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There are a number of startups in New York trying to coax the fine-art world out of its exclusive galleries into the bustling world of e-commerce.
The newest is Paddle8, a one-year-old Silicon Alley startup that raised $4 million from Mousse Partners, a private investment firm specializing in luxury goods, and Founder Collective, which funds tech startups.
“It’s a combined focus from our investors that will help us break down the barriers to the world of fine art and build up the technology to support our backend,” said Paddle 8 co-founder Alexander Gilkes in an interview with VentureBeat.
Paddle8 is seeing about 100,000 views a day on its offerings of around 2,000 hand-picked high net-worth art collectors. “Increasingly art buyers are a nomadic, global group that can be difficult for museums and galleries to track,” said Paddle8 co-founder Aditya Julka. “We want to be the platform that helps them feel comfortable online and streamlines the complex process of purchasing, insuring and shipping fine art.”
So far, Paddle8 has formed partnerships with big names such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Gagosian gallery. It worked with art sellers for the recent NADA fair, helping them to move pieces online before the event even got underway. Paddle8 collected a four percent commission on works it sold for the NADA fair, and takes a cut in the “low double digits” for items it sells when users browse its site.
“The art world definitely throws up some barriers when it comes to access, especially online,” Gilkes noted. “We’re very focused on not trying to change their modus operandi, but offering them value through our technology and making them feel comfortable with offering a digital preview of their works.”
That makes Paddle8 less of an existential threat to the curatorial class than New York’s Art.sy, which has generated significant buzz around its attempt to create a Pandora for fine art that learns users taste and recommends works accordingly. “Our customers can get instant insurance, they can get professional fine art shipping, these are things that have never happened before,” Gilkes explained. It’s a focus on serving the traditional players, not disrupting them.
Founder Collective’s David Frankel, who will be joining the board of Paddle8, agrees: “We were impressed with the traction and revenue Paddle8 was able to generate with very little capital. There are a lot of great plays out there around disruptive technology, but this is very much an investment in entrepreneurship.”