Shutterstock Founder Becomes Silicon Alley’s First Billionaire

Image via Vimeo/Jon Oringer

New York’s Silicon Alley just added an impressive detail to its growing tech-scene resume: it is now home to its first billionaire, Shutterstock founder Jonathan Oringer.

Launched in 2003 and going public in October last year, Shutterstock is a licensed stock photo library that lets subscribers download its images and illustrations, and also allowing contributors to submit photos of their own and retain the rights. It currently boasts more stock image downloads than any stock image agency to date. Its home, Silicon Alley, is a small cluster of New York that houses a handful of Internet startups and accelerators.

When Inc. asked Oringer if he was surprised to be the first billionaire out of Silicon Alley, he replied, “It feels great. Actually we were surprised by that, too. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that there hadn’t been one yet. But the fact that there’s more attention drawn to Shutterstock—and to the New York tech scene—I think, in the long run, is just great.”

Thirty-nine year-old Oringer owns 55 percent of Shutterstock and 18.5 million shares.  Those shares, according to Bloomberg, are valued at $1 billion. Since going public last October, Shutterstock shares have nearly tripled.

According to documents with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission, Shutterstock estimates that the market for digital imagery to $6 billion in 2016, compared to $4 billion in 2014.

As Silicon Alley continues to grow, it aims to position itself in line with its predecessor, Silicon Valley, and Oringer is a testament that it isn’t impossible.

“There is a change going on in the city that is leveraging the inherent strength in New York,” said Frank Rimalovski, managing director of New York University’s Innovation Venture Fund. “Think about Tumblr and Shutterstock. They didn’t have to break any new laws of computer science or electrical engineering to build their business.”

When Oringer started Shutterstock in 2003, he humbly launched with 30,000 of his own photos and put them on his website. He wanted to fill a gap in the photo industry by providing images at a reasonable price. Humble beginnings have translated into nearly $170 million in revenue last year.

Though Oringer admits that Silicon Valley clearly holds the title with startups, his heart and preference is still with New York. “I like the West Coast, also, but it’s sort of fragmented,” Oringer said. “It’s kind of nice in New York to just jump in a cab and reach another company so easily. But if the two got into a brawl—I don’t know. I’m not sure what that would look like.”