September 20th, 2012 Lean Founders Studio with Artsicle

On September 20th, OLC attended the Lean Founders Studio discussion featuring Artsicle.  Artsicle, co-founded by Alex Tryon and Scott Carleton, started with Alex trying to buy art from galleries. She found herself getting the run-around from them and so, she decided that she had enough. The idea didn't kick into full force until she and Scott—after talking to a friend who lamented that Kickstarter was a poor platform for artists—realized that this was a great way to enter the art market.

Artsicle is a platform for artists to showcase their work. It allows the artists to reach out to people all around the continental United States and presents their artwork in a user-friendly format. The original site was developed as an art store. Alex and Scott bought a template online and used it as their nascent storefront and worked on it as they went on figuring out logistics for Artsicle. Alex did the initial design on PowerPoint while she was at her day job at American Express. Both Alex and Scott believed that their basic e-commerce site would lead to something big—and it did, just not as quickly as they had believed it to happen.

"We don't care about people who care about art," Scott said. The reason behind his statement is that people who do care can afford the outrageous prices of the art world. Alex and Scott went to describe the "high-end art" scene in Miami and how expensive everything was. At Miami, the two promoted their site with flyers and hoped that the exposure would help increase traffic and sales. It didn't.

The initial Artsicle website was buggy and the shopping cart didn't work. They also realized that "everyone is terrified of buying art." It wasn't the price, nor was it that the art was online. When this revelation was reached, Alex and Scott felt exhausted and let down. However, they soon reached a solution: a Netflix-type of art store; that is, art rentals. The co-founders worked to change their website around and contacted Mashable. When the story went live around 2am, the traffic bogged the server and almost shut the site down. "Everything that could've gone wrong, went wrong," the co-founders said and laughed. "The site was so slow and people complained about everything. The only thing we did right was a live chat service. We sat there for 48 hours answering questions," Alex said. The Mashable exposure, however, did not net them the sales that they were expecting. "Press does not equate to sales," Scott said. "Tech press doesn't equal sales. Nothing really drove sign-ups." Artsicle had a Gilt-like sign-up, but it was dropped within 48 hours due to the amount of complaints received. "Consumer press drives higher sign-ups," Alex said. "Tech press drives traffic."

Artsicle originally dealt with only New York-based customers (they now ship via FedEx around the United States). They revealed that the demographic that rented the most were bachelors. The best-selling paintings were the largest paintings because at $50 per month, users wanted the biggest painting. Alex and Scott chose to put nothing too intimidating on the website and dedicated their summer to recruiting investors.

Artsicle's philosophy connects individuals with emerging artists. At art rentals ranging from $25 to $60 a month, any interested parties will be able to afford the service—even corporations! Artsicle's plan is to curate art, not become tastemakers. They're not interested in galleries or museums. Artsicle wants to bring art to your door, online, for a fair price. Visit them at