Haro Ventures Mini Series: An Interview with Brianna Wettlaufer
Stocksy United is a uniquely structured artist-owned cooperative that provides beautiful stock photos, interview pieces, travel stories and recipes. Perhaps mostly highlighted for it’s unique financial structure (which pays out the majority of profits to photographers), the company is led by CEO and co-founder Brianna Wettlaufer who believes in open collaboration, fair representation and artistic expression. We sat down to learn a little bit about Brianna, her role at Stocksy, her childhood role model and what inspires her, among others.
- What’s your role at Stocksy and how did you come into that position?
I’m CEO and co-founder. I bring to my role 15 years of experience in building online communities, promoting transparency and democracy in business, and mentoring photographers in the stock industry. I actually came into this role originally as Stocksy’s COO. The board realized I was the primary driver of the vision, product and experience and voted me into the CEO role in Stocksy’s first year of business. I’ve never looked back.
- What’s the most satisfying part of your role there?
Being part of the amazing Stocksy team. They’re the most amazing, fierce group I’ve had the pleasure of working with. To date we’re 25 intense and different personalities. Which, of course, has the potentially to go horribly wrong when you have that many strong opinions at a table, but somewhere between championing honesty, accountability, support, respect and humour, we make it work.
- What did you want to be when you were a kid? Who were your childhood role models?
My family is really artistic but also has a strong background in science. The convergence of the two by using logical thinking but expressing it creatively has always the most fascinating thing to me. It’s geeky, but I’d say Leonardo da Vinci was one of my childhood role models because I was mesmerized by the science behind his drawings. So generally I’d say I just wanted to work in the sciences when I grew up, with art being a supportive component of whatever I was focusing on.
- With F@#% Up Nights becoming a popular community event, we’re witnessing a positive trend of being open about your failures and mistakes. What mistake have you made that you wouldn’t go back in time to change?
I don’t like to fall to regret, everything is an opportunity to learn and do it better next time. But, if I’d had to pick something, I’d say going head to head with tables of executives when I was 23 was probably one of my poorer decisions. I didn’t start that job with that attitude, but after years of fighting against them, I got to the point where I wasn’t willing to back down, but that lead to my eventually needing to leave the company. But I absolutely don’t regret fighting for what I believe in.
- What or who inspires you the most?
Travelling typically inspires me. Not because I want to go do touristy things, but because I love seeing different experiences and reality. I like to go to the grittier areas and just talk to people and hear their stories. I’m not roughing it, I do stay in hotels because I’m a nerd and I like having access to the internet. [Laughing].
As for people, there’s a girl here in Victoria that runs “The Grit of it”. She’s an amazing portrait photographer that always inspires me with her honesty and desire to champion the stories of unsung heroes.
- What role do you think ‘diversity’ plays in growing a successful tech community?
Tech can mean so many things, so I’m reluctant to speak for that whole community, but diversity plays a really big role for us at Stocksy. Unfair representation can make us feel shitty and cast a horrible message. In the stock world there’s been a very exploitative approach to representing diversity by using people as tokens. With Stocksy we’re always searching new ideas beauty, traditions, environments and how we generally express ourselves in the everyday. Seeing that richness come through is really important for us to reinforce the accessibility and connection of a more beautiful depiction of lifestyle.