Carter Cleveland, CEO of Artsy
Alessandra Henderson, Carter Cleveland, and Stas Chyzhykova of Artsy
Bethina Liu and Bahij Chancey working in the Artsy office space
Fahmina Ahmed, Bethina Liu, Bahij Chancey, and Katherine Gregory
Carter Cleveland, Sahil Yakhmi, Fahmina Ahmed, Bethina Liu, and Bahij Chancey working in the Arty office space
Stanislava Chyzhykova and Alexander Fabry working in the Artsy office space
Artsy bookshelf, comprised of books from team members' individual collections
RECOMMENDED: The coolest NYC companies to work for For many people, the world of Abramovic and Koons can seem overwhelming and elitist, which is why lifelong art enthusiast Carter Cleveland—who developed an appreciation for galleries and museums during childhood trips with his art-writer father—set out to make it more accessible. Since launching in October 2012, his discovery tool, Artsy (artsy.net), has amassed an online collection of more than 50,000 artworks that users can explore, share, discuss and purchase with the help of personalized suggestions.
The idea: When Cleveland decided to search the Web for art to decorate his dorm room at Princeton, he noticed something was missing: “I thought, Why isn’t there a website for all of the world’s art?” He utilized his computer-science background to create a complex system of algorithms that identifies relationships and similarities among international artists and artworks, the way Pandora has done for music.
Securing the funding: In the beginning, Cleveland received thousands of dollars from start-up competitions, as well as generous donations from friends and family. After developing an initial product and team, he approached big investors and advisers, sending cold e-mails and even jumping out in front of them at conferences, a move he calls the “ninja pitch.” His chutzpah paid off: Artsy’s long list of advisers includes tech entrepreneurs and CEOs, as well as such art-industry giants as Larry Gagosian.
Staffing up: Cleveland admits that recruiting is one of a CEO’s hardest jobs. Rather than hire people for specific positions, he focuses on finding individuals who inspire him, believe in his vision and make him excited to come to work every day.
Building the brand and attracting customers: So far, Artsy hasn’t relied on any paid marketing and advertising. Instead, the site’s gained a substantial user base through press alone, thanks in part to the notoriety of the company’s high-profile investors.
Advice: “You can meet the most famous people in the world just by hustling and having a product to show. I’d spend an hour crafting the perfect personal e-mail. You’d be amazed how many people say yes.”—Carter Cleveland, founder and CEO