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28 Dec

Crew and Unsplash

I love seeing people’s reactions to something I helped make. That gives me energy and keeps me motivated to build more and take risks.


Creator Profile:

Unsplash + Crew

Creators: Luke (@lukechesser), Mikael (@mikaelcho), Stephanie (@stephliverani), Angus (@angusw), Marlee (@marlee_sk), Kirill (@kirillz), Jory (@JoryMacKay, Thomas (@ThomLbvr), Manuel & Ella

Company: Unsplash (@unsplash) & Crew  (@crewlabs)

Location: Montreal

Website: Unsplash.com & PickCrew.com

Words of Wisdom – We have more power than ever before to be our own bosses. Develop our own passions. And work is no longer a place. It can happen from any space, any place, anytime, anywhere.”

Some months back, I set out to discover the world’s talent – Entrepreneurs, Creators, and Designers of the new economy.

In fact, the whole premise for creating Hustle & Deal Flow™ was because I believe we’re witnessing the uprising of the Creative Entrepreneurial class, and I wanted to learn about the journeys of others around the world. As I’ve previously mentioned, I want to tell their stories before the acquisitions, before the buyouts and before the IPO’s.

As I continued to find global talent, I was introduced to the concept of Unsplash (www.Unsplash.com) by my good friend Dhruv Patel @convrrt (www.convrrt.com). The moment I visited Unsplash, I immediately knew what they were doing and I couldn’t reach for my computer fast enough to contact the team in Montreal, Canada.

At the time, I admittedly did not know how popular they were within many, many, many circles. I just knew I liked their simplicity in distributing 10 FREE high resolution photos every 10 days, which were curated by photographers from all over the world. I respectfully asked if I could interview them, and what ensued from there, was nothing shy of pure greatness.

A humble team, a gifted set of individuals who believe in something greater than themselves, and the embodiment of how business should be done.

After further reading their backstory, I read an interesting quote from co-founder Mikael Cho:

“We made Unsplash to give something valuable to people. We thought, even if a few hundred people find it useful, that’d be a win. But we didn’t expect it could have this level of impact.”

Looking back, they discovered that what they did was simple – Create value for the community you serve and the rest will fall into place.

I had the pleasure of being referred to one of the other co-founders, Luke Chesser (@lukechesser), and he graciously offered me his time as if we had known each other for years. My interaction with him, his answers to my interview, and his high level of respect for the rest of the awesome group at Crew (www.PickCrew.com), proves my strong stance that newer generations are not the proverbial “entitlement” generation, but gifted, purpose-driven, self-directed, and collaborating tinkerers of the “new economy”.

Luke demonstrated poise, humbleness and such great insight for being only 24. Through interviewing him, we talked about education, the pursuit of passions and happiness, explosive startup growth and the power of collaboration. For more information on Unsplash’s background story, you can check them out at http://365.unsplash.com/.

By the time this article will be posted, Unsplash will have coordinated photos from the likes of the following curators:

I see this list of amazingly talented individuals, and their respective companies, and I’m humbled by the fact that I get to be a part of the following interview of Unsplash.

Crew and Unsplash

Photo Courtesy of Luke Chesser Unsplash

HDF: Thanks again for allowing me to interview you and learn more about Unsplash / Crew!

Luke: Thanks for thinking of us!


HDF: Luke, Unsplash is awesome! I know there’s several of you involved. Can you tell me a little bit more about you, your background and what you were doing before Unsplash, and then I’d love to hear more about the team?

Luke: I was born in Glasgow, Scotland and moved to Vancouver, Canada when I was 6 (lost the accent unfortunately). When I was 17 I moved to Montreal for McGill University, and stayed after graduating.

I originally wanted to be a Civil Engineer, but started teaching myself web development and design as a hobby during University (turns out engineering is incredibly boring).

Before graduating McGill, I met Mikael (@mikaelcho), Stephanie (@stephliverani), and Angus (@angusw). They had just finished FounderFuel, a Montreal accelerator, for their idea ooomf (what would eventually become Crew). I joined them as a front-end developer and designer.

ooomf eventually became what is now Crew, an easy way to hire high-quality freelancers for big and small design and development projects.


HDF: And how did Unsplash come about? You can tell me as much of the backstory as you’d like.

Luke: Well, about a year and a half ago, we needed a photo for the homepage of our company, Crew. We teamed up with a local photographer, Alejandro Escamilla, to take a handful of photos at a nearby coffee shop.

We only used one photo so with the extras, we setup a $19 Tumblr theme, a domain, and gave the rest of the images away for free.

The response was incredible. We never expected for it to be as successful as it was. Mikael deserves most of the credit, since he took it from “here’s our left over photos” and turned it into “10 free photos every 10 days”, even though we didn’t know where we were going to get the next 10 photos from. Luckily, when we threw a submission form on the site, we started getting amazing submissions.

Each week the submissions would get better and better. The response has been amazing.

You can read more about the backstory here if it helps: http://365.unsplash.com/


Alejandro Escamilla Spring Morning

Alejandro Escamilla Spring Morning

HDF: Well, the pictures online are awesome! I noticed there are a lot of photographers contributing to Unsplash. I have to admit I got excited when I saw curated photos by Jeff Sheldon from Ugmonk (@ugmonk). I’m a huge fan of his clothing, graphic design work and photography! In fact, seeing your list of photographers is insane!! How do you guys go about curating photographers?

