AfricanStockPhoto is a photography marketplace that connects buyers of stock imagery to the best photographers on the continent. The startup was officially launched early in 2017 by Dickie Hokie and Sitati Kituyi. AfricanStockPhoto has since raised USD 50,000, and accrued 400 active photographers across the continent.
According to the startup, Stock photography of Africa is still focused on certain stereotypes: primarily nature and wildlife, tribesmen and women, and poverty. This is reflected in imagery seen in media, both on the continent and globally. The lack of access to quality imagery is also evident from the billboards all over African cities which feature models that do not reflect their target audience.
Africa has no shortage of compelling visual stories and excellent photographers to tell them, and AfricanStockPhoto exists to make their content directly available to advertisers, media companies, report publishers and other consumers of stock photography, in Africa and beyond.
AfricanStockPhoto Founder, Sitati Kituyi, spoke to TechMoran about their vision.
Briefly tell us about yourselves, your educational background, team and how they came together to form the African StockPhoto
The co-founders Dicky and Sitati are friends from high-school; Dicky went on to study graphic design at a college in Nairobi, and after graduating worked for just under 10 years at Radio Africa Group as a multimedia designer before moving on to run AfricanStockPhoto full-time. Sitati studied computer engineering at University, and after starting his career in England moved back home where he joined FrontlineSMS, a 12-year-old Kenyan tech startup. Sitati left the position of CTO at FrontlineSMS when he transitioned to working on AfricanStockPhoto full-time. From Dicky’s experience as a multimedia designer, he learnt first-hand about the difficulty in getting authentic & high-quality African imagery online, which motivated the creation of AfricanStockPhoto.
How would you describe your company; how does it work and make money?
We’re a stock photography marketplace for African imagery. We have a network of over a hundred active photographers around Africa, who’ve contributed thousands of images that are available for purchase on AfricanStockPhoto.com. When images are purchased, we take a commission on the sale, and pay the remainder to the owner of the image.
What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
Too often visuals in media about Africa are limited to stereotypical themes like poverty and wildlife, and this can skew people’s perception of what day-to-day reality in Africa really is. The same effect happens here at home, where very often western visuals are used in advertising, and lead to campaigns that do not reflect their target market. If you have a look at Instagram you’ll see that there is no shortage of talented photographers in Africa, but it can be difficult to contribute to major stock photography platforms and to get your content to float to the top in a crowded marketplace. This is a discovery and market-fit problem, rather than a lack of quality content. AfricanStockPhoto aims to solve this by building a highly user-friendly platform with very high quality imagery, and allow photographers to tell an authentic African visual story.
How has uptake been like since you launched?
Since we launched in 2017, we’ve got a few hundred photographers who’ve signed up so far, and 100 of them are what we consider ‘active’, with multiple ongoing contribution. Our sales have also started to grow in 2018, aided a lot by some media coverage we had recently when we were featured on ProductHunt.com. It’s all encouraging signs, but we’re ambitious and want to grow our photographer community much further and faster, and ultimately build an unparalleled catalogue of quality African imagery.
Who is your major competition? What do you do different to distinguish yourself from them?
The major competition is the world’s leading stock photography marketplaces; Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe, Getty etc. These companies have incredibly large content databases, but there is not much African content available on them. Addressing this niche is the main distinguishing factor of AfricanStockPhoto; we make it easier to find imagery of Africans in day-to-day contexts than is possible on the major platforms. Knowing our continent as we do, we’ve also designed in several affordances for the market we’re in, such as supporting payouts to photographers using mobile money and supporting large variation in stability of internet connection when uploading imagery.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
Getting funding was a challenge; we’ve been fortunate enough to get backing from an angel investor which has allowed us to progress the platform much faster. However, in the early stages of chasing investment, we got a lot of positive re-enforcement about the idea and business case but not many offers for actual money. Being first-time fundraisers we learnt a lot of lessons and built a good venture capitalist network in a very short time, which will hopefully help us in any future rounds of investment at AfricanStockPhoto.
What advice would you wish to share with aspiring African entrepreneurs?
One of our mentors Mark Karake of Impact Africa Fund gave us a simple mantra: “don’t be slow”. We’ve applied this in validating or disproving ideas and theories about how to progress our company; other founders call this approach of quick experimentation “failing fast”. At this early stage, startups can be so agile and huge business decisions can arise from a single conversation with a potential customer, partner or investor. So my leading advice would be: meet people whose ideas and opinions would be influential to your business and listen to them, and when you decide to act on their input, don’t be slow.
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