VSCO, which rhymes with disco, and stands for Visual Supply Company, is an art and technology company based in Oakland, CA. This Viewfinder feature explores their mission of empowering and nurturing the creative community.
Published on March 28, 2015 by Mo Mfinanga
Headshots provided by VSCO
Co-Founder & CEO
A natural leader, Flory provides a vision and business savviness to VSCO. Joel understands the complex nature of building and sustaining a brand in the creative industry. A foodie and serious Oakland A’s baseball enthusiast, Flory is passionate about the combination of art and technology. Joel received his degree in Industrial Technology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Before Co-Founding VSCO, Flory was a successful commercial and wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Co-Founder & CCO
An idealist, Lutze is passionate about the intersection of art and technology. Driven by the desire to honor art and artists, Lutze brings creative soul and vision to VSCO. A Chelsea FC supporter and avid bookworm, Lutze received his degree in Business Marketing from George Fox University. Before Co-Founding VSCO, Lutze worked as Creative Director for design agencies in Seattle and New York.
From its inception, in 2011, VSCO has injected an unwavering dedication towards valuing, empowering and celebrating the creative life. Founders Greg Lutze and Joel Flory, binded by like-minded philosophies, recognise the importance of quality and beauty; two attributes that tune the foundation of VSCO’s instruments. This allows VSCO to “play a part in redefining how people see the world,” says VSCO co-founder and CEO Joel Flory. Encouraging and equipping the creative community to create something beautiful is a required ingredient in VSCO’s recipe.
For VSCO, Flory says that “nothing has come easily.” He explains, “We had no funding when we started, just a massive vision and the grit to keep moving forward despite many obstacles. Magazines make running your own company sound glamorous, but in reality, it’s anything but that. Every day brings a new problem: It’s overcoming those problems together as a team that give you strength and the ability to face tomorrow’s challenges. All of this would fall apart if our team didn’t fight to stay united and we didn’t have a grand vision for VSCO.”
As a team, and more importantly, a community, VSCO has been able to raise a $40 million Series A round from Accel Partners. This allows them “to enhance community experience” with its $1 million Artist Initiative scholarship, in addition to building out new offices in Oakland, CA, Colorado Springs, CO, and New York City.
Building out new offices supports how their environments impact their work. Flory says that “in order to create beautiful things, you must place a value on beautiful surroundings. We have offices in Oakland, Colorado Springs, and New York City. They all have slightly different feels, but the end goal is the same: Create an atmosphere that fosters beauty, creativity, and community.”
What began as a tool for professional photographers has now grown into an instrument used in the everyday lives of modern creatives. This instrument, known as VSCO Cam®, has become a standard for mobile photography, enabling users to craft and share beautiful imagery. By sharing this imagery, users are allowed to showcase and discover work via VSCO Grid℠, a minimalist photo publishing platform that highlights VSCO’s celebration of creativity.
VSCO dismisses the notion of viewing artists as a commodity. VSCO Co-Founder and CCO Greg Lutze mentions that “we view VSCO as part of the creative community—not above it. We create things for ‘all of us’; for the love of art and artists, and being part of something larger than any one person or company.” Lutze continues to explain that “we create daily Journal features on artists from around the world, we connect creatives with other brands to create original content, and we put on gallery events for artists, all because we believe this is the right thing to do.
VSCO has compelled the likes of companies such as FADER Magazine to inject their stories and images into VSCO’s Journal, an extension of VSCO Cam, which allows users to parallel long-formed content with visual imagery. Geordie Wood, FADER’s photo director and past Emmazed interviewee, mentions that “VSCO is a natural place for us to show our work and to share the work with a greater community…I think there’s innumerable possibilities for how we can recontextualize the work that we’ve been doing.” These partnerships allow VSCO to unify the creative community by aligning its core values with like-minded companies.
By partnering with companies such as Burberry, Levi's, and GAP, the notion of creative satisfaction may linger. However, Lutze emphasizes that “we are never satisfied. The moment you feel you’ve made it is the same moment you’ve lost.”
From empowering tens of millions with VSCO Cam, to partnering with Levi's, the decision to ignite such possibilities begs to be questioned. Lutze answers, “From the beginning, we have done things just a bit differently with a creative-first mindset. All decisions are made through the lens of ‘how will this be good for the creative community?’ We set out to build something we loved, and things grew and progressed out of that." He went on to say, “Ultimately, the path towards creating VSCO started and ends with passion—we are part of this art movement because it is a part of who we are, and it is what we love.”
It’s been an incredible pleasure and honor to witness the profound growth of VSCO over the past two years. Coming from a simple joint venture amongst friends, to a budding empire contributing towards the creative community, VSCO tenaciously inspires millions to value and celebrate the creative life.
Christina Rouse, VSCO's Senior Journal Editor, on how she reflects her personal values through VSCO:
VSCO is a company whose mission is a natural extension of our personal passion for creativity, namely through photography. Because of this, we feel a deep sense of ownership and connectedness to our work, and the personal values we hold as individuals are then expressed through VSCO as a whole.
I think a driven nature can be a valuable asset. Our team strives for excellence, setting the bar high for ourselves when it comes to the tools we make, the images we curate from VSCO Grid, and the content we share on the VSCO Journal. We aim for perfection and try to right our wrongs when we fall short.
In addition to valuing hard work, I believe in kindness and humility. We have an extremely talented team of people who work at VSCO, but what’s even more special is the dynamic of friendship and camaraderie we share. As we interact amongst ourselves and with our community, we aim to be encouraging and positive. We never want to lose the mindset that there’s always something new to learn and room for improvement.
I believe that a grateful heart makes for a richer life. At VSCO, we’re so thankful for the community that has supported us, and I hope that our appreciation comes across in our efforts to promote creatives on the Journal and better enable them to succeed through our Artist Initiative program.