Of the startup pitches I’ve heard in the past five years, ArtFinder must be the most ambitious yet believable of them all
by Jemima Kiss
Of the startup pitches I’ve heard in the past five years, ArtFinder must be the most ambitious yet believable of them all. Art, the co-founders tell me, is a sector that seems to have defied the rise of consumer internet services and remains almost entirely unexplored. Given that perspective, it’s not surprising that armed with a substantial chunk of funding from venture firms Wellington and Greylock – and a crack team of some of London’s best developers – ArtFinder is preparing to stake out a major chunk of this space for itself.
There’s barely a startup that doesn’t offer a parallel of some part for ArtFinder’s plans. Think of movie details site IMDB, music recommendations service Last.fm, gig tracking site Songkick, online mixture site Muxtape (RIP) and Shazam, the music identification service all as shorthand for some aspect of ArtFinder is trying to do.
First, there’s the IMDb-style database. ArtFinder co-founder Spencer Hyman describes the art sector online as a white space: “It hasn’t been digitised. Nobody has done any of the stuff you’d expect in either a Web 1.0 IMDb way, or in a Web 2.0 way, like Last.fm.” Hyman, who spent three years at Last.fm as chief technology officer, wants to bring his experience of recommendation science to ArtFinder. Unlike last.fm, ArtFinder can’t base its recommendations on tracking or ‘scribbling’ services like iTunes, so has had to create that database of art before it could begin to think about building recommendation tools. Now that database is established, users can begin to note work and artists they like, which means the system can begin to build connections between people’s tastes and ultimately recommend work.
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