ARTtwo50: The Story Behind the Innovative New iPad App

Recently featured on the App Store as the #1 “New and Noteworthy” app, the business-side of ARTtwo50 proves to be quite a work of art-itself with its subjects deeply immersed in a much larger story filled with connected dots and beautiful strokes of genius. Though they pride themselves on the concept of accessible, original art this fun, eclectic team cannot rid its office of one poster – the iconic Pink Floyd poster, Back Catalogue. This clever group of guys have made it easy to discover original art from the artist to your door for $250 with free shipping!

Meet the Makers: An Interview with Patrick Coughlin, Ethan Appleby, Win Raguini, and Brandon Flayler

Us: How was ARTtwo50 born?

Them: The ARTtwo50 story begins in the desert of the United Arab Emirates. Ethan was working as a consultant in the Middle East and he traveled up to Dubai to support a friend who was participating in a Start-Up Weekend. But, at the last minute, his friend chickened out and he asked Ethan to take his spot. With just minutes to come up with a pitch, Ethan picked a topic that was at the forefront of his mind at the moment, but also very close to his heart: Art.

He had just moved all his furniture into a new apartment, but the walls were strikingly empty and he felt like it was time to grow-up from his old college posters, but he didn’t know where to start. Galleries seemed so stuffy and expensive and he didn’t want the same old IKEA prints that everybody else had. It seemed so wrong to him that it was so hard to find affordable, original art, because with an immediate family full of artists he was aware of how hard it was for emerging artists to reach potential buyers.

So he decided as he walked onto the stage to pitch a challenge rather than an idea to the crowd – How can we make original art more accessible to help emerging artists and to make the world a more artful place? By the end of the weekend, he had a first prize trophy for the most interesting new concept and the foundation for what would grow into ARTtwo50.

Now, he just needed to put together a team…Ethan, 29, has a background in design thinking, the innovation philosophy preached by the Plasso Institute for Design at Stanford University – and one of the tenets of design thinking is a premium on the diversity in your team. So, he called in friends and friends of friends to help him set up some meetings with potential co-founders in DC, NY, and SF. In September 2012, the team started to come together – and it’s a wacky crew.

Patrick Coughlin – 29 – Former counterterrorism analyst from Kansas City, Patrick met Ethan 5 years ago in Abu Dhabi and they became fast friends. Patrick had recently traded the dusty streets of Afghanistan and the Middle East for the palm trees of Silicon Valley to pursue an MBA at Stanford. He is responsible for ARTtwo50’s operations and outreach and while he can neither confirm nor deny, rumor has it that he once sold sand to the Saudis.

Patrick’s connection to art: Patrick’s mom, a tour guide at the KC Nelson Arts Museum was also the ‘Art Lady’ at his school St. Peter’s Parish in Kansas City. But, much to his mom’s relatively well-hid disappointment, his personal art projects growing up were not even fridge-worthy.

Brandon – 28 – UX / UI specialist from Ohio, Brandon met Ethan at a chance meeting when they both happened to be in SF. A former UX design teacher at the Ohio University, Brandon was tired of watching his peers and students go on to found amazing companies (one of his students started while in Brandon’s class), and he was ready for a new adventure. After meeting with Ethan, he decided to move to SF and use his UX/UI talents to help bring the ARTtwo50 idea to life.

Brandon’s connection to art: Brandon is the most artistic by far out of all of us and his wife Colleen is an artist and an art teacher, and she is a saint who puts up with all our wackiness at all hours of the day.

Win Raguini aka sfkaos – 33 – A navy brat from Virginia Beach, Win met Ethan back in DC when they were both working at Deloitte Consulting. Win has been in SF the longest and spent the last 8 years building world class medical and health apps. Win coded his first program (a skate boarding game) at age 9 after reading an article in the back of a Boys Life in the dentist office. Win is ARTtwo50’s Chief Hacker and was once called the ‘Best Dressed Hacker in SF’ in a Forbes article. He also happens to be a radical dancer. You ever seen an iOS and Ruby on Rails developer whiz breakdancing in a full suit? We have. This isn’t it and its a little old – but you get the idea

Win’s connection to art: Win wants to get into the art world. As an engineer by trade, Win is fascinated by the art world, because it is so unstructured…and we’re pretty sure he’s dated some artists.

It’s hard to imagine how we could be any more different, but we all share one thing: a serious passion for tackling really big challenges – like changing the way the world buys and sells art.

Us: What’s the first piece of art that each of you personally bought with ARTtwo50 app?

Them: Well, most recently – Ethan did just recently buy a massive, very textured piece titled Liberation by Michael Bond. But, we don’t want to show favorites too much with our artists. All of our art is so amazing and we really have to struggle to not sample too much of our own product!

Us: Name the art-style that best describes each of the founding members of ARTtwo50:

Ethan – Abstract Expressionism As a design-thinking guy, Ethan motivates from a place of empathy and emotion.

Win – Realism Win’s a big thinker, but as an engineer, he relishes in the beauty of precision.

Brandon – Pop Art Brandon has a warhol-esque way of making simple, everyday things engaging and fascinating.

Patrick – Surrealism As the alleged ‘business guy’, Patrick likes to straddle the line between big wacky dreams and cold hard reality.

Us: How many artists are currently part of your network?

Them: Last month, we launched with about 500 artists from all over the country, and a diverse mix – from students at top art institutes to retired ‘Sunday painters’ who have been creating for decades. And, we’re adding new artists everyday!

Us: If an artist wanted to be considered for your app, what is the process?

Them: One of the things that we think is backward in the art world is the whole centralization of power and control in the hands of a few gallery owners, who get to be the arbiters of ‘beauty’ and decide who gets to ‘make it’ as an artist. We don’t want to be in the business of deciding what is beautiful. We see all kinds of art and it’s impossible not to have opinions – and even strong ones – that’s the amazing thing about art is that it evokes emotions and debate. But, as Win likes to say – if there is somebody out there who is crazy enough to paint it, there is probably somebody out there who is crazy enough to really want it hanging in their living room’.

So, if you were an artist and you wanted to come play at ARTtwo50, we are never going to tell you ‘no’. We will require that you are meticulous in your upload process – that means uploading very high quality and professional images of your artwork and including a well-thought-out piece descriptions and artist bio. We find that this alone is actually a pretty interesting threshold and helps ensure that those artists who show their work on ARTtwo50 are professional, thoughtful, and committed creators.

Us: Do you have any exciting upcoming events, news, etc. to share with us?

Them: We just launched our most radical update yet – now, on the app, you can easily see all the artwork in an artists portfolio by scrolling vertically on a single piece as it hangs virtually on your wall. This puts not only every artists’ portfolio right at your fingertips, but also expands the artwork you see by about 10x.

But, we’re not stopping there, in the coming weeks, we will launch a totally re-designed interface that gives you even more information about each piece and each artist in a really simple way. We always want the art in your space to be the star, but we’re also always thinking about creative ways to give you access to more and more information.

Banksy or Picasso? Picasso. Our motto is Be Original. That guy was original in everything he did.

_____________is the new black. Twerking.

Women tend to purchase: Abstract, bright colors.

Men tend to purchase: Bolder, darker composition – landscapes or human study pieces.

Currently our most popular artist is: Chris Maestri – she sold 4 pieces on ARTtwo50 in as many weeks since our launch.

Snap a photo of your home decor: As we develop community, we want to see how you live or play at Bay Meadows. Share your fun lifestyle photos with our community by using #baymeadowslife. You could WIN $50 or our Grand Prize of $500 at the end of 2014 and be featured in a live pop-up gallery exhibit event.

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