TAMARA CHUANG | firstname.lastname@example.org | The Denver Post PUBLISHED: September 13, 2017 at 6:05 am | UPDATED: September 13, 2017 at 5:19 pm**
Artifact Uprising is a Denver startup that specializes in custom photo books for photographers and fine artists. The company was acquired in 2015 by VSCO but operations remain in Denver.
After nearly three years, Artifact Uprising is parting ways with parent Visual Supply Co. and bringing ownership back to Denver, Artifact CEO Brad Kopitz said Wednesday.
Artifact’s management team bought back the company, thanks to funding from private-equity firm Digital Fuel Capital. Advisers include Galvanize co-founder Chris Onan; board member Josh Scott, a Craftsy co-founder; and Kevin McInerney.
“With this ownership structure and capital partners, we are now able to invest in new and innovative ways to better serve our customers,” Kopitz said. “We’re excited to focus on building new unique products and services that make it easier for people to bring their photos off their devices and into their lives. Our recently launched baby book and Volumes automatic book-building service are two great examples of this.”
But gone are co-founding sisters Katie Thurmes and Jenna Walker, who started the custom-photo album printer in 2012. The two had stayed aboard after Oakland, Calif-based VSCO acquired Artifact in January 2015, but they left last year.
“While the original founders are no longer with the company, their vision lives with each and every one of us and inspires us every day. Our respect for them is palpable here and the brand values and commitment to quality they established still drive the business strategy today,” Kopitz said. “We would not be where we are today if not for their vision and dedication to building Artifact Uprising. For me personally, I could not be the leader I am without their mentorship and guidance throughout the years.”
Walker said she and her sister have moved on and are working on a new project. “Excited to see the team continue to grow and thrive,” she said in an email. Artifact Uprising became an early hit with photographers and artists who wanted to create modern, elegant photo-book albums and products. In its first 18 months, it became a “multimillion dollar company seeing triple digit growth,” Artifact shared on Pinterest.
When the larger photo-technology firm VSCO acquired Artifact for an undisclosed sum, VSCO hoped to combine artistic forces. But VSCO was investing in other things too, thanks to an earlier venture raise of $40 million. While Artifact continued to grow — revenue has quintupled in three years and the company plans to ship 750,000 products to 180 countries this year — VSCO faced expansion issues. In January, VSCO closed its New York office to focus on Oakland operations. VSCO said it was committed to keeping Artifact’s Denver office open — but it was apparently an expansion VSCO also would soon end.
“When we approached VSCO with the idea of bringing ownership back to management, they were supportive and worked with us to make the process possible. We have a strong working relationship with the VSCO team and we’ll continue to support one another as we grow independently,” Kopitz said.
Joel Flory, VSCO’s co-founder and CEO, said the split made sense for how the companies had evolved over three years.
“We worked closely with the Artifact Uprising team to bring ownership back to them and we’re excited to see what they do next,” he said. “We did not need to sell Artifact Uprising — it’s just what made the most sense for both of our companies at this stage of growth and for two companies that have different unique visions for people to express themselves. … We’ll continue to work closely with the Artifact Uprising team and support each other’s communities and products in the future.” Artifact, which moved to 1616 Stout St. last year, employs 40 people, up from 14 when VSCO b bought it three years ago.