500px Acquired by Prior Investors Visual China Group

One of Canada’s fastest growing tech companies has been acquired.

500px has announced they have been acquired by Visual China Group (VCG) through their subsidiary VCG Hong Kong LTD. VCG has 100 per cent of 500px’s shares. The total amount was not disclosed, though 500px was valued at $42 million in 2013 when they announced their Series A. That valuation is likely to be much higher now.

The Toronto-based 500px is a market leader when it comes to creating and maintaining online visual creative communities. It was founded in 2009 by Oleg Gutsol and Evgeny Tchebotarev, though Gutsol has since left the company. Andy Yang is the current CEO of 500px.

The 500px community is home to more than 13 million photographers from over 195 countries and regions, including professionals, hobbyists and everything in between. Since being founded nine years ago, the community has produced over 120 million images and is known for its image licensing and custom creative photography.

“We are excited that 500px, a world-renowned photography community, will become part of the VCG family,” said Amy Jun Liang, CEO of VCG. “Through the acquisition of 500px, VCG will be able to expand its role in the global content ecosystem. By combining resources in content creation, distribution channels, product and technology across the two parties, VCG will be even better equipped to produce and distribute professionally-generated content to meet customer’s needs.”

VCG is one of the largest image licensing companies in the world and is the market leader in China when it comes to copyright protection. VCG acquired the Bill Gates-founded Corbis in 2016, which is a large advertising and licensing agency. Corbis acquired a Calgary-based company Veer in 2007, but moved that office to Seattle in 2011.

This acquisition is a natural move by VCG considering they led 500px’s latest funding round in 2015, when the photography company raised a $13 million Series B. When that funding announcement took place, VCG also unveiled they had become the exclusive distributor of 500px’s content in Greater China. Later in 2015, the two launched 55px.me, a localized Chinese community for photographers. They jointly released an app four months later, and ever since VCG and 500px have collaborated on marketing and tech deployments.

The acquisition will allow 500px to expand their services by offering more SaaS features to visual creatives not just in China but around the world. 500px will focus on AI, big data and secure timestamping to better build out digital copywriting services. If there is a collective push towards better registration, transaction, traceability, protection and content collection services, the freelance creative community will benefit and be able to produce more over the long run.

500px has seen a lot of success lately, as early last year the company launched the world’s largest global photographer directory, allowing would-be clients to search by specialty and location to find the perfect person. They also were named as lucky number 50 on the Deloitte Fast 50 Technology list in 2017, growing 383 per cent over the past four years. 500px is also an alum of the DMZ, which was recently named the best university business incubator in the world.

It has already been a busy 2018 for Canadian imaging companies. Unsplash raised $7.25 million earlier this month with a unique token-based funding round.