A Q&A with IconFinder co-founder Martin LeBlanc. The Copenhagen-based company was founded in 2011 and earlier this month closed a $1.5 million Seed funding round from VF Venture.
SUB: Please describe what IconFinder is, and the value proposition you bring to the icon/graphics market.
LeBlanc: Iconfinder is a search engine for icons. Icons are used in almost all applications today. They are an important element to get right for both usability but also the look-and-feel of an application. Iconfinder makes it super easy to find and download icons you can use for you desktop or commercially in your application.
SUB: Who are your target users?
LeBlanc: Target users are designers who want to save time or get inspiration for their own designs. Also we have a lot of developers who do their own apps—perhaps without a designer. We also have a growing group of users who use it for presentations.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
LeBlanc: Google Images is still the most important competitor—our biggest challenge is to get to 10-to-20 million users and we have to compete with Google Images to do that.
SUB: What differentiates IconFinder from the competition?
LeBlanc: We have a focus on quality content and performance. We simply want to be better quality than the competitors and perhaps not focus too much on the number of features.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
LeBlanc: The service started as a side-project I worked on from 2007 to 2009. In 2009, I released a new version that really started growing the user-base, so I started Iconfinder. In 2011, I got my first co-founder and we joined and we started looking for funding for the company.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for IconFinder? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
LeBlanc: I worked as a freelance designer where I usually got somewhere between $5000-to-$10000 for doing web designs. I had a large collection of icons on my desktop and ended up wasting a lot of time looking for these icons. This was 2006 and there were no icon search engines so I started building a small tool that I could use myself. It ended up being really useful, so I decided to build a public version that launched in 2007 and got on the home page of Digg, etc., back when that was a big deal. Iconfinder.com was taken, so I had to go with Iconfinder.net
This version lived from 2007-to-2009 where I was still in business school and actually started another company and did two mobile applications. But I always wanted to work on Iconfinder, so I spent all my free time on building the new version that launched in May 2009 with the new logo. I got the Iconfinder.com domain for about $5,000.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
LeBlanc: It was a really tough time raising money and keeping momentum on the site at the same time. It really sucks the energy out of you and you have to continue doing pitches with positive energy to convince investors.
SUB: You recently raised $1.5 million in Seed funding. What are your plans for the funds?
LeBlanc: We really want to build a much better search engine with much more content. There are also a lot of opportunities in building premium features for our users, since most of them use it for commercial purposes.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
LeBlanc: We are considering joining an incubator program, but we haven’t signed any deals yet. With $1.5 million we don’t need cash for some time.
SUB: What are your goals for IconFinder over the next year or so?
LeBlanc: We want to grow the user base and improve the core product. We have some really interesting ideas—some are suggestions from the users and some are just stuff we would like to use ourselves. We’re currently hiring engineers here in Copenhagen and we have already found two who can bring a lot of valuable knowledge to the company.
IconFinder – www.iconfinder.com