More On Flipboard’s Acquisition Of Zite: “The Deal Whisperer”, Zite’s Fate, The Price Tag, And Paper
After Flipboard and CNN today announced that personalised magazine app Flipboard was buying Zite from CNN, I had a chance to talk with Flipboard CEO Mike McCue and CNN's digital head KC Estenson about the deal (pictured here looking chummy around the time they announced the news). Read More
TechCrunch » Social
Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, Rebuffing Sale Offers, Says Revenues Grew 500% in Q1 2014, 600% In 2013
Foursquare -- the app that has shifted its business model from a place to track where your friends are going to the go-to place for people searching for local information -- is fast approaching its fifth birthday (it's March 11, for those of you prepping presents). And CEO Dennis Crowley wants us to know that it's still growing -- in revenues at least. Read More
TechCrunch » Social
As the head of one of the most successful companies on the planet, Apple's Tim Cook is scrutinized perhaps more than any other CEO. Now some of that scrutiny has been focused and edited into a new book called Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs.
Written by former Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane, the book delves into the world of post-Steve Jobs Apple and how Cook runs the company in the face of impossibly high expectations
Kane's former paper published an excerpt of the book on Friday, and the passages reveal a Cook at once calm and composed, yet nevertheless ruthless in his execution on his predecessor's vision Read more...
As a father and a CEO of a startup, Jake Gibson offers up insight on how he manages to get it all done.
Following AOL's acquisition of content personalization startup Gravity last month, co-founder and CEO Amit Kapur stopped by the AOL office in Manhattan to discuss where personalization technology goes from here. When Gravity was founded four years ago, Kapur said its founders thought it was "inevitable" that the web would become more personal. At the time, everything on the web was "generic"… Read More
TechCrunch » Social
Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with cofounder and CEO Steve Hibberd from Tiger Pistol. More »
In a former life, Stocksy CEO Bruce Livingston’s job was replaced by software. Today the former iStockphoto founder and CEO and former Getty Images VP could be replaced by photographers — the very people he’s enticing onto his new stock photography platform.
Call it democratic capitalism … and that’s just one of Stocksy’s unique points of craziness.
“The inherent problem with the stock photography industry is that companies care about companies … and they care about keeping their margins high — 70 percent plus,” Livingstone told me recently. “I thought: Why don’t we try and do things completely backwards? Let’s invert that revenue pyramid so that photographers are on the top.”
Livingstone should know. He started iStockPhoto and sold it to Getty Images for $ 50 million.
iStockPhoto was born just after his first pay-for-university job went up in smoke. He was a clerk at Image Club Graphics, a clip-art vendor, and his role was to transfer credit card numbers from one company system to another in the dark ages of technology. Once software solved that problem, he was out of work.
But the CEO liked him and asked Livingstone to invent a new job and pitch the company on it. He came up with a system where clients could dial up on a BBS or the nascent Internet, buy a photo online, pay via credit card, and not have to talk to anyone at all.
“This is the future of your business,” Livingstone told the leadership of the company. “They all thought I was smoking crack.”
ImagePub’s failure of vision led to Livingstone actually smoking crack. He quit university, raised about $ 50,000 as a 20-something kid, and started both a web-hosting company and an advertising firm to pay the bills for what he actually wanted to do: build iStockphoto. It began life as a photo-swapping site, then evolved to sell credits that could be redeemed for photos for $ 0.25 each — thereby inventing the notion of the credit pack and implementing, essentially, a virtual currency for micro-transactions.
Necessity was, of course, the mother of invention, as $ 0.25 was far too little to charge to credit cards.
In 2006, after iStockphoto hit $ 12 in revenue, Getty offered $ 50 million for the site, and Livingstone, thinking “how much money does one person need,” accepted. He moved to L.A., took on a role as a senior VP with Getty, and stayed there for three years.
Then he tried to retire.
“A lot of photographers kept visiting us, and they kept saying the same thing: Competition is getting too fierce, there’s a whole ocean of images to compete with, Getty and other stock photography sites were changing their royalty structures … and they weren’t getting the same revenue anymore,” Livingstone says. “A lot of people gave up … it was really hard for me.”
It’s the place on Vancouver Island that all tourists to Western Canada visit for a taste of English life, complete with double-decker buses, red phone booths, quaint shops, and old-ish architecture … plus some whale-watching, fishing, and hiking.
But he didn’t quit the mission: help stock photographers.
Stock photography is a hard gig in the modern world. No longer is it prohibitively expensive to buy significantly good equipment. And, where once shooting a roll of film meant paying out $ 10-20 in development fees, now there’s no incentive to economize. With digital photography, everyone became a photographer. Or at least, so it seemed to the pros, who saw amateurs inundate the stock photography portals with cheap images.
So Livingstone decided to upend the model, and he started Stocksy — a new kind of stock photography company.
