Online art community deviantART is announcing that it has received a strategic investment from software company Autodesk.
The financial terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but deviantART co-founder and CEO Angelo Sotira told me this makes Autodesk his company’s largest investor. Autodesk’s vice president of consumer products, Samir Hanna, will be joining the deviantART board of directors, but Sotira also said the deal doesn’t affect “control of the organization” (in other words, deviantART remains a founder-controlled company).
deviantART was founded in 2000, which wasn’t exactly a great time for startups looking to raise funding. Sotira said the company “had to get creative from the very early days,” and it didn’t end up raising a full outside round until 2007. He also noted that deviantART’s outside funding has come entirely from strategic investors: “That’s not a strategy, it just made the most sense.”
When asked about how Autodesk and deviantART might start working together, both Sotira and Hanna didn’t offer any specific plans, pointing instead to their shared mission of serving artists – deviantART with its community, Autodesk with software like Pixlr.
As the name suggests, deviantART isn’t a stuffy art community; the site showcases a pretty broad range of digital art, traditional art, photography, and more, sometimes wholly original, sometimes inspired by existing media properties. Sotira said the average user is under 24 years old, and Hanna described the site as “the coolest place for artists to show off and learn from each other.”
But what is Autodesk hoping to get out of the deal? “Sometimes what you get out of an investment or a partnership doesn’t have to be very tangible,” Hanna said, adding that what he really wants is to see the deviantART community grow and become more engaged. “If that happens, well, we have all sorts of tools that artists use. If they choose to use our tools, that’s great, but that is not something that we would be pushing for.”
As for how deviantART plans to spend the money, Sotira said it will allow the company to expand efforts such as “bringing the deviantART experience and full capability to mobile.” At the same time, he said the vision will remain the same: “This is all about making deviantART more devious, more deviantART.”
deviantART says it now has 27.8 million “deviants” (i.e. users) who have created 253 million “deviations.” It receives 2.5 billion pageviews each month, with 80,000 pieces of art submitted daily.