Belfast Telegraph

Artfinder sketches outline of stock market flotation in bid to woo US investors

Online art marketplace Artfinder is eyeing a stock market flotation in as little as 12 months as it looks to tap growing demand in the US.

Jonas Almgren, the firm's chief executive, told the Press Association the group is keen to bring an American investor on board, which would be a precursor to an initial public offering (IPO).

He said: "We have had two great European investors but it would be great to have a US investor come on board because I think the US market is clearly bigger than the UK market, and it's where we've seen a lot of growth recently.

"I've never shied away from that (an IPO)... I think it would be a good result.

"We need to show a little more growth, in particular in the US, to establish really ourselves first. I think we will be there in maybe 12 months, maybe 24."

Artfinder, a London-based tech start-up matching artists with art-lovers, is currently backed by Wellington Partners and Oxford Capital.

It registered turnover of £5 million in 2016, and is on track to double that figure this year.

It is not yet profitable, but it expects to turn a profit by late 2018.

The listing could take place in either the UK or the US, but Mr Almgren said the decision would need to take into consideration a lot of different factors, including Brexit.

The Swedish entrepreneur says the UK's decision to leave the EU is "worrying" for the company, although not from a sales perspective, more in terms of availability of staff.

"Brexit obviously is worrying us but not because of our sales - we are completely global and so it doesn't really matter to us if there is a Brexit or not in terms of sales."

Mr Almgren says he always saw London as being similar to Silicon Valley in its ability to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world.

However, he added: "After Brexit, I clearly sense that has changed a little bit unfortunately.

"It's harder to recruit someone, harder to get someone to move to London if you need them here."

Having found little success when it started as a website featuring famous artworks, the firm has grown rapidly since Mr Almgren relaunched the company in 2013.

Now, Artfinder is a thriving online marketplace selling original art directly from artists, many of whom could not previously make a living purely through their trade.

"We went through a rough year when I first joined," Mr Almgren said.

"I was forced to pivot the company to something that was more focused on the marketplace. That's where we started."

It began with just a handful of independent artists, but now the website boasts a community of over 10,000 artists, which Artfinder connects to buyers around the world.

The focus is on affordable art, catering to people who want to buy unique pieces, but previously found the price exorbitant.

The average price point is around £250 per piece, according to Mr Almgren.

There are no joining or listing fees for selling on Artfinder. The company takes a 30% commission only on sales transacted through the site.

It has 16 staff currently and is in the process of opening a new office in Miami.

Mr Almgren added: "People are interested in getting something original... they want something more unique than what they can find at Ikea.

"There are more people going to museums in the UK than going to see live football. So, there's clearly an interest.

"Our challenge is to get out, reach that market and convince them that they can buy original quality art which doesn't have to break the bank."