NextView Ventures’ TurningArt Investment Aims to Transform Art Buying Experience

Today TurningArt officially announced its $750K initial round of financing which I led for NextView Ventures and included a “who’s who” list of notable east coast angel investors like Niraj Shah & Steve Conine (Founders of CSN Stores), Thomas Lehrman (co-Founder of Gerson Lerhman Group), and local Boston super-angel Will Herman.   I excited not only about becoming an investor, but also about joining the company’s board to work together with the Founder & CEO Jason Gracilieri to revolutionize how contemporary art is enjoyed in the home and office.

Jason has had the idea for this company for a while: expanding the reach of the perceived inaccessible luxury good of artwork by providing basic education and accessible entry-level price points.  The vision is to capitalize on the opportunity to do for art what has already been done for wine.  So TurningArt has launched a service which empowers people to enjoy art on their own terms.   The service offers a rental subscription of a rotating set of contemporary artwork prints that includes earning credits towards the purchase of original pieces.  Think: “Netflix” for quality art with the option to buy.  The TurningArt site has a great video explaining how it all works.   Given the unique and original service, it’s no surprise that TurningArt has been featured in dozens of media outlets in the past few months like NPR, CBS News, and the Boston Globe.

Yet for us at NextView, our investment isn’t just about the product and market, but rather it’s all about the entrepreneur.  Jason Gracilieri is what we’d call a prototypical “Tom Brady entrepreneur”: he’s seen the playbook as an essential team-member of a successful startup (in this case as Co-Founder of Sconex which was sold to Alloy Media) and is now ready to assume the helm.   I’ve known Jason professionally for nearly a decade now, and so as this idea has developed from germination into a viable endeavor, I’ve watch the determination and passion which has gone into creating this company.

Of course, like any startup there is quite a bit of work to be done.  TurningArt already has well over a hundred emerging & established artists and hundreds of pieces from which a consumer can chose to drop into their rotating queue, but as the service grows so will the selection.  And while the original service is currently squarely aimed at consumers, the company is getting pull from corporations who want to outfit whole office floors with high quality rotating artwork.

The U.S. art market totals $29B annually, yet consumers are stuck between two poles.  Either they buy low-end posters, framed prints, and mass-produced wall-hangings from big box retailers or they venture into galleries uneducated and intimated where they must purchase works for thousands of dollars.  There simply isn’t an in-between way to own unique quality artwork with a purchase process which is easy, accessible, and convenient.   TurningArt directly fits into this wide segment, which excites me both as an investor and as a consumer.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.