Alex Tryon, Founder & CEO, Artsicle: The Netflix of the Art World
Alexis Tryon is the founder and CEO of Artsicle, a site to discover your taste in art and rent original work to enjoy at home. Artsicle has been named one of the "Silicon Alley 100" by Business Insider and called the "Netflix of the Art World" by CBS.
Previously, Alexis worked at American Express in the restaurant group and developed her passion for art at the ICA Philadelphia. Her favorite artists are currently Jock Sturges and Roxy Paine.
LG: What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs starting out in this industry?
Entrepreneurs: Remember its less about the specific idea and much more about your passion for the space. The idea is probably wrong, but your passion will get you through the long days and nights of building your business.
LG: Please tell us how the idea and inspiration for Artsicle sprang to life
AT: Artsicle started in a very personal way – with my own desire to start collecting art. I quickly became frustrated with NYC galleries, who did not take me very seriously as a buyer a few years out of school, and wanted to find a better way. On the other side, I kept meeting artists who were struggling to find customers and knew we could help create a solution. The current business – art rentals – evolved from that initial experience.
LG: What do you find most rewarding yet the most challenging as a co-founder?
AT: Starting a business is a constant rollercoaster – I’ve experienced greater highs and lower lows in the last year than ever before. The most rewarding, and challenging, aspect has been building a team.
I love the creativity and energy they add to the team, but also feel the pressure of having other people who rely on what used to be my little idea for their livelihood.
LG: In the early developments you were “Coffee Shop Testing”. Can you tell us more about it and how it helped craft Artsicle?
AT: One of the first things we did when we had the idea for Artsicle was hit the streets, literally. The first stop was talking to artists, who we quickly found were on board to experiment with us on a journey to find a better way to get their artwork out there. Next was talking to potential customers. Nearly everyday we’d camp out in a local coffee shop, initially asking how people currently purchased art, whether they’d shop online, what was important – and later showing mock-ups and live shots of the original site until we could tell they really got it. And liked it!
LG: As a young women entrepreneur in the art technology space, what would you say is your most challenging (yet rewarding) hurdle to date?
AT: Ignoring what the world has to say and charging forward!
The art world has not been particularly accepting of our idea that everyday people, like you and me, are interested in living with art. I’ve learned to ignore them and trust my gut.
LG: What was the first thought that came to mind when you raised your first funding round in 2011?
AT: We can order boxes! We were on the verge of launching national shipping, with a box design tested and everything lined up with Fedex. But we’d simply run out of money funding it ourselves to be able to put down the cash for a large order of custom boxes.
After that, we got down to business thinking about where we wanted to grow the business and focus our energy to get us to our Series A.
LG: What’s the best advice given to you that you’d like to share amongst our readers?
“Perfect is the enemy of done.” As a startup, you constantly need to keep moving forward and make decisions, even if they later turn out to be the wrong ones.
It’s easy to keep tweaking, keep modeling, keep brainstorming – when you really need to keep acting.
LG: When did your love for contemporary art flourish and what finally brought you to leave American Express to build a need for the art world?
AT: My love for art started young – maybe even in elementary school going to local museums. Until college my heart was with Impressionism and Ancient Greek work – until I started truly learning about contemporary work my freshmen year. After spending a few weeks fervently arguing that it was all junk, I realized I was in love with a Jock Sturges photo. It quickly unfolded from there, taking every contemporary class I could get my hands on, seeing every show in downtown Philly, and making frequent day trips up to NYC.
Leaving Amex was another story entirely. I spent two great years there, learning what it really means to run a business, to always be hiring, and to think about the bottom line. My dream has always been to start something of my own so when the idea for Artsicle started to spark, I knew now was the time to just go for it.
LG: Any words of wisdom to women founders seeking funding for their start ups?
I recommend a dose of what I call “delusional self-confidence”. Tell yourself you can do this, you can build a huge business and truly change the world.
It’s true, you can – you just need to convince yourself first, and then go convince others!
Alexis can be found on Twitter @AlexisTryon
Laura Greb-Anand lives in New York and created Artmeme to empower and educate visual artists by providing real life business tools to enhance job security and advance career growth. For the past seven years, Laura has worked with an array of artists as her passion grew immensely to help visual artists attain the essential business skills needed in order to move forward with their career confidently.
While Laura is not focusing on artists, she is an avid writer and has interviewed an array of founders, mentors, artists and other likeminded individuals. She also loves to write about technology and business events. She is passionate about meeting people and sharing information to help others reach their goals.
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