Finnish Phone Lens Maker To Seek Capital For US Expansion

Finnish startup, which has sold some 140,000 clip-on lenses for smartphones since it launched three years ago, is looking to raise capital for the first time to finance its expansion to the United States market, said Arto Ekman, co-founder of Eye Caramba.

Eye Caramba sells Black Eye Lens-branded products – prices of which range from $30 to $100 – in 22 markets. Japan is its biggest market, but most of the other countries are in Europe.

“The U.S. market is so big that one needs capital … To make it there we need quite a lot of marketing money,” Ekman told ArcticStartup on an interview at sidelines of annual media event of consumer electronics fair IFA.

So far Eye Caramba has financed growth from cash flow and three co-founders have invested little of own savings.

“It has been a rocky road and we have had to work hard, but at this point I can be pleased we did not raise money earlier,” Ekman said.

Ekman, who has worked as a photographer for 17 years, and two of his friends started to ponder about camera shortages of smartphones in early 2013 when they tried to use phones for shooting skating and snowboarding.

The gap was obvious, but Ekman says for him the camera of Samsung’s 2012 flagship model Galaxy S3 was the eye-opener. It was increasingly clear the phones can narrow the gap considerably.

“At the moment there is still some gap, but quality of mobile phone cameras has surged and we have all seen that,” Ekman said.

He himself carries Black Eye Lens which weighs 350 grams in total, compared to his professional gear of more than 20 kilograms.

“I do not think many photographers will take to wedding shots with iPhone and some lenses. People do not hire wedding photographer for snapping pictures with smartphone, but if the pictures are next to each other, and there would be no flashlight, a non-professional would usually notice no difference.”

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