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Picfair raises $520k to hand the power back to photographers

London-based image licensing startup Picfair have announced a seed round of $520k following their official launch.

Picfair connects photographers directly to buyers, and takes a 20% commission on top of the photographers’ fee.

This investment comes from angel investors including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, IDEO design director Tom Hulme, and Duncan & Max Jennings, the founders of

It is the first time Ohanian has invested outside the US.

Great content out there

Picfair was launched in beta in 2013 by Benji Lanyado who had been working as a journalist at the Guardian.

He got fed up with the huge amounts of great photography content online that he couldn’t use because it didn’t come through their agencies – agencies that take about a 74% cut.

benjilanyadoHe explains:

The whole industry is upside down–and has been for decades. The photographers who create the value get almost none of it. It’s entirely normal for their cut to be less than 20 per cent of the sale price.

A different take

The sector has been seeing some movement in the last few years and Picfair aren’t even necessarily the first company doing what they do.

In November 2012, Corbis bought crowd-sourced photo newswire service Demotix who provide a similar service to Picfair – except much more geared towards editorial publishers than commercial ones.

In March,  the world’s largest photo agency Getty Images made large portions of its library free to use, in an effort to combat piracy – but this competition doesn’t worry Lanyado.

He says that there are two fundamental things that differentiate Picfair from traditional agencies.

  1. All the major agencies exclude amateurs – Picfair welcome them, Instagrammers and all.
  2. Their image search algorithm changes every day – reflecting what Picfair images have been tweeted and shared across the social web.

Graduate of General Assembly’s coding course

Lanyado realises how difficult it is to build a tech business without the technical know-how.

He learnt to code through General Assembly and subsequently built Picfair in five months, spending only £4,000.

More and more people are learning to code through courses like those at General Assembly. Lanyado could be the first of a wave of people without tech backgrounds doing the brunt of the work getting their companies off the ground.

Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit, explains:

 Benji is someone who quit his job and learnt how to code and build his entire business himself, line by line. I can’t wait to see what he does next.