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CMCD
Founder & CEO
San Francisco, CA

CMCD is a business I started almost twenty years ago. Like everything else in my career, I had no idea what I was getting into. The one thing I did know was that digitally generated graphics at that time looked terrible. The premise of the business was to provide an alternative for the hundreds and thousands of people who were stymied by Microsoft or Corel Draw clip-art.

CMCD’s first line of products, The Visual Symbol Library, was a series of royalty-free photographic CD-ROM titles developed for the design, advertising, multimedia and publishing industries. Being the first to market, the library gained market-share quickly and established CMCD as the leader in a new and rapidly growing market. Developing additional titles was critical to continued growth. Realizing how capital and time intensive it was to build an infrastructure to sustain distribution and marketing efforts, we licensed our worldwide distribution rights to PhotoDisc in 1995. In so doing, it freed us to rapidly add new products to the library. The library grew from eight titles to twenty-four titles with over 3500 images in the library.

The library went online in 1997 along with other PhotoDisc collections. Selling CDs initially, the online channel was a small percentage of the overall image sales. Over time, online single-image sales became PhotoDisc\'s primary marketing, sales, and fulfillment channel. As our group of titles grew, so did PhotoDisc; it was not long before they were acquired by Getty Images and went public.

In the late 1990s Getty acquired many of its small competitors and consolidated several major stock agencies. Our library got lost in the shuffle. After much deliberation, in 2000, I decided to end the distribution agreement with Getty. As of June of 2002, the library of images is back in my hands, and I\'ve decided to make a new run of an old business. Read more about this in the musing section.

How an idea became a business
The idea was not written on the back of a napkin. Rather, it happened in the back of a taxicab.

I was returning to my office after seeing a demo of PhotoCD, Kodak\'s new image compression technology. The fact that it could store over a hundred images in multiple resolutions on a single disc was truly remarkable back in 1993. JPEG compression-format was two years away from launching so the PhotoCD format looked impressive and very promising.

Kodak had envisioned PhotoCD as their digital Trojan- horse into the consumer market. They had signed up thousands of retail outlets to provide PhotoCD conversion services. It was a bold move, but I did not think it was the right launch-strategy, given that digital cameras had little or no market penetration at the time. To me, professional designers and desktop publishers were the people Kodak should have targeted. I honestly thought that PhotoCD was a technology looking for an application.

What problems needed to be solved out there? What would make this technology a better storage format than CD-ROM? How could one repackage the technology for a different use? What market should I be looking at? (Years of hanging around the MBA and entrepreneurial-types were finally paying off.) More importantly, how could I leverage my domain knowledge of design and technology in finding a problem for this solution?

At the time, one of my biggest frustrations was obtaining photo usage rights for the various CD-ROM projects I was developing. Inevitably, I ended up creating original photography exclusively for these interactive titles, though I wished that there had been a more economic solution. Could PhotoCD be part of the solution? What should this application be? It dawned on me that there was not a photographic equivalent of clip-art.

At first, I thought the problem of substandard images was the work product of amateurs. I soon realized that talented designers were screwing up as well. It was not an issue of design competency. It had to do with time, technical, and financial constraints, and these constraints made any attempt to do good work impossible.

Those who used computers to design were aware of this problem all too well. A common practice by many designers was to scan images from magazines, books, and annuals to comp our ideas for design presentation. It didn\'t take long before the comps ended up being ideas the clients could not live without. And more importantly, they often liked them so much that they wanted the design done in an unreasonable amount of time.

Then we were left with two options:
1. Go shoot it; or
2. Call the photographer and negotiate a usage fee.

Shooting the photo was usually the best option. You got what you wanted. Time, however, was often the problem here since clients wanted things done with faster turnaround times.

The second option was to negotiate with the photographer. The trouble in this instance surprisingly stemmed not from budget constraints but from the question of digital usage rights. Ten years ago, the words DIGITAL RIGHTS scared most photographers and stock agencies. Pricing images based on the traditional usage model was inappropriate for digital media. How could online usage be measured and regulated? Should the charges be different for thumbnail and full-screen size images? What if the image was to be used in an animated slide show where it only flashed on the screen for 1 second? Those who have dealt with stock agencies for CD-ROM usage know that an image could cost anywhere from $150-$300 per licensed usage. Of that amount, $100 covered handling and research fees. Even if the total licensing cost were $100 per image, it would not have made economic sense.

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October
• Company founded

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February
• Visual Symbols Sampler, the first volume in the CMCD Library, shipped and bundled with Apple Multimedia Solutions Program
June
• Launched the Visual Symbols Library with seven new titles: Everyday Objects Volumes 1,2, and 3, Just Documents, Just Tools, Just Hands, and Metaphorically Speaking.
September
• Signed foreign distribution deal with Atlantec

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May
• Signed exclusive marketing and distribution license deal with PhotoDisc, Inc.

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February
• Shipped CMCD Object Series:
Volume 14:World Games
Volume 15: InfoMedia
September
• Animation Series announced at Seybold SF
• Shipped CMCD Object Series:
Volume 17:Doors and Windows
Volume 18:Everyday Animals

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January
• Animation Series launched at MacWorld SF
Volume AS01:Metaphorically Blinking
Volume AS02:Everyday Objects Live
• Shipped CMCD Object Series:
Volume 21:Lions, Tigers and Bears
Volume 22:Metaphors and Symbols
June
• Shipped CMCD Object Series:
Volume 26: InfoMedia 2
September
• Shipped CMCD Object Series:
Volume 29:Supporting Cast: Women
Volume 30:Supporting Cast: Men
December
• Shipped CMCD Object Series:
Volume 32: Spiritually Speaking

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March
• Shipped CMCD Object Series:
Volume 33: Just Babies
May
• Shipped CMCD Object Series:
Volume 35: Supporting Cast: Individuals
August
• Shipped CMCD Object Series:
Volume 39: Supporting Cast: Teens

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February
• Shipped CMCD Object Series:
Volume 41: InfoMedia 3

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June
Terminate distribution with PhotoDisc (now Getty Images)

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