An African Getty Images, Foto launches a microstock marketplace in Nigeria

Stock images services are here to stay. Since Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates started Corbis about 25 years ago, the image licensing business has seen good growth. But services like Corbis, Gettey Images and ShutterStokes don’t serve all local needs.

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The Launch of Foto for Africa

Foto, a microstock images marketplace, launched in Nigeria today. After being in the stealth mode for about a year, they formally launched today and hope to become the digital distribution marketplace for photographers across Africa. The image market is an $11 billion industry, and Foto wants to be a photographers and buyers ally with a reasonable price in this space.

Their business model is frictionless pay per download, depending on the image size N2,500 ($15) for a small 500k image to N7,500 ($45) for an XXL 11Mb image.  Today finding that exact image users want on the web is super difficult. The team says they are working on the most difficult aspect of microstock photography sites — discovery. From a human discovery to a contextual search algorithm perspective, they promise to solve that as fast as possible.

The images industry as a whole is still evolving. Last week Getty Images had set its 35 million images free. Now their photos are free to be embedded on blogs and to be shared on social networks everywhere. Getty has developed an embed tool that allows it to track the shares. We don’t know if Foto is going to have free version as of now.

Did you know, according to The Global Stock Image Market Research Group (GSIMRG), the stock photo industry generated $2.88 billion in revenue in 2012?

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Foto has been incubated at Jason Njoku’s Spark Building.  Jason said on his blog today:

“The team has grown from an initial three-person team to 13 people working in our Spark building in Anthony. The team deals with everything from development, product management, customer support, image editing, photography and contextual search structuring. There are still over 20,000 images to be brought online over the next few weeks post the beta launch but the plan is to have 100,000 images online and available before the end of the year. Truly ambitious indeed but I at least have enough belief in the team to believe this a possibility.” 

How it all started

Celebrity photographer Frank, who shot 30,000 images last years for this project, has edited and uploaded 10,000 of them on foto.com.ng. He was the wedding photographer of Jason Njoku CEO of iROKOtv. This lead them to partner and start what has now become Foto, an African stock images for Africans. Something that didn’t exist in Africa before. Spark Incubator has invested close to $ 150,000 as a seed capital that can cruise them till the year end. By then they will clearly have the answer for product-market-fit question either to raise another round or be profitable.

Meanwhile, they will be reaching out to other photographers with large image portfolios with the option to add their images to Foto library with the chance to generate revenues.

Picture the numbers from around the globe

A new report by BBC Research, a publisher of market research reports and technical publications, estimates that the global market for digital photography technology was worth $136.7 billion in 2007 and will grow 69% to $230.9 billion by 2013, a compound annual growth rate of 8.3%.

Bloomberg news reported that the stock photography business has its first billionaire, Jonathan Oringer, the founder of Shutterstock Inc (SSTK). Oringer owns 18.5 million shares of Shutterstock, or 55 percent of the outstanding shares.

Sandeep Maheshwari, founder of ImagesBazaar, has been mocked  as wedding and passport photographer, when he dropped out of college and bought his first camera in 2000. He stated ImagesBazaar in 2006 and it’s now a platform for 1000,000+ pictures and 11,000 photographers.

We have seen it done before, locals serving local need. If it’s done the right way it will get its rewards in the end. Photography and images business is not different either. Images will have high demand as internet penetrations increases and media consumption in the African continent keeps going upwards.


Emmanuel Amberber

Inhales & exhale everything startups, tech, entrepreneurship, and the intersection of India & Africa. You can reach him via emmanuel[at]yourstory.com