come in the past year.
How is Stocksy going? Can you provide some figures or milestones to give us some insight into how big an opportunity it is for potential contributors and significance in the market?
Stocksy is going better than we could have ever expected. We wanted to shake things up by showing the industry that quality matters and to finally give photographers a marketplace where their voices could be heard. I’d say we’re achieving all of those things. We have members making full time incomes, with a handful already doing six figures.
I can share that in our 2nd year of operations we grew 580% (from March 2014 – March 2015). We have become the preferred agency for an impressive roster of clients that range from Fortune 500s to globally recognized brand leaders. 86% of our revenues come from large agencies versus the turnstile model of individuals who come and go. On average 75% of first time buyers become repeat customers.
What’s the biggest challenge for Stocksy at this time?
Keeping up with demand, which, luckily, is one of those ‘good’ challenges. Our client needs have outpaced anticipation, as a result our small team has had to be extremely nimble in adapting infrastructure and resources. But growing fast has helped us stay lean and kept us focused on our clients and our members
How many contributor applications have you received so far this year, and how many last year?
On average we receive about 5,000 applications in total each year.
How many staff members do you have now and in what areas do they work? Are you growing the team?
There’s an incredibly talented team behind Stocksy. They believe in the quality of our collection and our business model as a force for change in the industry.
We founded the company with four people huddled around a picnic table in the middle of an empty office.
We’ve now doubled in size and have a series of departments, totalling 8 people in office and 10 people we work with remotely and on contract, including all of our amazing Editors.
Do you believe the Stocksy style of imagery will age quicker or slower than the ‘stock’ aesthetic?
Our aesthetic is crafted in two ways: focusing on finding styles people are currently excited about, and leading the charge on creating trends. This means we’re constantly evolving, staying modern and relevant, and committed to only accepting the highest quality imagery.
Are there any unexpected commonalities among the most successful contributors at Stocksy?
If there’s a commonality among our most successful shooters, it is probably an ability to look at things in a new way. There’s a passion behind their subjects; for instance, our food photographers truly appreciate food and put delicate care into the ingredients and the real ways people enjoy food.
How is the Creative Market deal working out? Do you expect to do more like that?
The Creative Market deal finished in June and succeeded in both making money for the photographers and increased exposure. Marketing as a whole is in a really interesting state and we’re constantly trying to find better ways to promote our members and their work in ways that make people fall in love with photography.
Will we see Stocksy sending images into the channel to Getty, Corbis and the like, or do you have a different distribution strategy? Beyond Creative Market, what type of partners are you seeking?
Our values steer us clear from any agency where there isn’t a fair distribution of profits or that undervalues the imagery. As well, our members take a lot of pride in the quality of the Stocksy brand they helped create. Any partnership we enter into needs to compliment that.
We’ve been contacted by the big name agencies interested in sub-licensing our collection and even a few wanting to buy Stocksy outright, but Stocksy was created by photographers, for photographers. The success of our membership is why we exist, so any deal we enter into has to benefit our membership by supporting photographers financially and creatively.
In the traditional market it’s rare for the start-up agencies to make much of a profit, so there are people who are sceptical about the profit-sharing aspect of the Stocksy co-op. What can you say about how worthwhile the co-op model is for contributors?
People were ready for change, both clients and photographers, and that’s created strong loyalty. We’ve been cash positive since completing our first year in business and have remained profitable ever since.
We’re a co-op for two reasons: because we want a model that supports the people that put hard work into it and because we want to do great business.
We’ve built Stocksy based on decades of lessons learned in the stock photo industry which gave us a distinct vision for the future. The cooperative model certainly isn’t easy; it comes with many different challenges from traditional models, and the due diligence of transparency takes a lot of time and effort.
As for whether it’s worthwhile for contributors… That depends on whether being a part of one of the most prestigious brands in Stock, one that pays out one of the highest royalty rates, that gives it’s members a vote on major business decisions, that treats them like professionals and actively helps them develop their careers is a good thing or not.
Lee: Thanks Brianna for your time and thoughtful answers.