SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Scarsdale High graduate Jon Oringer became the first billionaire to emerge from New York’s Silicon Alley. The journey to get there for the 1992 high school graduate was anything but smooth.
Oringer, CEO of Shutterstock, joined the ranks of world billionaires in late June, according to a report in Forbes. He has an estimated net worth of $1.05 billion as Shutterstock’s share price has climbed more than 230 percent since its IPO of $17 per share last October.
“It took me 10 tries to get to Shutterstock,’’ Oringer wrote on his blog. “Most of my startups never made it off the ground. Being an entrepreneur means being able to pivot quickly, shut down a business that isn’t performing and move on. If you use somebody else’s cash, you may be forced to continue even though you know it’s time to move on.”
Shutterstock is a marketplace for photographers, illustrators and videographers to sell their products around the world. Oringer founded the company in 2003, starting with 30,000 of his own images. Now, the business has more than 20 million assets, 35,000 contributors and 550,000 customers.
Oringer acquired a degree in math and computer science from Stony Brook University and completed his master’s degree at Columbia University in computer science. He’s also a certified commercial pilot.
Before he got started in business, he showed entrepreneurial spirit as a teenager. “In high school, I used to teach guitar and fix computers by the hour,” Oringer told the New York Times. “I was looking for some way to make some cash, so I actually learned how to play guitar in order to try to teach it. It turned out to be a pretty good business for a 15-year-old who had to get dropped off to his job by his mom.”
Oringer was named New York’s Technology Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2012 and recognized as one of Crain’s class of 2013 for “40 Under 40.
He began Shutterstock by taking pictures with an $800 Canon Digital Rebel and did everything at the outset.
“That was my way to learn,’’ he told Inc.com. “I needed photographers, so I became a photographer. The first customer service emails that came in, I answered those myself. I programmed the site in Perl. A lot of those experiences from early on still inform the decisions I make today. I wasn’t eating Ramen, but it was close. I was spending more money on the business than myself, but I was spending my own money at least.”
Now he’s the first billionaire from Silicon Alley, the name of the concentration of new media companies in New York City. He doesn’t plan to go anywhere soon.
“I’ve little in common with the scene in Silicon Valley and San Francisco,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg. “I’m a New Yorker.”