Twyla, a year-and-a-half-year-old startup that collaborates with artists to create exclusive prints for sale at its site, at prices that range from $1,000 to $5,000, has raised $14 million in new funding led by GV, with participation from earlier investors IVP and Redpoint Ventures. The company has now raised $19 million altogether.
Twyla was cofounded by HomeAway cofounder Brian Sharples and employs 30 people in Austin, Tex., and it’s pitching itself a win for artists and art lovers a like. While it’s making accessible the work of people who’ve shown at top museums and galleries, including LACMA, MoMA, and the Whitney Museum, it says a limited-edition licensing model that it employs should also provide these artists with valuable revenue and exposure to a wider audience.
To make things even easier, the artist chooses a frame for customers, which is included in its price. To make the prints easier to consider in person, the company is beginning to partner with venues like boutique hotels that can act as “showrooms” for its pieces.
Twyla has plenty of competition, starting with 18-year-old Art.com and including younger companies Curioos and Juniqe, among others. We were in touch last night with Sharples’ cofounder and company CEO Matt Randall — who previously cofounded the POP Austin International Art Show — to ask why that isn’t stopping the company.
TC: You started this company with Brian Sharples, who is also its chairman. How did you come together?
MR: I was producing a pop-up art fair I co-founded in Austin and ruminating over bringing the art show to other cities. I serendipitously met Brian at one of the pop-up art fairs. He and his friends, a gallerist and artist, together had an idea around creating an online art company. We realized that we were all thinking the same thing, that our lives are increasingly curated, but the vast majority of people don’t know where to go to buy art or what to purchase. Shortly later, Brian selected me as Twyla’s CEO.
TC: How does Twyla differentiate itself from all the other curated art marketplaces out there?
MR: There’s no one that is doing exactly what Twyla is doing. We are creating the first company that delivers fine art on demand and at scale. We’re also the first company to facilitate the entire process for both artists and customers from beginning to end.
TC: What does that mean? How does this limited-edition licensing model work, for starters?
MR: Twyla scans the artists’ originals at an incredibly high dpi, works with the artist until they are thrilled with the print and then creates an edition from 30 to 90 works. The artist has complete control over the process and the limited edition prints enable artists to gain visibility and income without having to produce additional originals.
TC: Why did you settle on a price band of $1,000 to $5,000?
MR: We believe that’s the sweet spot of the market for new buyers seeking art of extraordinary quality. We share a significant part of the sale price and commission with the artists. We believe our pieces present a great value given the quality of both the artists and the artwork and given that the pieces are priced at a small fraction of the originals. Twyla offers a $30,000 experience at a fraction of the cost to the originals.
TC: How much of each sale does Twyla keep?
MR: We don’t disclose that information, but we do share revenue with our artists, our showroom partners, and in some cases, decorators and designers. I do want to point out that through Twyla artists can make twice as much as they do through a traditional gallery arrangement.
TC: You’ve selected the work of roughly 80 artists to get started. How do new artists who become aware of Twyla get on the platform? Relatedly, how does Twyla scale its curation process?
MR: [We’re launching with] 300 works from 80 artists, who have been hand-selected by our curation team and through word-of-mouth from other artists. These artists are top contemporary artists who have been collected by the most significant museums and galleries around the world, so maintaining a highly curated experience is imperative. We will never be a clearing house for art.
TC: Is there a customer satisfaction guarantee?
MR: We want people to be 100 percent satisfied with their artwork and experience so we offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Buyers can return the piece, no questions asked, at no cost to them. We believe this is a guarantee unlike any other in the art world.
TC: You’ve raised $19 million. Where is it going?
And we’re spending the capital on everything from licensing to manufacturing and distribution to curation. Twyla is quite a complex operation . . . We will be doing some marketing, but we want to deliver such a great product and experience that we primarily grow through word of mouth.