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A decade-long adventure: Adobe acquires Fotolia

December 15, 2014
Thibaud Elziere
Thibaud is the founder of Hexa. An entrepreneur at heart, Thibaud has co-founded over 30 companies through Hexa, many of which have become huge successes. He knows what makes a good idea and how to kickstart it. Previous to Hexa, Thibaud exited his first company Fotolia to Adobe.

A happy ending to a tremendous story that started 10 years ago when I wrote the first lines of code for Foto36

A happy ending to a tremendous story

Ten years ago to the day, I wrote the first line of code for a project called Foto36. The name was given as a tribute to a borough of Berlin called Kreuzberg, where I was living at the time while finishing up my college degree. Between then and now, it feels like the world revolved much more than 10 times, with a great highlight being the acquisition of what used to be a small project by Adobe, for $800M.

Back in 2004, the project was all about disrupting the stock photography industry by getting rid of big agencies as intermediators. I was driven by two incentives: the democratization of the access to royalty-free pictures and the empowerment of amateur photographers. A few months of intense coding later, on June 22nd 2004, I had just enough money to buy the domain name fotolia.com. In September 2004 I launched the platform and struggled every day to get new photographers to upload their pictures by hacking photography web-forums and hanging Fotolia posters on photography schools’ billboards. My fiancée and I were getting 300 pictures a week that we were moderating individually.

A couple months after the website had been up and running, I met with Oleg Tscheltzoff and Patrick Chassany. They quickly believed in me and in the project; they brought ambition, money and experience to the table. It was a perfect timing and the beginning of a crazy adventure in the world of the stock photography. A few years later, Oleg took the lead of the company so that I could focus on other ventures, and his actions have continued to make what Fotolia is today.

Even though I wasn’t as fully operational as I would have liked in the last months, I am tremendously happy for this acquisition: selling one of the leaders in stock photography to the most popular and prominent company in the creative industry makes a lot of sense, and if it means the end of my Fotolia-story, it is without any doubt, a true happy ending.

It makes all the more sense since I am now the happy co-founder of eFounders, a startup studio where we focus on building independent and successful startups. It enables me to extend the pleasure of what I enjoy most: building startups again and again. You’ll soon realize that I’m not even done with the stock image industry — more to talk about at the beginning of 2015 ☺

I look at my new team with the same admiration I look back at everyone who took part in Fotolia’s adventure. Nothing, I really mean nothing, would have happened without the amazing team that has transformed a crazy idea into a — almost! — billion company. Special Thanks to Oleg from whom I learned a tremendous amount of what I use every day today to build every startup at eFounders.

Long live Fotolia!