After hitting hard with the photo license, this serial entrepreneur wants to start more businesses


In Personal Board of Directors, top business leaders talk about who they turn to for advice and how those people have shaped their perspective and helped them succeed. The previous episodes of the series are here.

Jon Oringer, the billionaire founder and former head of Shutterstock Inc.,

a global supplier of photography, is aiming for a new gig.

Over the past year, he and a partner have invested in over 100 tech startups, 10 of which Mr. Oringer himself co-founded. He prefers to finance executives who have started and run businesses that have gone bankrupt.

“Trying again after failing shows persistence,” says the 47-year-old entrepreneur. “We are looking for people with this track record because it is the same as my track record. ”

Mr. Oringer spent $ 10,000 to launch Shutterstock from his Manhattan apartment in 2003, after several of his previous startups failed. The value of his digital images market skyrocketed after its IPO in 2012. He quickly became a billionaire.

Shutterstock, currently based in the Empire State Building,

reported 2020 revenue of $ 666.7 million. The long-standing profitable company serves customers in more than 150 countries. Its extensive collection includes videos, illustrations, 3D models and music as well as photos. The Shutterstock Library contains over 380 million photographs.

Organic pieces

  • Age: 47
  • Education: Bachelor of Computer Science and Mathematics from Stony Brook University and Master of Computer Science from Columbia University
  • Family: wife Talia. Daughter, 2 years old and toddler son
  • Favorite electronic game: New York Times crossword
  • Management mantra: Move fast, iterate quickly and don’t be afraid to pivot
  • Secret talent: I have been playing guitar since I was 13 and have a collection of 40 vintage guitars
  • Superpower you wish you had: Being able to slow down time to do more
  • The worst advice you ever received: When I released Shutterstock, several people advised me not to engage in an IPO

Last year, Mr. Oringer went from Managing Director to Executive Chairman. He gave up Shutterstock’s # 1 spot because he wanted to feed start-ups again. “It’s always what I do best,” he said in an interview with Zoom from his Hamptons home.

He turns to close confidants during such important career changes. “They often advise me to trust my instincts,” adds Mr. Oringer, a man with pepper and salt hair who now owns about 34% of the stock in Shutterstock, worth nearly $ 1.5 billion. “Every investment of your time or money is a calculated risk. “

Mr. Oringer knows a lot about risk taking. A professional helicopter pilot’s license, he occasionally flies the one he has.

Technology has fascinated him since his childhood in the New York suburb of Scarsdale. He understood how to code software by the third year.

In high school, kids earned nearly $ 50 an hour fixing personal computers. Mr. Oringer decided to pursue an entrepreneurial career that involved computers and not a boss.

“I wanted to build something big,” he recalls. But “I wanted to do things my way. “

Mr. Oringer founded a software company while majoring in computer science and mathematics at Stony Brook University. He received a master’s degree in computer science from Columbia University in 1999.

His most popular software product, from his company SurfSecret. Pop-up ads blocked online. In 2000, however, Microsoft Corp.

incorporated a similar tool into its Internet Explorer browser. The move “put me off business,” says Oringer.

The 20-something entrepreneur went on to create and simultaneously run a dating site, an online legal services company, an advertising network and Shutterstock. The subscription photo agency was the only survivor.

Mr. Oringer, an amateur photographer, started the business by spending nine months taking 100,000 photos and posting the best 30,000 of them on his website. The new company aimed to make photo licenses more affordable by offering crowdsourced images and subscription access.

“It was surprising that Shutterstock did it,” he remarks. “None of us could predict what the internet would look like. “

Here are four of his most valuable advisers:

Rich manager

CEO of Jefferies Financial Group Inc.

Mr. Handler was among the investment bankers involved in the IPO of Shutterstock. Immediately before this important milestone, the seasoned CEO of a public company spent about three hours with Mr. Oringer describing the steps he should take to thrive as the head of a new public company.

“I wanted to share my successes and failures with him to help him prepare as best as possible,” Handler recalls.

The banker recommended Mr. Oringer to focus on the long term, for example. Mr. Handler also urged him “never to get dragged into the Wall Street treadmill because of unrealistic and unsustainable growth.”

Mr. Oringer believes this mentor’s best advice was that he shouldn’t promise and deliver too much. Start-ups tend to make too many promises “because you underestimate the obstacles,” observes the founder of Shutterfly.

Rachna Bhasin

Founder of EQ Partners LLC

They got to know each other well several years ago, when Shutterstock entered into a licensing agreement with Magic Leap Inc., the maker of augmented reality headsets where she was then commercial director.

Ms. Bhasin joined Shutterstock’s board of directors in 2019, shortly after setting up a strategic advisory, advisory and investment firm.

Mr. Oringer particularly appreciates her ideas about expanding Shutterstock through acquisitions, because “she’s been through a lot.” Likewise, they are considering how to ensure that all kinds of business partnerships remain a key part of Shutterstock’s strategy.

“I always challenge him on the doors that are open and closed as we make strategic decisions for the company,” says Ms. Bhasin. The idea is to “contemplate a few steps forward”.

Stan pavlovsky

CEO of Shutterstock Inc.

Mr. Oringer connected with the Meredith Corp.

executive via LinkedIn in 2018, the year he began researching his possible successor.

When they first met, Mr. Pavlovsky suggested Mr. Oringer focus on some interesting ideas because Shutterstock “can’t do everything,” he recalls.

“We were doing a lot of things at the same time,” says Oringer. “We had too many plans.

In 2019, Shutterstock hired Mr. Pavlovsky as Co-COO and COO of Strategic Operations. Months later, he was promoted to president and chief operating officer.

But Oringer took the time to digest the change “in the way we were going to run the business and feel comfortable doing less,” says Pavlovsky. The new second in command ultimately killed off several tech projects that lacked the potential to improve the customer experience.

He took over as Shutterstock in April 2020.

Deirdre Bigley

Company director and investor

Ms Bigley, whom Mr Oringer recruited to Shutterstock’s board of directors five years ago, advised him at length on his decision to step down as CEO.

“It was tough,” he says. They explored “where I was going to be most successful in the next 10 to 20 years of my career,” he continues. He concluded that he particularly enjoys the experience of setting up businesses, supporting them and helping them grow.

In addition, she coached Mr. Oringer on how someone used to being very involved in the business could become an effective executive chairman.

“We’ve talked a lot about the balance between staying in close contact with the company while still allowing the new CEO to make changes and take care of the details,” says Ms. Bigley, former director of marketing for Bloomberg LP. “It was a giant leap for Jon.”

She warned Mr. Oringer that he might not always agree with the path chosen by his successor. Yet she knew that their power-sharing arrangement could work “because there was so much mutual respect.”

These days Mr Oringer says he has big ambitions. As he continues to guide Shutterstock, he adds, he intends to help “spawn hundreds of other businesses.”

Write to Joann S. Lublin at [email protected]

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