“Let’s share equity, let’s pay as much as possible, and let’s give the control to the community,” he told me. “I’m the CEO and president right now, but if there is an election and the majority of people decide I’m not fit for the job anymore, they can elect someone else. It’s a really true democratic system.”
The key to Stocksy is that the number of photographers is kept low.
New members must be invited by existing members. And then, only photographers who pass an extensive screening process — including portfolio review and Google Hangout interviews — can join. Once they do join, they become shareholders in the company. In addition, Stocksy can never add more than 500 photographers in a year, by rule, differentiating it from competitors with 100,000 photographers.
The result is high quality uniformly across the site, and less competition. The first is good for customers, including Apple, and the second is good for photographers.
“We don’t try to flood our collection with thousands and thousands of photographs,” Livingstone told me. “We have only 60,000 images right now … but every single image is really special. There’s no filler, none of the types of stock photography that has become a parody.”
It seems to be working.
Photographers who join have started dropping exclusive deals with Corbis and Getty. Those who have “risked it all,” Livingstone says, are “making a living.” One, Sean Locke, is pulling in close to six figures annually. Stocksy is growing at 20-25 percent every single month, and January was the community’s strongest month ever, with 41 percent growth and $ 85,000 paid out in royalties.
As far as royalties are concerned, Livingstone said they are as high as possible.
“90 percent of profits are shared with photographers,” he says. “We’re not a nonprofit — we try to make as much money as possible to pay as much as we can to photographers, but the company itself keeps no cash.”
Time on site is almost 12 minutes, and cart conversion is over 50 percent, Livingstone told me — both of which are significantly higher than competitors.
“It is really photographer and shareholder controlled,” he says. “That may be daring and silly, but so far, it’s really working. We’ve been up for 10 months, and we’re in the black.”
“That’s also pretty unheard of for any startup.”
VentureBeat » Entrepreneur
Tinder CEO Sean Rad reports a 400 percent increase in new users since the Olympics started last week
In my new book, Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors, in addition to decomposing and explaining a lot about the functioning of board meetings, I also describe my ideal board meeting.
I had four of them this week. That’s a lot of board meetings in a week, but my weeks tend to either be “lots of board meetings” or “no board meetings,” as I generally bunch them up. Thankfully, all four of them used my ideal board meeting template.
A critical aspect of my ideal board meeting is that the entire board package should be sent out several days in advance to all board members. It should be thorough, including whatever the CEO wants the board to know about what has happened since the last board meeting. While I prefer prose to a PowerPoint deck, either is fine. Optimally it’s in a format like Google Docs where everyone on the board can comment on specific things, allowing open Q&A on the board material prior to the board meeting. I like to decouple monthly financial reporting from the board package, but including a look back of the financials, along with discussion and framing is useful.
But the meat of the board package should be what’s going on now and going forward, not looking back. The looking back is for support of the discussion.
Then, the board meeting has a simple structure intended to fit in three hours. Optimally all participants are either in person or on video conference. Since I’m not traveling for business right now, almost all of my board meetings have a video conferencing component. When done correctly, it’s often just as effective as an in-person meeting, and in some cases (if you follow my video conferencing rules) even more effective. What is not effective is when one or more people are on an audio conference.
Once everyone is settled, break the board meeting into three discreet sections. They, and their descriptions, follow:
Administration (30 minutes): Board overhead, resolutions, administration, and questions about the board package.
Discussion (up to 2 hours): Discussion on up to five topics. The five topics should fit on one slide or be written on the whiteboard. The CEO is responsible for time boxing the discussion, or if he needs help, he should ask the lead director to do this. If you don’t have a lead director, read my book and get yourself one.
This should be a discussion. You’ve got your board in the room – use it to help you go deeper on the specific topic you are trying to figure out.
These topics can be on anything, but my experience is that the more precise the context is, the richer the discussion. I prefer for the full leadership team to be in the meeting for this part, although it’s entirely up to the CEO who is in the room.
Executive Session (30 minutes): CEO and board only. Here the board can give feedback specifically to the CEO or sensitive issues around personnel or other things the CEO wants to discuss separately from the management team. At the end, the CEO leaves and lets the board have some time alone where the lead director checks in to see if there is any feedback the board would like to give the CEO.
If you have less than five topics, the board meeting can take less time. Or if the five topics only take an hour to go through, the board meeting can take less time. There is nothing ever wrong with ending a meeting early. Ever.
Now this template doesn’t always work. You often have other specific things you have to address. When a company is going through an M&A process, the board meetings tend to be frequent and cover other stuff. Or, when the company is in a downward spiral or dealing with a crisis, the focus is often very precise.
But in my world, the day of the “board update” is over. I find no value in sitting in a room for three hours, paging through a PowerPoint deck while people present at me and the people around the table ask an endless stream of questions, mostly demonstrating that they haven’t been engaged in what the company has been doing since the last board meeting.
This story originally appeared on Brad Feld.
VentureBeat » Entrepreneur