Denmark’s Iconfinder Snaps Up $1.5M To Take On Google And Shutterstock, Uses SV’s AngelList To Find A Danish Backer

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Search and Social: How The Two Will Soon Become One

AngelList has established itself as a go-to place for early-stage startups to connect with potential investors, and a recent deal underscores how its effect is not only limited to its home base of Silicon Valley. Iconfinder, a Copenhagen-based online marketplace that has been riding the mobile wave with a portal for icons to use iOS and Android apps (among other places), has recently raised $1.5 million in seed funding through the network — ironically using it to connect with VF Venture, a Danish investor in its own backyard.

The funding will be used to continue developing the company’s main marketplace in competition against Google, stock photo sites like iStockphoto and Shutterstock and those working directly in the graphical icon space like itself, such as IconArchive.com and Iconspedia.com — and towards its first steps to commercialize its already-substantial traffic: the site has seen 20 million searches since 2010, with a threefold increase in traffic over that time. It has 1.1 million registered users, who on average download 6 million icons monthly for commercial and non-commercial use.

Martin LeBlanc Eigtved, co-founder and CEO of Iconfinder, says that even though his company has taken local funding, using AngelList let the startup cast its net wide. It was the “natural thing to do” to look locally for both Iconfinder and VF Venture, but also “an American investor might be coming on board in a couple of weeks,” he says. Using AngelList was not just about straight networking but as an information portal: “The Danish VC’s could see how our pitch improved [as] we kept pushing to close the round.”

What’s interesting is that international outlook is also being reflected in the company’s own business development: Eigtved notes that only about 10.5 percent of its users currently come from the U.S., with another 10.5 percent from India. Overall its top-10 markets only make up about half of its traffic, with the other 50 percent coming from the rest of the world. A natural step, he says, will be to localize the site in Portuguese, Chinese, Russian and other languages.

“The market for icons is very fragmented with many talented designers creating their own small shops to sell their icons,” he says. “We want to be a middle man and make discovery easy for the users and let the talented designers sell more icons.”

Iconfinder’s current traffic — and the potential for monetizing it — is what attracted the investment. “VF Venture has chosen to invest in Iconfinder because we are impressed that the company in short time has become one of the world’s most visited websites. We believe that there are great perspectives in commercialising the traffic,” Søren Steen Rasmussen from VF Venture said in a statement.

Among those new commercial services, Iconfinder projects that in the next couple of years it will continue to roll out more products, including premium icons, customized icons, premium services and a logo builder as it works its way to $18 million in revenue and 6 million monthly visits, from a current base of 2.2 million visits and less than $1 million in revenues.

Eigtved says that although Google’s main search portal is an important traffic driver for its site, Google Images is not comprehensive enough for those looking for icons to repurpose elsewhere:

“The images are often separated from license information. So if you’re an app developer you can easily get in trouble if you use icons found through Google Image search,” he says. “The Iconfinder service displays all license information next to the icons and lets you filter those out you can’t use for your project.” He says that most of the icons on Iconfinder can be used commercially.

He notes that the rise of hardware with touchscreens, from those on smartphones to tablets and ereaders, are resulting in a boost in the need for icons both for apps for app stores, as well as within programs as a way to improve navigation. “Modern browsers also support the SVG format which allows icons to be presented in a scalable vector format – something that is very useful when the retina displays are coming to more devices,” he notes.