August 27, 2015
It’s a simple, but poignant statement from Kollecto‘s founder Tara Reed:
“You don’t have to be rich to collect art.”
She’s carried that philosophy with her since starting Kollecto up in Detroit as a way for people to buy art for their homes. It all started when she personally wanted to buy something for her home but found the whole process overwhelming and a bit intimidating.
Reed learned she wasn’t alone though. As she says, at least 70 percent of the population has never bought a single piece of art before, and 20 percent think that buying art is more intimidating than buying a car or a home.
To that end she built the platform out as a matchmaking site for art collectors, both new and seasoned. The platform learns a user’s particular tastes before being paired with a professional art advisor. The back end of the platform then hunts the internet, from exclusive London galleries to Instagram, for art that matches specifications.
“The Kollecto experience feels like walking into your own personal online art gallery, without the pressure to buy,” says Reed.
Further, Reed built the entire app without a single line of code, instead opting for off the shelf platforms like Typeform, Zapier, and Intercom. Her innovative spirit landed her in batch 13 of 500 Startups, which just demoed on August 11. We were able to wrangle an interview with Reed to talk about the founding precepts behind Kollecto and her journey to date.
Tech.Co: What made you take the leap to start Kollecto instead of pursuing a career at a company?
Tara Reed: Kollecto started as my side-project while working at Microsoft. “Successful people start before they’re ready.” That’s my favourite quote from Richard Branson. I recited it to myself a lot while taking my side project full time.
I personally pulled the trigger when I had enough emotional support from peers and mentors. At the time, I was going through Orbital Boot Camp, a 12 week program designed to help people launch their projects. I was surrounded by a community of people who were also trying to decide the next steps for their project. That program gave me a lot of confidence in my company and myself, and most importantly, it provided the support network I needed to jump all in and give up my day job. So for me, positive peer pressure was the key that made me take the leap.
I’m also a young art collector myself, and it took me a really long time to figure out how to navigate the art world. I had to go in person to galleries and schmooze with the owners, or scroll endlessly online until I found something I liked. The experience was completely misaligned with the way I discover any other type of art: I get recommendations from Spotify when I wanted to hear music, I get recommendations from Neflix when I want to watch a good indie film, and I get recommendations from StitchFix when I need fashion inspiration. But there was no where to get recommendations for art. So I felt like there was a real need for what I was building with Kollecto- a recommendation service for affordable artwork.
Tech.Co: What has been the biggest challenge so far in your journey with Kollecto?
Reed: The biggest challenge is having to educate every one of our users about art. Most of Kollecto’s users are young professionals who haven’t bought much art before. They like the idea of having impressive conversation-starters on their walls, but when they come to us, they’re usually a little intimidated by art.
There was a study done recently showing that 20 percent of people think buying art is more intimidating than buying real estate- which is crazy because you can get great art for $200. Compare that to the price of a house. They’re not even in the same ballpark. I often think of Kollecto as Tinder for art: we show you art, based on your preferences and budget. You get to rate each piece and we use your feedback to find artwork matching your taste.
But Tinder’s business is very different because they don’t have to do much education on ‘how to date’. With Kollecto, we have to spend a lot of time teaching people on ‘how to buy art’. Our users need to understand how art gets priced, what the difference is between a print & a poster, and how to describe their tastes. Teaching people about art is fun, but it’s also our biggest challenge. We tackle it by giving our users access to their own human art advisor to help along the way!
Tech.Co: What are your next plans for Kollecto and your future as an entrepreneur?
Reed: We just graduated from 500 Startup’s accelerator in Silicon Valley, but for us, it was really important to return to our Detroit headquarters after the program. I’m not originally from Detroit, but I really love what the city is doing to rebuild itself. And nothing changes unless people stay & build their companies here. So, I’m excited to be back in Detroit. We’re talking to investors who are interested in helping us build an art startup in Detroit and I’ll be growing the team here.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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