New York City art world startup Art.sy, which launched at our first TechCrunch Disrupt and won the Rookie Award, is raising $1.25 million from a very impressive group of super angels on both coasts.
The investors include Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Wendi Murdoch (wife of News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch), Jack Dorsey (Twitter, Square), VC Jim Breyer, art “czarina” Dasha Zhukova, Founder Collective, Keith Rabois (Square, Slide, PayPal), David Tisch, Charlie Cheever (Quora, Facebook), Dave Morin (Path, Facebook), and David Kidder (Clickable). The round was led by Josh Kushner through Thrive Capital. Some of these names were reported earlier by Business Insider, but not the amount.
Art.sy previously raised about $160,000 in seed funding. After launching at Disrupt, 24-year-old founder Carter Cleveland decided to take the site completely private again while he shifted focus from a general-interest art-buying site to one more focussed on high-end art dealers and collectors. He signed up powerful New York city art dealer Larry Gagosian as an advisor and is negotiating with other world-class galleries to highlight their artists on Art.sy.
Cleveland is also scrapping a lot of the original features originally targeted at a younger audience, and instead trying to make it more of an art discovery tool for wealthy, older collectors. The new capital will go towards hiring engineers to help build out the startup’s “Art Genome” algorithm, which is modeled on Pandora’s Music Genome, except for fine art. The Art Genome algorithm breaks down artworks and artists into 170 different dimensions, and combines them into resultant vectors to help people find clusters of art similar to other works they might like. The core technology is about making better art recommendations and making it easier to discover art.
It is an ambitious project with many moving parts, but the art world definitely needs help becoming more Web-friendly. Art.sy is now planning open up publicly in the spring of 2011.