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founder/CEO at Unsplash and Crew Joined over 8 years ago via an invitation from Luke C.
AMAs and Super Bowl Ads. But we can’t afford a Super Bowl Ad yet :)
There are many forms of self-promotion we as a society seem to accept (podcast interviews, guest speaking, blogging, etc.). But the 'acceptability' part is less about the medium and more dependent upon the perceived value of the message to the receiver. The less useful the message, the less acceptable it, the messenger, and the medium tend to be.
Thanks so much priyank. I'm really happy to hear that that article connected with you. Thanks again for what you said here. Very thoughtful of you.
For reference, here's the article priyank mentioned: https://medium.com/swlh/why-i-never-wrote-down-our-company-values-8143520497e8#.663brx8qh
Hey Virginia. Thank you! The first thought around splitting Unsplash out actually came a year ago but it took us a while to sort out how we would go about it and what legal/financial things we'd need to do.
We were cautious with Unsplash. Maybe even a bit overly cautious. Though we saw big growth from Day 1, we wanted to make sure it was sustainable and repeatable. When Unsplash kept consistently growing over years with minimal attention put toward it, that's when we decided it was time to make a decision.
Also, as Unsplash grew, the community using Unsplash started to move away from the main type of customer that used Crew. So the cost of Unsplash to Crew was growing but the referrals to Crew from Unsplash were slowing down. That was another catalyst for the change.
We've always aimed to be as transparent as possible with everyone on the team no matter what's going on. So as soon as we saw what was going on and knew a decision would need to be made soon, we had a full team call to let everyone know. Then, once we made the choice, we brought everyone together again and chatted through everything. We had lots of one-on-ones and many other meetings to discuss what's going on and thinking through the decision. I think overall the transition went well. And in hindsight, it was the right choice for both Crew and Unsplash.
Great thought Alex. We're working on something like this that we'll share more on soon :)
Hey Scott. We still operate both Crew and Unsplash under the same cultural value where we aim to create an environment where everyone has the autonomy, tools, and support needed to do their best work.
So whether you work on Crew or Unsplash, we don't care about the time you put in. It’s about what you do in that time that matters. And Crew and Unsplash still work together in the same office and Slack :)
The main difference is both Crew and Unsplash focus on their own paths now. We don't split resources anymore between the two. Everyone on Crew focuses on Crew. Everyone on Unsplash focuses on Unsplash.
Hey there Ray. It's something we've considered but it's not on the immediate roadmap. We've learned that many digital assets have their own quirks and there's still a lot we need to get right with photos.
Hey Alex. Thanks for the support since the early days. Originally, Unsplash started because we were redesigning our homepage for Crew and we were fed up with the stock photo options. We thought it was way to difficult to find a good quality photo that had a clear license and wasn't too expensive. We didn't have much money and we didn't know after we bought a photo if we would even use it past the mockup stage.
When we failed to find something, we hired a local photographer and shot our own. After the photoshoot, we figured a lot of other people might be having this same problem. So we thought instead of letting our extra photos from the photo shoot go to waste on a hard drive somewhere, we could put them online for anyone to use for anything.
We didn't expect it to ever be bigger than us taking photos and giving them away. If I recall correctly, we didn't add the 'submit a photo' link to Unsplash until just before we put the site live. It was an afterthought. Even when we added that link to 'submit a photo' we figured it'd still be us taking our own photos. So when people starting submitting, it was such an inspiring thing to see. We owe so much to our community of contributors.
Hey Alex. A premium or 'pro' Unsplash membership is something we've considered but we don't plan to have a premium paid option any time soon. Our intent is to keep Unsplash photos free and license-free and monetize in a different way that won't hurt the experience.
Our main question we're trying to answer right now is: 'how big is the market for a product like Unsplash'. The sooner we figure that out, the sooner we'll know what revenue options make the most sense. We have about $5M invested to give us the room to define the best path to building a long-term, sustainable business model that also benefits the community.
What we don't want to do right now is focus on a specific monetization method, assuming Unsplash will be X size and have Y impact overall, only to miss a more fitting model.
Whatever we do though, we know that we will layer it on top of Unsplash in a way that doesn't hurt the core of Unsplash and is beneficial to the community.
That's not to say that we don't have revenue ideas and aren't testing them on a small scale — we are and we will continue to, but we're focusing only 5% of our time on that right now, while we devote the rest of it to figuring out the overall size and impact Unsplash will have in the future.
We're in a fortunate position in that our investors back Unsplash wholeheartedly and believe, like we do, that the market is drastically changing. When there are huge changes in a market, new business models become viable, that wouldn't have made sense previously.
For every business it is different obviously — so take what you will from our example. We're still figuring it out.
Hey Jeff. Thanks so much for writing and for the very kind words. The idea for our part office/part cafe/part coworking space came when we were considering our first office space. We had been working remote for a few years so an office seemed like a big cost to us if it didn't add any extra benefit.
We thought about how we could take an office space, typically a sunk cost, and potentially turn it into something that could be beneficial for freelancers and as a byproduct, help spread the word about our business.
As a freelance designer myself, I'm used to working remote but finding good places to work from when I was away from home was always a challenge. Before we made our office cafe we put together this little thing called Coffee and Power a collection of good coffee shops we had been to with info. on wifi passwords and plug locations.
One of the main things we learned from doing our office cafe is how different and constraining a physical product can be. It's not like a software product where we can iterate on a feature and if it doesn't work, kill it. Architecting a physical space is expensive and hard to backtrack on.
At the same time, those constraints are also one of the great things. We can rapidly test things like sign locations and menu designs. And see immediately what impact those had. We get to physically see our customers and members and how they use something we put out into the space. The feedback loop is instant.
There might only be 50-100 people in our cafe at one time but when you're there, you can feel the activity and meet your customers. Compared to online, there may be thousands or millions of people who come across your site but you never get to see or meet them.
Thanks Callum. Really means a lot to hear this from you. We owe so much to our community of contributors who continue to offer up their beautiful shots to be used freely.
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