500px acquired by Visual China Group, CEO Andy Yang steps down

500px

Toronto-based online photography marketplace 500px has been acquired by Visual China Group, a public image licensing company based in Beijing.

While the acqusition amount was undisclosed in a media release sent to BetaKit, Chinese financial data provider JRJ put the number at $17 million USD.

“This acquisition is in line with VCG’s strategy to build a world-class photography ecosystem.”

Visual China Group led the company’s $13 million Series B in 2015, allowing the company to expand in the Greater China Area and the Asia Pacific Region. At the time, the company’s Series A investors from its 2013 $8.8 million Series A — including Andreessen Horowitz, Harrison Metal, and ff Venture Capital — participated in the Series B, putting the company’s total funding at $23 million.

Following its Series B, the company expanded into China with 500px.me, a specific portal for the market serving its reported half a billion Chinese users.

“China presents a huge market opportunity for 500px for both growing our user base and licensing business,” CEO Andy Yang said at the time. “VCG already has a tremendous footprint in China, with over 15,000 licensing customers and leads the market in image distribution. Together we are committed to investing in 500px.me to make it a world-class community for local photographers.”

After hiring a former Getty Images COO to lead the expansion of its licensing business in November 2015, the company expanded into Europe through the launch of a portal in Germany by the next year. The company went on to launch 500px for Business to allow brands to access on-demand photography.

Both VCG and 500px will provide SaaS services related to big data, AI, and blockchain technologies to photographers around the world. VCG will leverage its client base and distribution channels to help accelerate the growth of 500px’s visual-content licensing and custom photography services. The company says it has 13 million professional and hobbyist photographers from over 195 countries using the platform.

“As one of the largest visual-content-licensing companies in the world, VCG has always been excited by the passion of the 500px community,” said Amy Jun Liang, CEO of VCG. “This acquisition is in line with VCG’s strategy to build a world-class photography ecosystem that delivers high-quality images. By integrating our learnings and resources across both 500px.com and 500px.me, we will further enrich our content creation, technology expertise, product offering, and continue to deliver the best service and experience to our millions of visual creatives.”

UPDATE (02/26/18) 11:03 AM EST:

The company would not confirm the $17 million USD transaction number, with a spokesperson saying that this is an “unconfirmed number and we are not disclosing the details of the transaction.”

CEO Andy Yang will be stepping down from his role and will continue to assist in the transition and remain in an advisory role. “We saw an opportunity to partner with a company we’ve worked with for many years, which has abundant resources and connections,” he said in a statement. “We share a very similar vision with VCG: we both strive to build a global community of visual creatives. VCG’s launch of 500px.me in China has been very successful, and this partnership will allow us to grow and strengthen our vision for the 500px community, and ultimately, give our users a better experience.”

The company will continue to operate from its Toronto office, and said that it has made changes to the composition of its team in anticipation of new strategic goals post-acquisition. Dustin Plett, 500px’s VP of business development and sales since 2015, will now lead the company’s community side. Kelly Thompson will continue running the Marketplace and Stock sides of the business.

500px will work closely with VCG on all key decisions and strengthen synergy between the company’s Chinese and Canadian offices.

The company is rolling out new products like statistics to improve and understand the reach and impact of photos; private messaging features; sub-communities that allow photographers to connect around shared interests, styles, and locations; and charts and badges that expand exposure.