Case Study: Stocksy United
Stocksy United: Platform Co-op for Freelance Artists
This case study was written Fall 2019 by Greg Brodsky and Shahzaib Azhar based on interviews from Stocksy employees and publicly available documents for the benefit of Start.coop accelerator participants, and the broader platform co-op community.
Location: Victoria, British Columbia
In 2000, Bruce Livingstone founded an online platform called iStockphoto as a project to offer stock photos for free over the internet. In 2002, as iStockphoto became more popular, the site began charging for image licensing in order to pay its increasingly growing Internet hosting costs. From the success of this change, iStockphoto opened to other artists and grew into a fully featured stock photography site with a vision to create a marketplace for photographers that was fair and sustainable. Brianna Wettlaufer joined iStockphoto in 2003, initially with a focus on community engagement and ultimately taking on the role of Vice President of Development, where she worked closely with Bruce in his role as CEO. After growing iStockphoto together for seven years, the firm was acquired by Getty Images for $50 million USD in February 2006. However as they watched the platform grow, Brianna and Bruce realized that artists were not getting their rightful share, and they were not happy. For instance, iStockphoto paid photographers 15% of photo sales for their first contributions and up to 45% of sales (depending on how much they sold in a year) if they were exclusive. Getty Images was paying 20% to 30% royalties.