Shutterstock founder and CEO Jon Oringer today announced that he will be stepping down as the chief executive of the publicly traded image marketplace. Stan Pavlovsky, Shutterstock’s current President and COO will take over as CEO starting April 1, 2020. Oringer, who owns 45% of Shutterstock, will move to executive chairman.
Oringer originally launched Shutterstock almost by accident. A serial entrepreneur who built pop-up blockers, firewalls, and trademark managers in the late 1990s, he began shooting marketing photos instead of paying for pricey stock images. Guessing other entrepreneurs needed them too, he built a site in 2003 that sold unlimited downloads for $49 a month.
Today Shutterstock sells stock images, editorial photos, music, and videos at a rate of six per second. It has a market cap of $1.5 billion and 1,200 employees. “If you asked me in 2003 if I’d ever be the CEO of a publicly-traded company, I would have said absolutely not,” says Oringer in Shutterstock’s headquarters in New York’s Empire State Building. “I’ve always been honest with the board that there were things I didn’t know if I’d be good at or not. It turns out managing 1,200 people isn’t one of them.”
Moving into the CEO role is Shutterstock’s President and COO Stan Pavlovsky. The former head of Meredith Digital (who led the integration of 40 media brands after Meredith Corp. purchased Time Inc. in 2018) first met Oringer via LinkedIn a few years ago. The pair would discuss trends in digital publishing, marketplaces and the media industry. In the spring of 2019, Oringer convinced Pavlovsky to join Shutterstock as Co-COO. “It’s a perfect marriage, “ says Pavlovsky, “Jon’s a visionary, and I’ve been a business manager who can take strategic vision and turn it into an operating model that can grow a business.”
Oringer and Shutterstock’s board have spent the last two years crafting his succession plan. “I’m a technologist, not a career manager and told the board we should start looking for a new CEO,” says Oringer. “We wanted an organic process, not to just hire a search firm and go all out. Bringing strong people into the company is how you fire yourself.”
For Pavlovsky, the last year as COO proved to be a successful audition for Shutterstock’s top spot. “We’ve gotten know Stan and assess his skills to lead and manage a 1,000-plus person company,” says board member Thomas Evans. “He’s developed a great understanding of the market, the opportunities, and has shown the ability to set strategic goals and align people and resources to achieve them.”
The CEO switch comes at a pivotal time for Shutterstock. The company went public in 2012 with a market cap of roughly $500 million. In less than two years, shares surged 600% to a $3.5 billion valuation and minted Oringer—who owned an eye-popping 50% of the company—New York’s first technology billionaire. But recently, Shutterstock has sputtered. While the S&P 500 has gained 23% over the last 12 months, Shutterstock has returned just 7% as investors worry about a slowdown in revenue growth, shrinking margins, and increased competition from Getty Images and Adobe. Shares are off some 50% since its 2014 peak. “We’ve underperformed the market,” says Oringer. “There’s an opportunity for us to get back on track and do a lot better than we have. That’s while we’re making these changes.”
The new strategy calls for Pavlovsky to run the company day-to-day, streamline operations, expand the marketplace’s margins, and make the core photo product more valuable to customers. “It’s a three-legged strategy using our content, technology platform, and first-party data to create additional services and tools that help marketers and creatives make better-performing content,” says Pavlovsky.
Oringer, meanwhile, will use Shutterstock’s strong balance sheet ($230 million in cash and zero debt) for potential acquisitions and product development to enter new markets and lines of businesses. “When I started Shutterstock, I’d do ten things at once, and that benefited us early on,” says Oringer. “But as the company grew, I learned what makes a great CEO is choosing what not to do—and I have trouble doing that. The new role will let me get back to having lots of irons in the fire.”