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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Singapore

123RF bets on casual creatives with cloud tech M&A

Known for its affordable stock photos and digital design assets, Inmagine Inc’s 123RF is betting big on the casual creative market with its acquisition of Autodesk’s popular Pixlr family of digital editing apps.

The deal – whose financial terms were not disclosed – covers Pixlr’s proprietary iOS and Android mobile technologies, as well as its large base of active users.

Inmagine and 123RF founder Andy Sitt says Pixlr’s technology will be integrated with the firm’s other content platforms to create a new cloud-based freemium creative ecosystem.

“The rise of social media platforms is encouraging more individuals and small companies to create their own custom campaigns,” says Sitt. “We’re going to integrate this technology into a single creative ecosystem that can help millions of creators easily find, design and publish their media at the lowest cost possible.”

A wave of new artistic tools and social platforms - from Snap’s augmented reality to Instagram’s retro filters - has helped nurture a new generation of smartphone-wielding creative content makers and consumers. With its free-to-use model, Pixlr has been installed on more than 100 million mobile devices, pushing the Inmagine Group to an impressive unique monthly active user (MAUs) count of nearly 50 million people.

The creative tools market remains dominated by Adobe Systems and its popular desktop-based Photoshop and Illustrator applications. But expensive recurring monthly subscription fees mean Adobe’s CC suite remains off limits for many casual creators and cost-sensitive customers.

With the Pixlr acquisition, 123RF will deliver a dramatically lower price point to the photo editing market – fulfilling Sitt’s vision to become a mobile-driven ‘creative content enabler’.

“The use of digital assets has evolved very quickly over the last 10 years, and that change continues on with the disruptive impact of mobile,” remarks Sitt. “We expect to eventually integrate artificial intelligence and data science into our platform to bring high impact, cost-effective design to the underserved mass market.”

The continued expansion of the mobile handset distribution, especially in more cost-sensitive markets like China, will spur further migration away from traditional PC-based media creation. IDC estimates suggest just 60 million PCs were shipped globally in Q1 2017, compared to nearly 350 million smartphones.

The Team
The team behind Inmagine has been in the creative asset sector since 2000. Husband and wife team Andy and Stephanie Sitt founded Inmagine with the goal of replicating the international premium stock photo market in their homeland of Malaysia. The business quickly went international, growing into Asia’s largest crowd-sourced stock library with more than 72 million images and 300,000 contributors.

Andy and Stephanie’s bootstrap mentality has helped grow their business to more than 500 employees and 44 offices worldwide. The team is focused on disrupting high-cost creative tools and assets with a mobile-first ecosystem powered by design, creativity and constant technological innovation.

In addition to 123RF, the team has launched StockUnlimited, Designs.net and EasyDesign and acquired The HungryJPEG, and now, PIXLR. With more than 200 in-house production team members, 123RF will work to expand the PIXLR content library, and bring its exciting toolset to other platforms with a single sign in across the Inmagine portfolio.

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