Malcolm Collins and his fiance Simone are so passionate about online communities and “nerd culture” that he proposed on Reddit through a slideshow of memes — and she said yes.
Now the Internet-famous couple has channeled those passions into building a startup called ArtCorgi, which connects people with up-and-coming digital artists to buy and commission their work.
Of course, the meme-loving duo couldn’t help but put ‘corgi’ in their startup’s name.
“We live in an age where self-branding and self-expression is huge,” Simone told VentureBeat. “Back in the day, families like the Medicis in Renaissance Italy commissioned work depicting them to express their position, personal values, and influence. With the rise of social media and public online identities, we’re seeing this practice slowly rekindle- people are strategically using art and other products to tell others who they are.”
Malcom commissioned 21 pieces of “art” from 18 artists as part of his marriage proposal. He experienced how difficult it was to commission original artwork online, and as a graduate student at Stanford’s business school, saw a business opportunity.
ArtCorgi’s homepage currently features artwork from 45 digital artists. The site is oriented around pop art, meaning illustrations, fandom-based art, anime, and cartoon-style work. Not exactly the stuff of the Renaissance, but the type of art beloved by devotees of digital media, gamers, and nerds.
People browse the site to get a sense of the various artists’ styles and find a sample commission they like. Then they upload reference photos and notes for the artist on what they want to commission to express — colors, mood, clothing, positioning, etc. and the artist will create a customized work of art.
The artist sends a rough sketch of the commission for reviewing, editing, and approval, and the final result will be delivered into a private Dropbox folder, along with a “worldwide, fully-paid, royalty-free, non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-commercial perpetual license” (say that 5 times fast).
From there, patrons can display the art online, order prints, turn the art into cards or canvas, or just about anything else that strikes their fancy.
“We follow a very simple and streamlined commissions process,” Simone said. “We want artists to be paid fairly for their work and not have to compete with lower and lower prices. We handle price research, payment, promotion, and client communication, therefore reducing risk and saving artists time.”
27% of millennials are self-employed and half to two thirds are interested in entrepreneurship. Simone said that supporting one-person businesses and independent professionals is part of ArtCorgi’s mission, as well as giving fan art the “attention” and “respect” it deserves.
The long-term goal is to build a career platform, where freelance artists, writers, coders, and consultants can sell their services, and ArtCorgi will offer tools and benefits such as accounting and insurance.
ArtCorgi has a number of competitors in the art commission space, including Hatch, DeviantArt, Artists&Clients, WhatAPortrait, and UGallery. Simone said that ArtCorgi stands out by focusing on digital art, rather than fine art, and by listing prices up front, which eliminates the need for negotiating.
This startup may seem to be tackling a niche market, but there are a lot of people interested in this type of art, and a lot of money to be made selling art online.
Online art community DeviantArt has over 27.8 million users and over 250 million pieces of uploaded art that generates 2.5 billion page views per month. Furthermore, a report from Deloitte found that “the art world is moving online,” and that at least 71 percent of art collectors have purchased artwork on the Internet.
Like many other industries, Internet marketplaces have created new distribution channels, and thus opportunities, for creators to get their work noticed and sold. The art world is no exception.