The Art Tech Pitch Breakfast

In the morning of Wednesday, October 4th, 2017, Vastari and Cromwell Place, co-hosted the third session of the Blueprint Breakfast Briefings. Unlike the other sessions, which all consisted of panel discussions, Wednesday’s session was a pitch meeting. Here seven start-up companies got the chance to pitch their ideas and progress to a panel of experts in the art trade, finance, technology and venture capital. Each company got five minutes to pitch themselves, after which the panel had 10 minutes to give their feedback and ask questions. Finally, the panel would give their final recommendation and the audience was given the opportunity to vote on the idea by a show of hands before the next company would start their pitch.

image

Introducing the panel:

  • Andy McCartney, White Space Ventures served as the expert on technology. Previously he was the CTO of several tech start-ups, including the award-winning JamPot Technologie, before he joined Microsoft Ventures and became a founding member the UK division launched in London. Here he helped to build successful global start-ups, a skill that he continues to use at Whitespace Ventures.
  • Alexandre Massart, the panel’s expert on venture capital. He has worked in venture capital with Ion Ventures as well as with Visa Inc. in the US and Europe. At Visa he lead their corporate venturing and innovation efforts. In addition, he has worked at UBS in Switzerland where he led product development for its financial information service. As a result Massart’s expertise spans from venture investments to partnerships in the mobile payments, eCommerce and the micropayment sectors.
  • Sophie Muir, served as the panels financial expert, as she is currently the director of Capital Engine and has more than 18 years of experience in financial services. The last 2-years, she worked in small company credit and gained experience in the alternative (non-bank) finance arena as well as speaking on various panels. Previously she has managed multinational technology, media and telecommunications (“TMT”) clients,  advising them on everything from capital structuring to cash management. In addition, she has worked as a portfolio manager and senior credit officer responsible for approving loans to TMT companies in Europe.

Lastly, experts from the art world:

  • Peter Nahum, writer, collector, dealer and the former Director of Sotheby’s, the Leicester Galleries and Online Galleries. Peter Nahum used to be the senior director and head of the Victorian and Modern British Departments at Sotheby’s. Afterwards, he founded “Peter Nahum At The Leicester Galleries”, which he ran for 25 years before becoming a full-time author, lecturer and frame designer. He designed and built Online Galleries, a single trading website that unites the top 5,000 Art & Antiques dealers of the World and is currently in the process of building the Burne-Jones Catalogue Raisonné online (www.EB-J.org). In addition, he has been a regular on the Antiques Road Show for 21 years, an advisor to private collections and museums throughout the world, and is an official valuer for Arts, Heritage and Environment of the Government of Australia.
  • Lori Luo Yi Writer, collector, and social media entrepreneur. Lori Luo Yi is also the founder of the most subscribed WeChat Official Account specialising in the contemporary art market. As a collector, she collects and supports young talents in art, but she is also actively involved in Chinese tech start-ups.

Together these men and women scrutinized and encouraged six young entrepreneurs: Artpaie, Artvisor, Assetvault, Feral Horses, Ikonospace, Smartify.



First up was Artpaie, a company that enables art sales by ensuring the bank of the legitimacy of the parties involved. Due to KYC-rules (Know Your Customer rules) and the high amounts that are involved in art sales, banks often block transactions in fear of money laundering or insufficient credit. The anonymous character of most art sales increases the risks and/or violation of the KYC-rules, making banks even less willing to cooperate in speedy transactions. Artpaie provides the banks with the necessary client details to allow an easy transfer, while the buyer and seller can remain anonymous in respect to each other. Although the panel recommended additional work on the proposal, the idea was met with general approval.



The second was Artvisor, an online art advisory system that utilises technology to find new works of art that may interest their clients based on their earlier preferences. In addition, clients are assigned a personal advisor that can provide them with more personalised advice and can aid them if they choose to purchase any of the suggested art. Overall the panel recommended further work on both the company and the manner of presenting, but other than that both panel and audience were interested.



Assetvault was the third company that got the chance to pitch to the panel of critics. They are a company that allows people to register and secure their non-liquid assets through an app on their phone. The primary reason that Assetvault proposes for clients to do so, is from a personal experience of the pains of secession (inheritance) planning for the mass affluent market. Given the international spread of assets in families nowadays, the company proposes to have a central register of all assets from homes to cars to art.  In order to do so, they call on the aid of experts to give rough estimates of the value of the properties and objects, rather than having the clients do this themselves. Similarly, they do not require clients to catalogue all of their assets by themselves. If requested, Assetvault can send a team to do that for them professionally. The pitch was met with outstanding enthusiasm both by the panel as well as the audience.



Following Assetvault was Feral Horses, a company that targets the smaller investors on the art market. Only a few artworks exist that are guaranteed to sell for higher price, and thus provide profit, and most investors lack the capital to buy these. Feral Horses offers a solution, enabling people to buy shares of a certain artwork. Once the artwork is sold in a certain amount of time, the proceeds are divided among the ‘shareholders’. In addition, Feral Horses rents out some of the artworks in their collection, rather than to store it, in order to provide further returns in the meantime. The proceeds of this loan system are too divided among the shareholders. The audience seemed open to the idea, but the panel was a bit more sceptical and thought the pitch needed more work.



The fifth company was Ikonospace, that utilises virtual reality technology. With Ikonospace, curators can build a VR copy of their gallery, which they can then visit and use to build up and experiment with new exhibitions. This saves time as artwork can easily be moved around, but also because exhibitions can be assembled in the gallery while the previous exhibition is still in place. At the same time, it offers curators with a cooperation tool to experience the same gallery from opposite sides of the world. Similarly, artworks that are not present in the gallery can be combined with those that are, to see how they fit together. Even lost or destroyed artwork could, in theory, be put on display in VR exhibitions. Although the program was developed for curators as an alternative for programs such as Google Sketch and paper models, it also provides the public with the opportunity to visit exhibitions that they would not be able to visit physically. Some of the panel members were enthusiastic, others felt it wasn’t quite there yet, but the audience as a whole was positive, which may have had something to do with the VR demonstration of the program preceding the event, which had an exhibition of one of Vastari’s collectors on display!

Smartify, also called the shazam for art or Spotify of art, was last. This app allows users to take a picture of a work of art. The app then uses image recognition to determine the artwork on display and provides the user with background information on the artwork. The information on the artwork is mainly provided with information from Wikipedia and sometimes contributions of curators. While the app is free for users, venues can buy a subscription that provides them with information on visitor engagement such as analytics on audience demographics, visiting patterns, behaviours, trends and accessibility. Although some audience members were afraid that the app would interfere with the experience, most of them were enthusiastic about the idea, and all of the panel members gave a positive recommendation.

Apart from the opportunity to pitch their ideas and get some honest feedback, the morning also provided both companies and audience with new insight into the developments that are currently happening in the art world and the challenges that these new companies face.