He’s Not an Artist But Sold $5m Worth of Art in 2015

Ethan Appleby

In Episode #313 Nathan interviews Ethan Appleby. Ethan wants to get away from a world where everyone has the same Ikea print in their flat. He’s the founder of Vango – a startup that connects aspiring artists with novice art buyers. They’re currently making $1.6 million in revenue and hoping to grow this year. Listen in to hear Nathan and Ethan talk making art accessible, setting up a successful marketplace, and why Ethan’s raised three funding rounds via convertible note.

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Famous 5:

  • Favorite Book? – Zero to One
  • What CEO do you follow? — Stewart Butterfield
  • Favourite online tool? —5None
  • Do you get 8 hours of sleep?— No
  • If you could let your 20 year old self know one thing, what would it be?— To take the step sooner to get into entrepreneurship

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 01:10 – Nathan’s introduction
  • 01:51 – Welcoming Ethan to the show
  • 02:00 – Vango is a marketplace that connects artists and art buyers. It makes money by taking 30% of every transaction
  • 02:50 – “Art is something people are intrigued by, but intimidated by”
  • 03:16 – Before starting Vango, Ethan was a Design Thinking consultant
  • 03:54 – Started in 2013 – first-year revenue was zero
  • 04:23 – As of March 2016, 20,000 sellers have an active profile
  • 05:00 – Targeting new art buyers – around 100,000 buyers on their platform in total
  • 05:45 – “We’re hustling every month to get new sales”
  • 06:35 – Currently have a team of 12
  • 06:44 – Raised around $3 million through 500 Startups
  • 07:10 – All raised via convertible notes
  • 07:55 – Convertible notes let you take funding without worrying about valuation
  • 09:10 – “We like to help people engage with art directly”
  • 09:44 – Total revenue in 2015 was $1.6 million
  • 10:10 – Biggest cost is the team
  • 10:45 – In March 2016, about 800 buyers and 320 sellers
  • 11:25 – Once an artist sells 10 pieces, their likelihood to sell increases
  • 12:18 – The benefit to artists comes from higher traffic
  • 13:30 – Average order value on on Vango is $575
  • 14:20 – Connect with Ethan via email or on twitter
  • 16:05 – The Famous Five

3 Key Points:

  1. Get started. Create your business now.
  2. To get sales, you need to hustle. Keep moving and building momentum
  3. Art is an area where a marketplace to connect buyers and sellers directly has room to take off

Resources Mentioned:

  • Host Gator – The site Nathan uses to buy his domain names and hosting for cheapest price possible.
  • Freshbooks – The site Nathan uses to manage his invoices and accounts.
  • Leadpages  – The drag and drop tool Nathan uses to quickly create his webinar landing pages which convert at 35%+
  • Audible – Nathan uses Audible when he’s driving from Austin to San Antonio (1.5 hour drive) to listen to audio books.
  • Show Notes provided by Mallard Creatives