The Life And Times Of Jon Oringer, Silicon Alley's First Billionaire
If Elite Daily wanted to present its profile of the world's youngest billionaires to you, the reader, there would be one problem: inaccuracy, and it's all because of Jon Oringer. That's after Forbes rated the net worth of the man who began coding at the age of five to be about $50 million over the billion mark, just enough to thrust him into an elite group of 30-somethings who, like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and GoPro's Nick Woodman, can claim to have a 10-digit value over their heads.
Oringer's success in getting into America's billionaire boys club comes less than a year after his company, Shutterstock, which is a market place for videos and photos, had issued an IPO last October, opening up shares of his business to be bought by eager investors. Since then, Oringer has seen the value of his brain child's stock triple in price, a growth that has propelled the CEO atop the summit as the first billionaire of the New York tech scene, otherwise known as Silicon Alley.
Despite the fact, however, that he's gained this status, which instantly makes him a pioneer for the young CEOs at many of the Big Apple's tech startups, on the back of his latest enterprise Shuttershock, it's important to consider that Oringer always showed the type of entrepreneurial sense that indicated he would make it to the top, someway and somehow.
"In high school, I used to teach guitar and fix computers by the hour," Oringer told the New York Times last week. "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."
Back then, the Scarsdale, New York native was just a teenage kid who, eventually, moved on to fixing computers when he found out that it would make him more money. It's probably this ability, the knack to move on and find out what's viable in other markets, that led him to create ShutterStock after having already started 10 enterprises, while he also says being his own boss helped him "fail faster" so that he could reach success.
"It took me 10 tries to get to Shutterstock," Oringer said on his personal website. "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."
When you consider Oringer's story in totality, it's clear to see that the New Yorker has always had a sense of independence manifest itself through the way he works. The case was no different when it was time for the SUNY Stony Brook alum to start ShutterStock. And while the entrepreneur has plenty of tips to offer on his own, Oringer took a piece of advice that we've seen other entrepreneurs offer in regards to making a business successful: eliminate a need.
"I started in 2003 by shooting 100,000 images -- everything I could find -- over about six months," the billionaire told Inc. executive editor Christine Lagorio. "I grabbed a Canon Digital Rebel, which was $800 at the time. I culled the images down to 30,000 and put them on the website. I needed to seed it somehow... I was always looking for images, and they were $500 or I had to call people to get the rights."
Today, ShutterStock features over 27 million images and videos that it can offer to subscribers, a figure that serves as an indicator of the immense success Oringer has managed to achieve since founding the company in 2003. It's wasn't always the easiest, though, to maintain his D.I.Y. attitude, as the CEO had to become a one-man show at a point, an experience that, he says, taught him many lessons.
"I didn't want to get outside money, so I was doing everything myself," Oringer told Lagorio last October. "That was my way to learn. I needed photographers, so I became a photographer. The first customer service e-mails 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 with nearly $170 million in revenue and doubling his profits to $47.5 million, according to Forbes, it's safe to say that Oringer's hard work and tenacity have paid off. And after becoming the New York-based tech company to go public in over two years, he hopes his business has inspired others to try prospering in the big city instead of making the jump to Silicon Valley in search of talent.
"At the end of the day, we found the people we needed to find and we continue to find the people we need to find," Oringer said to PandoDaily. "I love New York. I love being out there and I hope that other New York entrepreneurs that have seen us go public stay there."
If any up-and-comer had doubts about the amount of talent the Big Apple had and the viability of the city as a startup-friendly area, they can now look to him and be convinced of otherwise, because he's the entrepreneur who began his career as a teenager. He's a trailblazer from and for the young and restless New York tech scene. And now he can do cool things like learning how to fly a helicopter.
He's Jon Oringer, Silicon Alley's first billionaire.