We are twins! I am Ingo and I am currently working as a web developer at a small startup. Bruno has just started to study computer science. We founded Pexels as a side project in a small town in Germany, but we are now living in Berlin.
What inspired you both to launch Pexels?
As a web developer I am always looking for photos. We started off gathering the cream of the crop of CC0 photos for ourselves. But, we recognized really fast that more people are interested in high quality photos e.g. for websites, blogs and presentations. There are many websites where you can find free photos but most often the photos are not that great or the sites don’t provide a search. So, we thought there has to be a website that solves this problem and that brought Pexels to life.
How was the initial process of setting up the business?
It was really time consuming to start. We had to build a stable platform and then we needed a lot of pictures. We decided to use Wordpress to manage all the photos because it was quite easy to build on such a platform. Now it’s a small barrier to scale and build new features but back then it was great to build our product in a very short time.
How do you choose what photos to use?
All photos have to be licensed under the CC0 licence and we make sure that they are high quality and not blurred or pixelated. We only upload the best photos we can find so that our users can be sure that it has enough pixels for a website header or a presentation.
Who is your target market?
The majority of our visitors are web designers, but we also have bloggers who look for free photos on our platform. Our goal is to expand our target group and supply to the demand from students needing photos for presentations. Simply because, if they don’t want to spend money for photos and don’t want to use photos they found in Google (which in the most cases are illegal) they can have a look on our website.
What is a CC0 License?
CC0 is the abbreviation for Creative Commons Zero. This license is often summed up with “do whatever you want”. All photos on Pexels are released under this license. This means you can use them everywhere without setting a backlink or paying for the photo – even for commercial projects. So, you don’t have to understand complex licenses, just use the photos.
How important do you think social media is for your business?
Social media is one important source for new customers. We haven’t yet exploited the full potential, but it gets more important every day. Especially networks where designers are at home. For instance Reddit is one of our most important origin for visitors.
What is your USP?
There are many small website which provide free photos but without a search. We have a very sophisticated search. Our photos are all handpicked so that we can ensure the high quality of the photos. Another problem with other sites is that they have complex licenses often also different depending on the photo. We only have photos under the CC0 license so that the user can use all of our photos without reading pages of license agreements.
How do you generate an income from Pexels?
We generate the main income through some small ads but we also have affiliate links to a premium stock photo provider and you can donate something if you really like our service. But, profit is currently not our top priority, we concentrate more on reaching more and more people and improving our product.
Is this your only business venture?
We also provide a website for exploited website developers and other people who need a break: It is designbreak.io, but I wouldn't call it a business, it was just a small fun project.
How would you sum up Pexels in one word?
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs wanting to start an online business?
Try to build a lean product and launch as fast as possible to get customer feedback. We started with a newsletter to validate our idea, to get the first feedback and also the first visitors. Now we are looking to expand he idea and integrate new functions to our website.