After this serial entrepreneur made it big with photo licensing, he wants to start more companies


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

Jon Oringer, billionaire founder and former Shutterstock leader Inc.,

a global photo provider, is striving for a new look.

Last year he and a partner invested in more than 100 high-tech startups, of which Mr. Oringer co-founded 10 himself. He prefers to fund executives who have started and run businesses that flopped.

“Trying again after failure shows perseverance,” explains the 47-year-old entrepreneur. “We’re looking for people with this track record because it matches my track record.”

Mr. Oringer spent $ 10,000 starting Shutterstock from his Manhattan apartment in 2003 after several of his previous startups failed. The value of its marketplace for digital images skyrocketed after going public in 2012. Soon he became a billionaire.

Shutterstock, currently based in the Empire State Building,

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

Bio bits

  • age: 47
  • education: Bachelor’s degrees in computer science and math from Stony Brook University and master’s degree in computer science from Columbia University
  • family: Mrs. Talia. Daughter, 2 years old, and young son
  • Favorite electronic game: New York Times crossword puzzle
  • Management mantra: Move quickly, iterate quickly, and don’t be afraid to turn
  • Secret talent: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13 and have a collection of 40 vintage guitars
  • Super power that you wish for: Be able to slow down time to get more done
  • The worst advice you ever got: When I went public with Shutterstock, several people advised me not to go public

Last year, Mr. Oringer moved from Chief Executive to Executive Chairman. He gave up Shutterstock’s top spot because he wanted to get back to early-stage businesses. “It’s still what I do best,” he said during a Zoom interview from his Hamptons home.

During such significant career changes, he turns to close confidants. “They often advise me to trust my instincts,” adds Mr. Oringer, a bright red-haired man who now owns approximately 34% of Shutterstock’s stock, valued at nearly $ 1.5 billion. “Every investment of your time or money is a calculated risk.”

Mr. Oringer knows a lot about taking risks. He is licensed as a commercial helicopter pilot and occasionally flies his own.

Technology has fascinated him since childhood in the New York suburb of Scarsdale. In third grade he found out how to program software.

During high school, the teenager made nearly $ 50 an hour repairing home computers. Mr. Oringer decided on an entrepreneurial career with computers – and without a boss.

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

Mr. Oringer started a software company while studying computer science and math at Stony Brook University. In 1999 he earned a master’s degree in computer science from Columbia University.

His most popular software product from his company SurfSecret. Blocked pop-up advertisements on the Internet. In 2000, however, Microsoft Corp.

built a similar tool into his Internet Explorer browser. The move “got me out of business,” says Oringer.

The 20-year-old entrepreneur started and ran a dating site, online legal services company, advertising network – and Shutterstock. The only survivor was the subscription-based picture agency.

Mr. Oringer, an amateur photographer, started this business by spending nine months shooting 100,000 photos and posting the top 30,000 of them on his website. The new company wanted to make photo licensing more affordable by offering crowdsourcing images and subscription access.

“It was surprising that Shutterstock did it,” he notes. “Neither of us could predict what the internet would look like.”

Here are four of his most valuable advisors:

Rich dealers

CEO of Jefferies Financial Group Inc.

Mr. Handler was one of the investment bankers involved in the Shutterstock IPO. Just before this milestone, the veteran public company CEO spent about three hours with Mr. Oringer describing steps he should take to be successful at the top of a newly listed company.

“I wanted him to benefit from my successes and failures to help him prepare,” recalls Mr. Handler.

For example, the banker recommended that Mr. Oringer prioritize the long-term. Mr. Handler also urged him to “never let the hell of unrealistic and unsustainable growth drag you into the treadmill of Wall Street.”

Mr. Oringer believes that the best advice from this mentor was to promise too little and over-deliver. Companies in the initial phase often make promises that are too high “because they underestimate the obstacles,” observes the Shutterfly founder.

Rachna Bhasin

Founder of EQ Partners LLC

They got to know each other well a few years ago when Shutterstock signed a license agreement with Magic Leap Inc., the maker of augmented reality headsets for which she was chief business officer at the time.

Ms. Bhasin joined the Shutterstock board of directors in 2019 shortly after starting a strategic advisory, advisory and investment firm.

Mr. Oringer particularly values ​​her insight into Shutterstock’s expansion through acquisitions because “she went through many of them.” They are also considering how to ensure that all types of business partnerships remain an important part of Shutterstock’s strategy.

“I always challenge him about which doors are opened and closed when we are making strategic decisions for the company,” says Ms. Bhasin. The idea is to “think a few steps ahead”.

Stan Pavlovsky

CEO of Shutterstock Inc.

Mr. Oringer associated with the Meredith Corp.

Executive via LinkedIn in 2018 – the year he began looking for his future successor.

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

“We did a lot at once,” agrees Mr. Oringer. “We had too many projects.”

In 2019, Shutterstock hired Mr. Pavlovsky as Co-Chief Operating Officer and Head of Strategic Operations. Months later he was promoted to President and COO.

But Mr. Oringer took the time to digest the change “how we run the company and would get used to doing less,” says Mr. Pavlovsky. The new assistant in command ultimately ended several technology projects that lacked the potential to improve the customer experience.

In April 2020 he took over the management of Shutterstock.

Deirdre Bigley

A company director and investor

Ms. Bigley, who Mr. Oringer recruited to serve on the Shutterstock board five years ago, provided extensive advice on his decision to step down from the CEO role.

“It was tough,” he says. They looked at “where I would be most successful in the next 10 to 20 years of my career,” he continues. He concluded that what he particularly enjoys is starting businesses, bringing them to life, and helping them grow.

In addition, she has coached Mr. Oringer on how someone who is used to being heavily involved in the business can become an effective CEO.

“We talked a lot about the balance between being in close contact with the company and having the new CEO make changes and work out the details,” said Ms. Bigley, a former chief marketing officer for Bloomberg LP. “It was a huge step for Jon.”

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

Nowadays, says Oringer, he has great ambitions. As he continues to run Shutterstock, he wants to help “grow hundreds more companies,” he adds.

Write to Joann S. Lublin at [email protected]

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