The social media app VSCO, which became something of a cultural flashpoint several years ago on the back of the VSCO girl trend, announced the appointment of a new CEO on Monday. Current VSCO president Eric Wittman will step into the top job, while former CEO and cofounder Joel Flory will become executive chairman.
Wittman is an “experienced operator deeply passionate about our space and, more importantly, he has a vision for the future,” Flory told Fortune in an exclusive interview.
VSCO started as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop before morphing into a fully fledged social media app. The company has been on a journey to reinvent itself since the VSCO girl trend circa 2019, when affluent teenage girls with a style heavily influenced by the app’s content thrust it to the apex of youth culture. More recently, it distinguished itself for its stated aversion to advertising and algorithmic feeds, which the company believes incentivize the worst in social media by prioritizing engagement above all else. Since the heyday of its teen popularity VSCO has sought to become the platform of choice for visual artists, and increasingly creatives of all types, by combining social media’s networking ability with bona fide design tools for the genuinely artsy.
“We knew that for the future of VSCO, there needed to be a respect for the past and what we built,” Flory tells Fortune. “But to really succeed, someone needed a fresh, unique vision of the future and Eric’s stood out above them all.”
VSCO currently operates on a freemium model. Users who decide to upgrade from the free version get access to a set of more sophisticated editing and design tools. As a private company, VSCO doesn’t release revenue figures but a spokesperson told Fortune it had positive EBITDA, a proxy for cash flow. The company added that it has raised approximately $100 million in venture capital funding from the likes of Accel and Glynn Capital, with Pitchbook estimating its valuation at $550 million as of 2015, according to Pitchbook. (VSCO declined to provide a current valuation.)
Wittman became president of VSCO in June 2021 with the prospect of eventually succeeding Flory, who had been CEO since he founded the company in 2011 alongside cofounder Greg Lutze. “It was part of the early conversations we had,” Wittman says.
An experienced tech hand with a speciality working at companies that make creative tools, Wittman spent 15 years at Adobe before becoming general manager of developer tools at Atlassian. He then went on to be the chief operating officer of Figma, the design software company Adobe acquired in September 2022 for $20 billion. (Wittman left Figma in 2018, before the Adobe acquisition).
“When you take a look at Eric’s career there’s been these great companies that have expanded upon their offering and their core base and use case, to deliver immense amounts of value to become just absolutely essential companies and tools for creatives,” Flory says. “It’s exactly what we see here.”
Flory had originally intended to start his transition plan in 2019 but the pandemic delayed his plans. He resumed the process again in November 2020, eventually hiring Wittman in June 2021. Once Wittman was hired as president the two of them worked with an executive coach to build an effective working relationship until they were ready for Flory to fully hand over the reins.
“We put that work in over the last two years,” Flory says.
Flory, who will remain as executive chair, will play a role in the company focusing on “longer term strategy, fundraising, M&A, corporate strategy, and really long term product vision,” he says.
While priorities for Wittman will be fine-tuning the offerings in the subscription model. In particular, its recently launched VSCO Pro tier, which includes more features than its previous Plus subscription and costs $59.99 compared to $29.99. Wittman says VSCO Pro now accounts for almost 20% of the company’s business. His other priority will be building out a suite of tools to tap into the booming creator economy and help creators promote themselves to ultimately allow them to be able to make a living from their work.
“That’s still a very underserved part of the market where many creators are feeling disillusioned today by a lot of the more traditional platforms,” Wittman says.
Early stages of those promotional tools could include connecting creators with people interested in purchasing their work and a potential setup that would allow brands and companies to license content directly from creators. Flory and Wittman consider VSCO’s past as an editing software that eventually evolved into a social media platform as the foundation upon which to build its next iteration as a “channel for creators to make some money.”
“Why Eric, why now, why all of this?” Flory says. “Is that we realized not too many companies get a chance where a decade in, their market opportunity grows.”