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.
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.
The first digital photograph
went online in 1992
The Fischer Family Trust
20,000 new images are added
to Alamy each day
Alamy Headquarters Oxford, UK
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 also an investor in Lab Merchant, the online lab equipment marketplace that offers a "green" alternative to disposing of surplus lab equipment. 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.
Mike, Tim and James are founding board members of new startup Manything, a unique video monitoring service. Manything uses the video cameras on smartphones and tablets to provide an easy–to–use alternative to boring, complex and expensive IP camera, webcam, and network security camera systems.
Tim is CEO, James and Mike are fellow co-founders and board members. They are joined on the board by Dan Germain, the creative brains behind Innocent Drinks.
For photographers and videographers, Manything opens up exciting possibilities for gathering and transmitting live news video, setting camera traps for wildlife, or keeping an eye on valuable equipment back home when away on assignment
While spending some time thinking about how the explosion of smartphones might impact the industry for video and still images, James and Mike had the idea that there was a huge split in the use of video: Industry uses CCTV extensively and monitors, or reviews the output, while consumers use point and shoot and then (sometimes) look at or edit the output. They had the brainwave that there might be an opportunity that brought aspects of cloud–based monitoring–type video into the consumer and citizen journalist space.
They set up a new company called Manything (www.manything.com) where a small team work to develop the idea with occasionally off–the–wall (that’s a polite way of saying stupid) suggestions.
Manything is a video monitoring and capturing service that uses the video cameras on smartphones and tablets to provide an easy–to–use alternative to boring, complex and expensive IP cameras, webcams, and network security camera systems. Smartphones have a lot of things that CCTV cameras don’t, including great connectivity choices and a big memory, allowing instant setup and on phone motion detection, cloud–based recording and editing.
Manything hopes that this will enable a whole new world of applications such as instant video streaming, recording of sporting activities, helmet cam for your bike, pet cam, nanny cam, granny cam, any cam. And, yes, video security to watch your things when you're not there.