I recently blogged about the “Series A Crunch” and recommended ways for entrepreneurs to try to avoid its ugly clutches.
But I soon discovered a glaring omission in my recommendations. I had addressed strategies like raising more money, structuring the round to include more institutional money and investors, cultivating these investors after the raise and resisting the temptation to raise prematurely. But one strategy that I failed to detail was to make the money last as long as possible, affording the entrepreneurs the maximum amount of runway on which to demonstrate results. And no company demonstrates the effectiveness of this strategy more than our most recent investment, 500px.
Oleg Gutsol and Evgeny Tchebotarev started 500px in late 2009. They bootstrapped the business for almost two years and finally raised their first outside money in 2011—a very modest half a million dollars. They added additional capital in 2012, bringing total outside capital in the company to a just a couple million dollars.
500px is a site for photographers to display their work, enabling it to be viewed, engaged with and even sold. Oleg and Evgeny have been hard at work on 500px for about four years. What did they accomplish during this time with only a couple million dollars? Check this out:
- 500px is one of the most visually stunning sites I’ve ever encountered. I love photography, and I find browsing through the highest rated pictures on 500px to be a mesmerizing experience. No more need to trek to museums; 500px brings some of the world’s best photography to you online.
- They have experienced very rapid user growth. The site currently has 2.5 million registered users and over 10 million monthly active users. And these users are global. It turns out that gorgeous, world-class photography speaks a universal language.
- The 500px community is passionate about and phenomenally engaged with the site. The site currently gets over a billion page views each month. This photo of the Milky Way over the Himalayas, for example, received over 3.6 million views. And looking at it, I think you can understand why.
- They have started to build products that drive monetization but are highly complementary to the user experience.
This level of progress on just a couple million dollars is extremely impressive. We can’t wait to see that they can accomplish with the additional resources from this round.
And no blog post about gorgeous photography would be complete without a bit of eye candy. Here’s a quick homage to San Francisco courtesy of the 500px community:
- Happy 75th Birthday to the Golden Gate Bridge
- San Francisco in the Rain
- USC at Stanford game (Go, CARDINAL!)
We are delighted to be partnering with my very good friend Michael Dearing of Harrison Metal on this investment. Michael will be joining the board of directors. I can’t think of anyone better to support the efforts of Oleg and Evgeny to build one of the world’s leading photography brands.