William Tunstall-Pedoe, the founder of a voice recognition app that was acquired by Amazon and used to develop the Amazon Echo device, has invested in a London-based art startup called Artfinder.
Tunstall-Pedoe, the founder of Evi Technologies, which later became Amazon Alexa, has been investing in artificial intelligence startups ever since he departed Amazon in February. With his latest investment, he’s combining two of his biggest passions: technology and art.
Founded by Swedish entrepreneur Jonas Almgren in March 2013, Artfinder describes itself as an online art marketplace that helps people to find art spanning a variety of tastes, budgets, and styles. Artfinder claims to have 500,000 subscribers worldwide, with 8,500 artists selling their works on the platform.
Artfinder announced the investment on Wednesday, saying that it has raised $2.2 million (£1.8 million) from Tunstall-Pedoe and venture capital firm Oxford Capital.
“I love art and was very impressed with the Artfinder team and what they have built,” said Tunstall-Pedoe in a statement. “The company is making great progress with its platform that links artists with art fanatics like myself interested in buying original works,” added Tunstall-Pedoe, who owns a piece of art that was designed by an AI called AARON. “In investing I was particularly interested in how advanced technology could accelerate the significant growth that Artfinder is already seeing.”
Artfinder said it plans to use the funding to accelerate its US growth, which will include a new office in Miami, Florida, set to open in February 2017.
The company said the money will also be used to extend its visual search technology with machine learning capabilities. The visual search technology is designed to help users to quickly and easily find what they like when they can’t express it with words.
Jonas Almgren, CEO of Artfinder, said in a statement: “Oxford and Cambridge are known the world over as being the UK’s leading centres for technology, and so it is with delight that we welcome both Oxford Capital, which has offices in London as well as Oxford, and Cambridge-based William Tunstall-Pedoe to join us, alongside other Cambridge Angels who are repeat investors.
“The potential for growth in marketplaces for handmade goods in specific verticals such as art is huge – this is a mass market proposition, and we’re very clear about our mission to get away from ‘the art world — something we are realising both through our new brand and our tech focus. Our mission is to create a world where art works. Where everyone owns originals and independent artists can make a living doing what they love. This new investment is an important step forward in rolling that mission out globally.”