Mentors Monday with: Andreas Gebhard

#photography #image #media #tech #innovation

A Berliner living in New York, Andreas Gebhard clearly enjoys the adrenaline of pulsating environments: cities that never sleep, startups and founders with all sorts of good (and sometimes crazy) ideas, the occasional heavy metal festival (we caught up with him when he was passing through Hamburg on his way to Wacken), and a day job that’s essentially a startup within an established company: he’s leading innovation as the Head of Product and Editorial Operations at Getty Images FOTO, which launched just earlier this year. Check it out at

Once a professional photojournalist, Andreas has always been interested in technology and that allowed him early on to assume the role of a “translator”, bridging the gap between editorial needs and technology.

“You’ve got to be inquisitive as a journalist. Genuinely curious. And that has always helped me. Now it allows me to connect the dots, and I try to put it to good use both in my work, and when volunteering my free time to mentor startups or potential founders.”

Hi Andreas, welcome to our mentors network! What are the current trends in the image and photography world?

Hi, and thank you for having me! In the imagery space, innovation is happening basically in three broad areas. One is the gathering of images: how do you take pictures or videos. For some, it is a matter of switching the heavy camera for a gopro, a drone, or a phone, using technology to be able to take pictures that would have been previously impossible. For others, innovation can be a step back to film and analog equipment to produce results that are uncommon in today’s world.

The second area of innovation has to do with how you sell and license those images. That is business innovation, which isn’t really image specific. This can be applied to any kind of licensable asset, be it a video, a photo, a painting, text… One big topic these days are subscriptions, solutions that allow customers to control their costs but at the same time have broad access to what they need.

The third area is around rights management. This includes things like copyright, licensing, provenance and chain of custody. The big new thing is, of course, blockchain technology. It’s matured enough to be a viable replacement for legacy technologies, workflows or processes in certain environments and for certain applications. And more importantly, it has matured enough to enable new things that were previously impossible or at least impractical. I’m actually really excited about the possibilites and opportunities in that space and I’d love to see more!

As a mentor for startups both in the US and in Europe, do you see major differences between the two ecosystems?

Personally, I think that the two societies approach some things in fundamentally different ways, and that is reflected in some of the startups I see.

They differ, for example, in their approach to privacy. In Europe, a startup that is focusing on privacy-related topics can find market and investors for it. And that same product will have a much harder time in the US.

On the other hand, in the US I feel there is somehow a more open approach to collaboration. American startups start pitching and workshopping ideas long before there’s anything really tangible. And those ideas will evolve through conversations.

This may be just my limited experience, so please take this with a grain of salt, but many of the European startups I have seen tend to “come out” with an already refined, settled product or service. While this means that it becomes harder for someone else to copy the idea and beat them to market, it also makes it harder for founders to keep an open mind, and to grow and evolve their idea to a more perfect market fit. Now, the flip side of this is, of course, that it’s much easier for an investor to evaluate a more refined product.

For early stage founders, would you say it is better to expose ideas or to wait and mature them a bit more?

I would encourage founders to expose their ideas to sunlight. And that shouldn’t just be their friends and family, or the people within their own industry. Sure, you need industry feedback to validate your idea, but you also should seek input from others, especially those who are more abstractly business focused. Most founders are primarily product people: they have this thing they want to build. But is it a business?

“I would encourage founders to expose their ideas to sunlight. And that shouldn’t just be their friends and family, or the people within their own industry.”

If founders are building a video-related product, for example, they shouldn’t just approach TV stations and streaming services, but also talk with publishers, marketers, advertising agencies, just to get a sense on how they react. They might be super excited about your product and help you see an angle to it that you haven’t previously thought of.

Thank you, Andreas, for the valuable tips!

👉 Want to connect with Andreas? Find him on Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin.

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