Luke: Having the photos curated by guests was something we had wanted to do for quite a while, but we didn’t have a good way to do it until recently.

Our very first guest curator was one of the original Medium designers, Dave Gamache (@dhg), who we were all big fans of, so he was a natural fit for curating since he has an amazing eye for design and photography. He was also an early user of Unsplash, so we wanted him to be the first curator.

After Dave, we started reaching out to more people we respected in the online community. Next we had Paul Jarvis, a fantastic writer and designer (and friend of Crew); Eric Anderson, a designer and photographer at Squarespace; Dave Morin the co-founder and CEO at Path (an entrepreneur we have a ton of respect for); Jeff Sheldon the founder and designer behind Ugmonk (we love his clothing — I personally have like 10 Ugmonk things); and most recently, Paul Stamatiou, one of the talented designers at Twitter (also a great photographer).


Caroline Gutman for Unsplash

Caroline Gutman for Unsplash


Lucas Boesche for Unsplash

Lucas Boesche strum for Unsplash

HDF: Whoa! Luke, these people are seriously amazing.

Luke: Yeah, We’ve started out by picking people we really respect, that also have a great eye for design and photography. In the future, we’re going to add curators from as many creative fields as possible.


HDF: So, you seem to have a knack for photography and building a community. As an entrepreneur and business professional, what’s the best part about “creating” for you guys?

Luke: We’re really lucky in that we have an amazing team and an even more amazing community supporting Unsplash. Those two things make ‘creating’ really easy.

As a team, we’re really balanced. We have ~10 really smart people who are all creative in some form and are natural entrepreneurs. We bounce every idea off of each other, big or small, for Crew and Unsplash.

For me personally, I love seeing people’s reactions to something I helped make. That gives me energy and keeps me motivated to build more and take risks.


HDF: How do you best describe Unsplash as a brand? If you could describe the essence of it, what would it be?

Luke: We’re still in the really early stages of defining what Unsplash is, but we know that there are a few things that make Unsplash unique.

#1. Quality and variety is huge. Too many photography communities focus on showing you every photo posted or the same types of photos over and over again.

#2. Showing photos in as high a resolution as possible (and as big as possible on the page) is really important. The difference between a good photo and a great photo can only be seen when the details of a photo are shown.

#3. Focus on the photos. Too many other sites get in the way of the photos.

Buzo Jesús for Unsplash

Monika Majkowska for Unsplash

Monika Majkowska Fall In To The Gap for Unsplash

HDF: How important has social media played in the building of your brand to date? How important do you think it will be as you continue to grow it?

Luke: Social media has been huge so far. Facebook and Twitter are our number 3 and 4 referrals. We’re really trying to engage even more though, since we see it as a great way to build the community, and bring more exposure to the great photographers who contribute.


HDF: Have there been any obstacles along the way, either at an earlier age or more recent, that have taught you valuable lessons? Any that you’d like to share?

Luke: I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that there are far more opportunities for success and career satisfaction outside of the traditional university route.

I was always taught that successful people were lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc. — the traditional jobs where you can earn a good pay and have fairly stable job security. But all of my most successful friends and colleagues followed a different path. They loved soccer, so they built their own soccer program. Or they loved to plan events, so they setup their own events business.

I think too many smart people are all competing for the same small slice of success in traditional careers like law, engineering, and healthcare. There are massive opportunities in other fields, and if you have a passion in one of those other fields, you should follow it. If you’re smart and passionate, success will naturally follow.

For me personally, I was miserable trying to become an engineer. It was a risk to put aside the higher pay-cheque to become a web designer and developer, but I think it’s paid off ten-fold.


HDF: That’s very insightful and so true. I have friends who do exactly what they want and seem extremely happy and I have other friends who have high paying jobs that aren’t fulfilling to them.

Luke, this was awesome to get to know you, Unsplash and Crew. Is there anything else you’d like me to know?

Luke: Yeah, I’m just one of 10 people at Crew, and one of four co-founders. Mikael, Steph, and Angus (the other three founders) have all played just as important a role in creating Unsplash, and the rest of our team, Marlee, Kirill, Jory, Thomas, Manuel, and Ella do just as much for Unsplash as any of us.


HDF: Wow!! I know how important the concept of community and collaboration is to you and it’s awesome you’re around such talented, smart people working together on truly unique digital products.

Luke: Thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to tell your community a little more about Unsplash and Crew!

HDF: It’s my pleasure!

Paul Jarvis for Unsplash

Paul Jarvis for Unsplash


Tiago Gerken for Unsplash

Tiago Gerken for Unsplash


Jeff Sheldon for Unsplash
Jeff Sheldon for Unsplash


Matt Gottesman

Matt Gottesman is a global digital strategist and technology advisor, creator and editor-in-chief of Hustle & Deal Flow™ - an online magazine dedicated to the world's entrepreneurs, creators and makers, a Social Media Influencer and a consultant on New Media and go-to-market strategies for investments in digital marketing, technology, websites, mobile applications, eCommerce, social media and content.

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