What Happens When One Canadian Startup Acquires Another? A Cool New Product Is Born

500px Prime, a new kind of commercial marketplace for image licensing, celebrates its official launch this week.

When Toronto startup 500px recently acquired Authintic, a local startup that makes opt-in data usable for marketers, 500px Prime was born.

Just a few months ago, Authintic cofounder Andrew Cherwenka was living in New York, working hard to convert leads into paying customers. “Our company was 18-months old. I started Authintic with Chistopher Berry, the data scientist who built the measurement science and lab groups at Syncapse and Critical Mass. We wanted to make data more usable for marketers and advertisers. That was a growing industry, and we both had a ton of experience in advertising and technology. We knew there was a massive demand for making data usable, and not many creative agencies had that expertise.”

Cherwenka called hundreds of agencies, fielded lots of interested marketers and ad execs, but it was Canadian 500px back home in a snowy Toronto that just got it right away. A few months later, 500px acqui-hired Authintic and a new product called 500px Prime was born.

The idea behind 500px Prime is simple. Take user data like demographics, match it with the kind of photos they share and like, and build a search engine on top of that engagement. Make the data structured and usable so that advertisers and marketers can find photographs that resonate.

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How can data science make a difference in product design?

Cherwenka gave Netflix as an example of how data science can take the guess-work out of decision-making. “Netflix changed the game, because they used data to produce House of Cards. They knew their millions of subscribers liked David Fincher, Kevin Spacey, and the British version of ‘House of Cards.’ Creatives can do the same when buying photos. They can stop guessing and let data inform which photos actually resonate with their exact audience. Say I’m looking for a photo of father and a baby that would resonate with women of a certain age. 500px Prime could find these images and offer a batch of photos that will work. The opportunity is to completely disrupt the stock photo industry,” Cherwenka, who now manages 500px Prime told BetaKit.

Cherwenka is a fan of this quote from a NY Times article on Netflix: “While careers and entire networks have been made and lost based on the mysterious alchemy of finding a hit, Netflix seems to be making it look easy, or at least making it a product of logic and algorithms as opposed to tradition and instinct.” He feels that quote could just as easily apply to 500px Prime.

500 Prime product development presented a new challenge for Authintic co-founder Christopher Berry. He takes users’ privacy, and their permission to build productive, symbiotic relationships between brands and user base, very seriously. “I want to develop the kind of user experience that would add value to the users,” said Berry, who now serves as advisor with 500px Prime. “I would want a user experience built with deep understanding of dreams, aspirations and stories of users, internalized by product managers and marketers.”

Over the years, 500px collected billions of data signals, which is a tremendous amount of opt-in data. Berry sees incredible value in the emphatic, informed and long-view kind of approach to marketing and search. “Analytics can evolve into a real value-add,” Berry said.


500px Prime will celebrate the official launch this week, lifting good images with strong engagement metrics and more than 15,000 photographs to start off with. There’s an option to build custom collections and many more photographs will be added to the pool daily. If 500px succeeds in disrupting traditional stock industry, all the power to them. At least with 500px Prime, photographers get 70 per cent of revenue from every sale.

How can a small startup make it big?

“It’s about an inherent impatience with the status quo,” Berry said. “So much of the physical technology is here, but social institutions are interfering with our abilities to do better.” Authintic is a great example of a startup that went all the way to New York to sell its good idea, only to come back to Toronto and nail an acquisition.


Elena Yunusov

Elena Yunusov works at the intersection of digital communications and experience design. She is known in Toronto’s startup community as a HoHoTO & Toronto Maker Faire co-organizer. She likes coffee, robots, and wearable tech.

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