Tag Archives: startups

Let’s talk about process…

Process. What fun, right? However, process can improve our lives with the right tools.


Looking for images takes too much time. In 2016 when we decided to create iSPY, creatives told us it took an average of 4.25 hours to find a single image. We thought that was incredible, and not in a good way. Imagine creatives and researchers that hunt for thousands of images a year.  Yikes!

In 2019, we asked creatives to once again tell us how much time it takes to find an image. Much to our surprise, the time had doubled to 8 hours. Editorial users push this number higher but even creatives in advertising agencies said it takes them an average of over 5 hours to find, review, select and license a single image. Again, we were stunned.


Part of the problem is that there is so much content and so many providers. The process to find an image, particularly if you are searching multiple providers, is anything but simple. A researcher must go from site to site to search for images. After searching, they must select the images they like, figure out how to share those with peers and track where the images are from. Do they create multiple lightboxes or download everything? Do they zip the files and email them or use Dropbox? Then they go to the next site, rinse and repeat. Even for those web designers that say they go one place to search, select, download and are done (and don’t need to collaborate) — what if they could go to 3 sites simultaneously and compare the results side by side.  Now that would simplify things.

iSPY is about making it simple and easy to do your work—  one place to search across multiple providers. Choose your favorites or see what great content you find in a random search. You can even search up to 4 agencies and compare results side by side. Use Projects to store information and link as many lightboxes as you need to the project. You can even communicate directly with providers from within the lightboxes.


On iSPY, we can save you time, money and a few headaches too. The key with iSPY is to consider us your workspace.  If you are starting a new and perhaps big project, hop onto iSPY and create a “project” folder.  Within a project you can upload documents (like a project brief or images for inspiration); you can create multiple lightboxes and choose who collaborates with you on each; you can create lightboxes by project,  provider, or media type; you can even upload licenses for each image, keep them attached to the project and monitor licensing and renewals. Once you’re ready to find content, you simply search on iSPY but when you are ready to purchase, you click over to your favorite provider to make the purchase.

So what’s your biggest headache — Searching too many sites? We’ve got that covered. Managing licenses? We’ve got that covered. What about storing images and licenses for easy access? We’ve got that covered too.

For any questions, click the icon in the lower right corner. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

Copyright Hunters

(Note: This post should not be considered legal advice. We offer this for information and education purposes only. If you have any questions about specific usage, please contact the supplier or a copyright lawyer.)

The Rise of the Copyright Hunters

Copyright hunters – This is our term for the many companies popping up in recent years focused on going after people who are using created works without authorization. Many of these companies refer to what they do as copyright protection. I will explain this in more detail below but in general, these companies work on behalf of creators to identify unauthorized use or infringement. Creative pros need to be aware that if they find and grab images online, they are at risk. Even searching on a suppliers site (or on iSPY) you need to be certain you acquire the rights needed to use the image in the way you want. More below.

What is Copyright?

Copyright speaks to the protection offered by governments around the world to “authors of original works.” We will focus on images for this post but any tangible and original work is likely protected – music, images, art, drawings, books. When the work is created, the author immediately owns or is granted the copyright. This gives that artist the right to determine if and how others can use their work. In general, Copyright begins when the work is created and ends throughout the life of the author plus 70 years. There are other conditions where this may be different.

Copyright Protection

This is a term that is often used now to refer to the steps taken by creators to protect their copyright ownership. This can include things like watermarking images, or using a copyright symbol. There are also Creative Commons licenses which now allow the creator or their representative to offer use without compensation, possible with conditions like attribution.

Copyright Hunting

One kind of protection is when a creator or their representative provides copyrighted works to a company who can then use it to search the web for unauthorized use. This is what we call copyright hunting. These companies have technology that crawls the web and identifies every use, even when only with a fraction of the image showing. A report will likely be provided to the creator or their representative so they can determine if the use is authorized or not.

