Let’s learn from his experience and start the interview.
My name is Martin LeBlanc Eigtved, half Danish half Canadian. I’m currently living in Copenhagen and working from a great office called Founders House where about 20 tech startups work from. I have started several companies and have for many years been launching a larger project or company per year. Iconfinder, which is a search engine for icons, is probably the best known and I have chosen to focus on it for now. The site has about 1.1 million unique users per month and is growing quickly.
I started doing websites when I was in primary school. I’m 30 years now, so I guess I was around 14-15 years old. Back then the Internet was a very different place without fast connections, good browsers, jQuery etc. So doing websites was not a fun and easy. I actually spent more time with 3D Studio Max and Photoshop, so back then I was more designer than developer. When I finished high school I chose an education where I learned to code and got a masters in computer science and business administration, so I have learned to code later.
When I was studying I worked as a freelance webdesigner and developer. When you do projects on freelance basis you often have a fixed price for the project, so if you can work faster and be more effective, you’ll end up with a higher salary per hour. So I was always looking for ways to be more productive. The designs I did was often focused on usability, more than perhaps colours and look’n’feel, so icons was almost always used. I started to build my own system of folders on my harddrive with all the free icons I found on the web, but at some point I thought about doing a web interface to make the search easier and faster. I used this interface for 2-3 months and was surprised about how well it worked and why there were no sites on the web that solved this problem. I bought Iconfinder.net and launched the site in summer 2007.
It looks like all changes Google makes, bumps up our traffic, so right now we are pretty happy about the Panda update. I guess Google rewards sites that have existed for more years.
I try really hard to answer all mails personally. I believe you can have a huge impact by talking to individuals. I also use mails to reach out to people – I’m often surprised about how easy it is to get in contact with anybody.
Last year I teamed up with a friend, Steffen Thilsted, and we joined a national startup competition here in Denmark called Venture Cup. We used Iconfinder as our startup in the competition and we ended up winning the Software category. Afterwards, we decided to raise money and Steffen went to California to get in contact with investors in Silicon Valley. We ended up getting a Danish VC on board and we’re still talking with an American investor. So right now we have some money in the bank and have hired a talented programmer, Nick Bruun, who will join as CTO.
We’ll work hard on new stuff for the site that will both help getting the community work better together but always give designers ways to sell icons on the site.
I have been really surprised about how much SEO has contributed to the overall traffic. Also, getting a new logo and the .com domain was really important and worth every penny. Raising money is so much hard work and can be really dangerous, because you move focus away from the product and the users.
I have no idea – I don’t really use any of the platforms or work with the regularly. But overall I think more and more services will become hosted – e.g. more companies won’t have their own website and servers but instead just use a Facebook page or a similar product. There will still be huge markets for good CMS’s and that will continue for many years.
We use Google Docs all the time – it’s great for working documents and collaborating with others.
BuySellAds have been our banner partner for 3.5 years now and we love their service.
For project management we use Basecamp – the new version is great.
For internal communication we use Skype all the time – often with video and conference calls. It really makes the world smaller.
Campfire is our internal chatroom where we ask questions, post fun stuff and just hang out during the day.
Google Analytics is our data back bone and we have made a lot of custom stuff e.g. tracking search terms that return zero results, tracking search terms where no body downloads etc.