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In 1999 James West, along with his uncle
Mike Fischer, founded Alamy. At that time there were a handful of large agencies which dominated the stock photo industry. Digital photography was still in its infancy.
The first digital photograph
went online in 1992
In fact, the first digital photograph had only appeared on the internet in 1992. James, a born entrepreneur and disruptive innovator, was looking for a new venture and Mike, having recently stepped down as CEO of the highly successful schools computer firm RM that he co-founded, was looking for a new interest too.
With Mike´s experience of how technology can radically change an industry (he was instrumental in developing computers in schools), and James´ enthusiasm for new ideas that challenge the status quo, the stock photo industry seemed like an ideal choice. And so Alamy was formed. James became CEO and Mike became chairman and business mentor.
And there´s more. By this time Mike was also involved in research: medical and education. So the agreement was that in lieu of dividends for the major shareholders, payments would be invested into Mike's medical research charity. A charity which is investigating and, hopefully, developing vaccines against cancer. So there you have it. A disruptive innovator, a technology pioneer with a history of business success and a philanthropic goal.
In the beginning, building a substantial bank of diverse photography was the biggest hurdle to cross. Alamy bucked the trend by offering a groundbreaking approach to photographer commissions with returns ranging from 85–65%.
Over the years commission splits across the industry have migrated further in favour of the agency, but Alamy has maintained a fair and equitable approach and commission is now 50/50 across the board.
Alamy packaged digital photography in a way that grabbed the market's attention, and allied with the equitable approach to its photographers the company reached its first million images in just over 4 years and became profitable in 5 years.
And now, fourteen years after it was founded, Alamy has the largest online collection of images and video clips. As a new player on the block, Alamy didn´t have a multimillion dollar legacy of non-digital images that it had to deal with. So from the outset the company was lean and agile and able to make the most of the advantages offered to it from new and emerging technology. Indeed, Alamy has used technology to great effect to drive the market forward.
And while the Alamy collection has grown – so too has the organization itself. There are now Alamy offices in the US and India and sales teams in Germany and Australia. But the headquarters are still on the small business park near Oxford where it all started in 1999. And although Alamy is a true global brand, in every sense of the word, it still feels like a family run business – with strong values, a clear ethos and culture and a tangible sense of making a difference.
James is the CEO of Alamy and co-founded the company with
Mike Fischer in 1999. His previous venture was an automated web design company which he started in 1997. James is a hands-on CEO and the driving force behind many of the new programmes and services the company introduces. He´s a keen diver and sailor and devotes one day per week to pursuing his interests in climate change and other projects. James is a graduate of Edinburgh University.
Mike is Chairman and co–founder of Alamy. He was also co-founder and CEO of RM plc, the UK company that pioneered the use of technology in the classroom. He is founder of the Fischer Family Trust which runs projects in health and education. Mike is a graduate of University College, Oxford.
Tim is a non–executive director of Alamy. He was CEO of RM plc from 2002 until September 2008, a company he joined as a graduate in 1981. He held a number of senior technical and service management positions at RM and is a past Chairman of the Internet Service Providers Association. Tim has attended the Harvard University Business School Advanced Management Program.