Copyright hunting is sometimes controversial. As you can imagine, with billions of images online, it can be expensive and time-consuming to verify each and every image use many times over. In recent years, some copyright hunters have gone after use not knowing if it was authorized or not, asking for the user to verify or prove that they have a proper license. This has become particularly important today since many images are distributed through many different channels. If they do not have a license, this is treated as an unauthorized use.

So what happens if I can’t prove I have a license?

It depends. Some copyright hunters will give you a chance to purchase the license, at a rate similar to what you would have paid if you had licensed the image originally. Some copyright hunters may charge a premium since the image was used without authorization. While we cannot advise if someone should pay, we can share that in our experience, it is usually cheaper to pay the license fee than fight if you don’t have a license.

So how does iSPY help?

First, we connect you with only the most reputable image suppliers. These companies are clear on what they offer. They understand what images can be used for specific purposes. You can search for images that meet certain criteria – like model releases when needed for commercial use. We include suppliers that offer high-end content, royalty free content, and even Creative Commons suppliers (no fee licensing).

Second, we have created a section for our pro and enterprise users for documents and licenses. You can literally upload a license, connect it to a project, include the image number and supplier information, and file it away for when you get that “nasty gram” asking you to prove you have a license. We think that is pretty awesome!

Feel free to reach out using the small icon on the bottom right of your screen, if you have any questions or suggestions. We are happy to help!

Happy searching!

Leslie Hughes is the CEO and Founder of iSPY Technologies, Inc. and iSPY Visuals, an intelligent search tool and workspace for visual content users. Hughes has over 20 years experience in digital media licensing, content production, and distribution, including having been President of Bill Gates’ Corbis Images, and President of the Markets and Products Group for Corbis Corp. She became an entrepreneur 10 years ago. Hughes has consulted or been part of 6 start-ups and 12 acquisitions.  She has an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, is the proud mother of two and lives and works in New York.

Connect with Leslie: Twitter | LinkedIn | Angel List

Coming out

As I write this, Leslie, Karen and I have just jumped off our regular Tuesday planning call. It’s almost 10pm my time, but over in NYC the ladies are giving over their afternoons to focus on our next steps – a big, hefty and somewhat daunting list is drawn up, broken down, rebuilt and scrutinised. Unlike most of our Tuesday sessions where we just focus on the progress of development and check-in with our weekly growth (hi new users, we see you!), our conversations this fortnight are all about looking further out onto the horizon.

We’re coming out! (of BETA)

After just over a year of development, our little app is heading into it’s next phase that will mark the end of our BETA. We’ll still, of course, be testing the app and getting feedback from our users, but from a system perspective the full foundations are now almost complete for the big move to becoming a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. What you won’t yet be able to see, but will be released over the coming weeks, are all of the new functionality changes we’ve been making to the site to help make it more efficient, to make sure searches are quicker and that finding the right images is even easier than before. In line with all these new changes, we’ll be launching three new account plans: Discover, Creative Pro and Enterprise.

There’s a lot more to say about the plans and the upcoming features, but I’m not going to spoil the surprise now. What I will say though is that we’re finally ready to launch the version designed for teams, for collaboration and for making smarter choices about how you manage your licensed creative content. To me, that piece is hugely exciting because we’re no longer just a tool to find great creative content, but we’re supporting teams and their ability to work with integrity and security – finding licensable content, retaining those licenses and managing your team, client interaction and workflow.

Anyway, that’s enough for right now. I’m going to do another post in a few weeks on where we’re heading and hopefully we’ll be looking at detailing the new features around that time too.

In the meantime, happy searching!

Natalie Burns VP Strategy iSPY Visuals LLC

Natalie Burns is the VP Strategy at iSPY Visuals, Inc., a search one and done aggregation tool for visual content. In the daytime, you’ll find Natalie working as a Strategist at the branding agency, Pixeldot, hosting and moderating events that celebrate women in technology and advocating women’s rights and voter engagement through projects like What Women Want 2.0. Prior to Pixeldot, Natalie was co-Director of an international technology company and began her career at the intersection between technology and photography.

