Oakland-Based Photo App VSCO Is Setting up Shop in Chicago

August 22, 2019
The Hoxton
Photo via vsco

When Oakland-based VSCO set out to find a home for its second office, it wanted to find a city where it could grow with the community and contribute to it. 

Tech talent was important, but so, too, was a diverse and vibrant creative scene. After parsing through a list that included more than 20 different cities, VSCO vibed with Chicago immediately. The city’s mix of art galleries, community events and a thriving tech scene made it a perfect fit. Toss in a few friendly encounters while walking around the West Loop, and the company was hooked, Katy Shields, VP of people and places at VSCO, told Built In. 

“On a variety of metrics, Chicago was a clear cut winner for us,” Shields said. “We stepped off the plane, and we were like ‘This is us.’ The city feels communal and supportive, kind and humble.” 

VSCO, which makes a photography mobile app, made its commitment to Chicago official today, announcing the opening of its newest office inside The Hoxton hotel’s new coworking space in the West Loop. The office is expected to open in November, and the company aims to hire 20 people for the Chicago branch by 2020, Shields said.

We stepped off the plane, and we were like ‘This is us.’”

Based in Oakland, VSCO has built a photo editing app that allows users to upload photos, edit them and organize them into journals and photo albums. The company has rapidly grown in the last year, going from 100 employees to 150 in six months. It plans to reach 200 by next year.

Moving into a new office was the next logical extension for the company’s growth, Shields said. 

The Chicago team will focus on the company’s subscription services platform, and will include positions across the spectrum from engineering to product to marketing. 


The Hoxton Balcony
phtoo via vsco

But the company’s expansion isn’t just about adding employees and reaching more subscribers — it’s also about growing with the community, Shields said. The company has embedded itself in its East Bay neighborhood and attempted to grow the creative community around it as it has grown.

VSCO has worked with young women in Camp Reel to help them produce their own videos, opened up a studio space for local photographers to use, hosted art galleries featuring unknown local artists and hosted performances from the Oakland School for the Arts.  

It’s that impact that the team hopes to develop in Chicago, and that mission is a large reason behind why they selected The Hoxton for its coworking space. The hotel had long offered its lobby as a workspace for members of the community, and supported VSCO’s interest in hosting public galleries and other community activities in its space. 

“We came from an authentic neighborhood, built up that neighborhood and worked with local organizations,” Shields said. “We wanted to do the same thing here.” 

To build that culture, the company will be sending a team from Oakland on temporary assignment to recruit local talent and grow the Chicago office.  

While VSCO will be starting in a coworking space, it has long-term plans for the city of Chicago. Eventually, it hopes to grow into a permanent space here.

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