Jonie Oostveen was having trouble finding the perfect piece of art to decorate his new apartment. For many people, they may settle for substandard or give up and enjoy a blank wall.
Not Oostveen. This became a reason to start a company, and ARTO was born.
After searching through different sites and browsing through hundreds of art works, he wished that there were an app to help art aficionados find the right piece according to their taste and preference.
Having had worked in the mobile tech industry for 12 years, the former business development at Spotify decided he would be the one to build that platform.
ARTO combined Spotify’s ability to detect users’ preference using an algorithm and Tinder’s swiping functionality. The platform is able to discover users’ taste by letting them swipe art images to the right and left, to indicate if they like the piece or not.
The use of artificial intelligence is what setting it apart from similar platform such as The Artling, allowing art fans of all backgrounds and expertise to find the right art work without having to search them manually.
According to Oostveen’s explanation, the more one uses the app, the better it will learn the user’s art tastes.
“We know it’s difficult to describe your own art taste or the particular type of painting you’re seeking, and I knew there had to be a better way,” Oostveen says, also adding that going to the gallery can be an intimidating experience for beginners.
“I thought about how to make this easier and came up with ARTO, which provides personal recommended artworks based on what you like, instead of you having to actively search for it.”
Images on the ARTO platform can also be streamed to Apple TV and Chromecast, turning the TV screen into a digital canvas. The startup is also working on adding Samsung Smart TV and Amazon Fire TV to this feature this year.
While the direct purchase feature is currently a work-in-progress, ARTO enables users to contact the artists or art galleries if they are interested in purchasing a piece.
“With our art recommendation engine we can match supply and demand, much like digital advertising,” Oostveen explains.
The startup partners with various galleries, museums, and art events in Singapore. Their list of partners includes notable names such as the Singapore Art Museum; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; and the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam.
At the recent Singapore Art Week, ARTO users were given a sneak-peek at the art before actually going to the show. The startup claimed that the partnership was able to bring in “a good bump” in new users and usage. It is also a partner of the Affordable Art Fair and Singapore’s flagship art fair, Art Stage.
Though ARTO aims to target world-wide audiences with its platform, the startup focusses its marketing in Singapore and the Netherlands, which also happens to be Oostveen’s home country.
A taste of high art
According to the 2015 Hiscox Online Art report, the worldwide art market is worth US$57 billion, with online art sales rising 24 per cent from the previous year to US$3.27 billion. This number is expected to grow to US$10 billion in the next four years.
What is exactly the market potential for the ARTO app, especially in Singapore?
Oostveen explained that the National Art Council had recently conducted a survey which revealed “the highest level of art interest” in a decade.
Seventy-eight per cent of the population acknowledge that arts and culture help to “foster a sense of belonging, community and identity, as well as inspire creativity and innovation”; this figure has risen 15 per cent compared to last survey’s result in 2013.
“So art interest is growing. We want people to buy original art instead of going to the IKEA and buy a print there,” he stresses.
ARTO is run by Oostveen and a team of four developers. The startup is also working together with freelance art experts for curation and selection.
Soft-launched in July 2016, ARTO raised a “six digit” funding from an angel investor in December 2015.
With user acquisition as the main focus for this year, the startup is planning to secure more partnerships with galleries, museums and events. It also will launch new features and eventually start discussing about new investment rounds.
Image Credit: ARTO