Connect with Natalie: Twitter | LinkedIn | Angel List

Female Founders Perform

Isn’t it interesting that an industry that requires its founders to be data-driven, isn’t itself.

Venture Capital firms are ignoring evidence that a company is often more successful when it has at least one female founder or a female CEO. The evidence is significant.

This is post #2 regarding raising capital as a Female Founder (you can read my first instalment here). We are targeting raising a million dollars, which will allow us to build out the company infrastructure, focus on customer acquisition, and get to our next key building stage. I noted in the previous post that female founders received about 2% of VC funding, despite owning 38% of businesses (HBR). Fortune says this also held true in 2017 with female founded companies receiving 2.2%. Unbelievably, just 8% of companies funded by VCs have female partners (HBR), while 17% of startups have a female founder (Techcrunch). Yet, in our small startup we have three female founders. Forbes, however, says there was a “silver lining” in 2017: With the exception of 2014, companies run by women received their largest share of VC dollars — 2.2% of the dollars and just under 5% of the deals done. Deep sigh. Not much of a silver lining.

The numbers are disappointing but not surprising. The data-driven VC world seems to ignore statistics that show that investing in female founded companies leads to positive results. This week, I had a conversation with a man who is well-connected in the NY VC world who offered this insight, “Men won’t invest in what they don’t understand.” Oftentimes, companies with female founders are solving women’s problems. Think bra’s, styling, and companies like Thinx, the bold and unabashed period underwear, or Peanut for mama’s looking to meet their peers, or Thirdlove which sells underwear. Apparently, men turn off quickly if the solution being offered is female gender specific. This explanation makes sense to me, however, there is a deeper issue since the largest segment of female founded companies that received funding are in tech and are gender neutral. On the one hand, this validates the point that men are more likely to invest in something that is gender neutral or that they can understand. But on the other hand, this implies that there are many companies still not being funded if they are led by at least one female founder even in gender neutral businesses.


  • Companies with at least one female founder “out-performed their male counterparts by 63%” creating shareholder value (First Round)
  • As the chart below shows, “at four out of five high-growth revenue measures, female-founded companies showed stronger overall performance. (Tinypulse)
  • The fastest growing companies at 200%+ growth, are 75% more likely to have a female founder.” (Tinypulse)
  • “For profitable firms, a move from no female leaders to 30% representation is associated with a 15% increase in the net revenue margin.”(MCSI)

There is no explanation for why startups with female founders perform better but they often do. “Firms with a woman running the show perform far better than the market.”(Fortune). Perhaps this is due to diversity of thought. Perhaps this is due to the fact that women tend to be more realistic with their projections. Perhaps this is due to the fact that women balance data with intuitiveness or “gut.” Whatever the reasons, I hope that 2018 is the year that the tides begin to shift in favor of female founders.

iSPY is an image tech company, so aside from our founding team and a penchant for punchy, feminine hues of pink and purple, we’re pretty gender neutral in the service our product delivers. We are also part of a slowly growing wave of businesses that are set on disrupting a large industry. Positioned to take advantage of an emerging segment, we sit right between buyers and sellers to create a network effect. After my calls this week, I am convinced that investors like our business model. I am also convinced that most investors will be looking for reasons not to invest. Our team is evaluating everything from location, to tech platform, to business inflection points. Hopefully, these steps will help us become one of the small percent of funded companies run by women. Fingers crossed!

Leslie Hughes is the CEO and Founder of iSPY Technologies, Inc. and iSPY Visuals, an intelligent search tool and workspace for visual content users. Hughes has over 20 years experience in digital media licensing, content production, and distribution, including having been President of Bill Gates’ Corbis Images, and President of the Markets and Products Group for Corbis Corp. She became an entrepreneur 10 years ago. Hughes has consulted or been part of 6 start-ups and 12 acquisitions.  She has an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, is the proud mother of two and lives and works in New York.

Connect with Leslie: Twitter | LinkedIn | Angel List