Interview with John Ellis, PurePhoto

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo


For this morning's interview, we talked with Westlake Village-based PurePhoto (, which is looking to help photographers market and sell their photographs. John Ellis, the CEO and co-founder of the firm, is the former COO and CMO of NextMedium, was a VP at ValueClick, and has also served at Fastclick, Yahoo/Overture, and Earthlink, among other firms. He told us all about what the company's trying to do.

What's the story behind PurePhoto?

John Ellis: PurePhoto is a social commerce network, for buying, sharing, and selling original photographic art. It started as a partnership between myself and my co-founder, Ryan Phillips, who is a professional photographer. We looked at online photo marketing, and what the real needs are out there, and launched our platform last year, aimed at helping photographers publish and perfect their art. After we added a store last year, that really took off, and we shifted our strategy to focus on the store exclusively, which is what we have today.

What does that store offer?

John Ellis: If you're a buyer looking for original artwork beyond what you can get at a big box retailer, such as an interior designer, or if you're looking for affordable original art, you can come into our site and purchase original artwork through the site, directly from photographers. If you're a photographer, it's a marketplace, which essentially allows you to discover new buyers, connect with brokers, galleries, and industry professionals, and so that you can earn income reaching new customers you never might have reached in the past.

Do you offer fulfillment and printing of those photos, or do the photographers handle that?

John Ellis: We handle fulfillment for most of the artwork. For fine art, which is typically printed on its own, very specific material, the artist handles fulfillment. We have relationships with labs around the country under the PurePhoto brand.

What's your background and how did you get into this?

John Ellis: For most of the last decade, I've been in various product and marketing roles at a number of online companies, including Earthlink, Overture--which became Yahoo over time--FastClick, and Valueclick.

Why did you decide to start your own company?

John Ellis: I've got a pretty long track record of building product lines and business units for other companies. I've been working for smaller and smaller companies with my career, to satisfy my entrepreneurial passion. Finally, I decided it was time to remove the safety net, and had an idea of my own to pursue, so I started by own company.

There are lots of online photo sites selling photos and framed prints, how are you going to be different?

John Ellis: There are e-commerce site which exclusively sell artwork, or in some cases photographic prints. There are obviously also site for sharing photos, as well. We're really the first to bring that together. One of the things that people will get out of PurePhoto, is we've combined social networking with the e-commerce element. You can come in, and connect directly with photographers, and learn more about the art. There are lots of sites out there with pretty pictures that you can buy--which we certainly offer, as well--but we also give you the ability to connect with photographers in a social networking environment. You can message back and forth with them, open up a dialog, and really get into the art you're buying. We think we're more unique than anything else out there in the marketplace.

How is the company funded?

John Ellis: We're gone out to friends and family so far, and we've also got a few celebrities involved as well. They have put up seed money which has helped us get off the ground, and we're continuing to grow and pursuing a next round.

What's next for you?

John Ellis: We're scaling the business, including marketing, operations, and of course, capital.



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