Brianna Wettlaufer is the CEO and co-founder of Stocksy, an artist-owned, multi-stakeholder tech cooperative in Victoria, BC. Brianna has worked as an executive in the stock industry for over 10 years. She mentored startups in Canada, Korea, Japan, and the US, before finally settling back in Victoria to launch Stocksy in 2012. But Brianna is not your typical CEO, just as Stocksy is not your typical stock photography agency. It’s a community producing modern and inspired imagery that challenges the tired stereotypes of stock, making waves not only by their exceptional visual standards but by modeling empowerment and democratization in the tech industry at large.
How did you start out a career that led to becoming CEO?
I’d been working in the stock photo industry for going on 15 years. I did my time in other companies when microstock was first becoming a real thing. Digital photography was changing the landscape of what was happening in the stock world, democratizing it and making it accessible. I started at iStock, which was the first of its kind. Before we started it was just the behemoths that had been there for years and years. iStock was the first one to make it accessible to a wider community and bring down the price to an affordable level so people could experiment and try new things. That was definitely disruptive. The seniors in the industry weren’t super happy about what that did to the value of the work, which I understand where they’re coming from. But it made it a much richer community, and things are always changing. You just kind of have to accept that things will move forward. Values change.
So I was employee #4 at iStock. It was a very standard started-out-in-a-garage tech start-up. I came in to write and spearhead the community aspect but as I got more involved I started doing more creative direction and curating and mentoring the community. I got my hands in a little bit of everything, which is the awesome part of working in a start-up. It allowed me to create really deep relationships with that community and watch it grow and develop over four years. But as with any other start-up, after a few years you start to think you don’t know enough or have all the resources to take it to the next level. I’m predominantly a self-taught person, so I’ve learned to solve the problem at hand rather than relying on the foundation of what you might learn in school. I love to try and fix things in a new way, but you always have that doubt, like is this the right way according to people who have done this a lot longer. But regardless we were able to write the first creative and technical standards in the microstock industry, trying to qualify what makes a good photo for this space. Four years in we sold to Getty. We thought at the time that would be the best thing to take it to the next level. I was the naive 23 year old in the room with a bunch of 40 year old men, so I only lasted a year after the sale.