Alexis Tryon and Scott Carleton founded Artsicle, a monthly art rental startup, last year.Carleton left his engineering job last August, taught himself the basics of coding, and created a prototype. Tryon left American Express in November to join him and the pair bootstrapped for a year out of DogPatch Labs in New York City.
Artsicle works with local artists and lets users rent their work for $25-65 per month. Art is delivered to a user’s home within two weeks. If a user chooses to buy it later, the rental fees come out of the total cost of the piece. Artsicle’s artists sell their work for as low as $200 and as high as $2,000.
All of the art stays with the artist until it is requested by an Artsicle user. Then the Artsicle team picks up the piece, has it insured, and pays to have it safely delivered to the renter.
Right now all of Artsicle’s artists are based in New York, but Tryon and Carleton intend to open up the playing field. They found that difficult to do on a bootstrapped budget though.
They realised they needed to raise capital in order to accelerate the business. With the help of AngelList, Artiscle raised a $390,000 seed round from 500 Startups, Quotidian Ventures, Great Oaks Ventures, PKS Capital, and angel investors Mike Edwards, Anton Levy, Idan Cohen, Ken Landis and Daniel Eskapa.
“You want to grow your business, but sometimes you have to look at your business and realise you’re handicapping yourself,” Tryon says of the decision to raise a seed round. “You get to the point where you realise you’re sufficiently holding back the business by not getting funding. We couldn’t afford to buy boxes and ship art nationally!”
With the help of additional cash, Carleton and Tryon launched a new version of the site. Since then, Tryon says they get 500-1,000 new users per week and that 20% of weekly unique visitors create new Artsicle accounts. Most people are either going to Artsicle.com directly or they are searching for it.
Artsicle has also received some great press. It was recently featured in Gwneyth Paltrow’s newsletter (her interior designer is an Artsicle member) and a flood of people came to the site.
Tryon says Artsicle will also use its seed financing to hire two new people. Artsicle will be hiring a developer to work with Carleton and a full-time person to create more artist partnerships.