First NY tech bil­lion­aire

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING - WILL ORE­MUS

NEW YORK: When you think of New York City’s bur­geon­ing start- up scene, you might think of trendy so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies like Foursquare or Tum­blr or e-com­merce sites like Gilt Groupe.

You might think of the Brook­lyn-based start-ups that are help­ing to forge the new DIY econ­omy, like Maker­Bot, Etsy and Kick­starter.

A cou­ple of those start-ups – Tum­blr and Maker­Bot – re­cently sold for huge sums. A cou­ple of oth­ers could be in line for sub­stan­tial ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ings (IPOs). But none, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg News, can lay claim to pro­duc­ing Sil­i­con Al­ley’s first bil­lion­aire.

That hon­our, Bloomberg as­serts, went to a far less flashy name: Shutterstock, the stock- pho­tog­ra­phy site whose li­censed im­ages adorn mil­lions of ads and hastily com­posed blog posts. The com­pany went pub­lic in Oc­to­ber and has seen its shares soar. Late last week, founder Jonathan Oringer’s 55 per­cent stake in the com­pany was val­ued at $1 bil­lion (R11bn). Cit­ing RBC Cap­i­tal Mar­kets an­a­lyst An­dre Se­quin, Bloomberg de­clared Oringer “the first bil­lion­aire to be cre­ated in Sil­i­con Al­ley”.

But how do we know Oringer is re­ally the first? I called Se­quin to find out. He told me he was a lit­tle sur­prised that Bloomberg had him mak­ing the claim quite so defini­tively. Se­quin clar­i­fied to me that Oringer is the scene’s first bil­lion­aire founder “as far as I know”. He added that he “couldn’t come up with any­one else” who met the cri­te­ria: a New York tech or new-me­dia start-up founder who owns enough of a com­pany that his own share trans­lates to $1bn or more upon exit (or on the stock mar­ket, if it has gone pub­lic).

So while Tum­blr re­cently sold to Ya­hoo for $1.1bn – her­alded as the city’s biggestever ven­ture-backed start-up exit – Tum­blr founder David Karp doesn’t qual­ify, be­cause his stake in the com­pany was only about 25 per­cent. Not that Karp isn’t plenty rich. But he’s not a bil­lion­aire.

Any other can­di­dates?

Busi­ness In­sider’s Nicholas Carl­son, who knows the scene bet­ter than most, sug­gested via Twit­ter a name that is prob­a­bly fa­mil­iar to the Bloomberg re­porters who wrote the piece: Michael Bloomberg him­self. “Would you con­sider him tech?” Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier asked. “Yes,” said Carl­son. “He built a pri­vate in­ter­net.” Fair enough – tech is an amor­phous cat­e­gory in any case.

But as Carl­son con­ceded, Bloomberg’s suc­cess story dates to an ear­lier era, be­fore lo­cal tech pub­li­ca­tions sprouted up in the mid-1990s to coin the term and cover the lo­cal scene. On the other hand, some ar­gue that the term Sil­i­con Al­ley is it­self out­dated. Among them is ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Fred Wil­son – who, come to think of it, might have a claim to the ti­tle him­self, hav­ing achieved a re­ported net worth of over $1bn by in­vest­ing in some of the city’s big­gest suc­cess sto­ries. But he’s a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist, not a founder, so it seems rea­son­able to ex­clude him and his ilk.

Un­til some­one proves oth­er­wise, then, Oringer’s claim to the ti­tle can prob­a­bly stand. But how much longer will he re­main alone in the bil­lion­aire’s club?

New York Tech Meetup’s list of “made in NY” start-ups boasts 592 com­pa­nies and count­ing: Vig­gle, Vimeo, Vindico, Vis­ual Rev­enue, Vi­vas­tream, Vix­ely, Voxel, and Voxy, to name just a few of the Vs.

Who knows if there’s a Google or Face­book among them – but it’s a good bet that there’s at least an­other Shutterstock. – Wash­ing­ton Post/Slate

Jon Olinger is worth more than $1 bil­lion

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