Posts from art

Funding Friday: Thirdwing

We went to the theater last night. I think there is nothing like live performances. But theater is expensive and requires work to plan an evening in advance.

So many of us just end up staying at home and streaming something on our TVs.

Thirdwing is the merger of the two and I backed it this morning and am sharing it with all of you.

Otis

One of USV’s newest portfolio companies, Otis, had a coming out party yesterday.

The idea behind Otis is that cultural assets like fine art, rare books and comic books, jewelry and watches, sneakers and skateboards, etc are appreciated by everyone but are only collectible/affordable by wealthy people.

Otis intends to change that by securitizing these cultural assets and selling them off in shares for as little as $25 per share. These fractionalized cultural assets will be shown publicly while they are owned collectively.

You can see how this all works by downloading the Otis mobile apps here.

I did that yesterday and I have already set myself up to try to buy a share of Kehinde Wiley’s Saint Jerome Hearing The Trumpet Of Last Judgement on August 13th.

I’ve also opted to be notified when these assets “drop” so I can purchase a share of them too.

I am not a sneakerhead but for those of you who are this might be of interest to you:

This is just the start of what will hopefully be a highly liquid secondary market for the trading and collecting of shares of cultural assets. The market is starting out highly curated by Otis but that may change over time as things develop.

USV’s focus right now is on backing trusted brands that can open up access to captial, knowledge, and well-being and Otis fits in all three of those categories. We are very excited to be involved in this ambitious effort.

Sofar

Andy wrote about our investment in Sofar yesterday on the USV blog.

That is our practice. We publish our investment rationale on our blog every time we make an investment. It creates a permanent record of why we made the investment. It is interesting to go back and read them five or ten years later, regardless of whether they worked out or not.

Sofar is a company we have been following for seven years. We have been intrigued by this global community that has been building around the themes of meeting others in the real world, a shared love of music, and intimate spaces (often personal homes).

The Sofar community is large and sprawling.

The scale of the Sofar community, to us, is an example of “unspoken” value that Sofar has created for over one million people in 430 cities across 65 countries including London, Paris, New York, Sydney, Bangalore, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, and Seoul. In fact, more people will attend a Sofar in 2019 than will attend Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, and Coachella combined (also, 13 Sofar artists are playing at Coachella this year).

https://www.usv.com/blog/sofar

I just took a look at Sofar to see what events are happening in NYC in the coming weeks:

You can see the Sofars in the coming weeks near you by going here.

Sofar reminds me of our investment in Meetup, which we made twelve years ago. As Scott Heiferman, the founder of Meetup likes to say “use the internet to get off the internet.”

Sofar adds the element of music, performance, and intimate spaces. Andy describes all of this as the “Sofar container”:

Each Sofar has a few known constraints that make the show feel familiar: it will be in a unique space where you wouldn’t expect to see live music, an MC with a loose script will encourage you to get to know your neighbors, three performers will each play three to four songs, the address will only be revealed a day before the show, and the show will end early, by around 10:30 pm. This is what we call “the Sofar container”. The natural outcomes of the container are less tangible; for example, you will hear great music, you will feel safe and comfortable, you might make a new friend or you can attend solo, you won’t be judged. By bringing people together and creating spaces where music matters, Sofar broadens access to well-being – a core part of our investment thesis.
The beauty of creating a simple container, with known constraints, is that what goes into the container is dynamic. You don’t know who the artists are, who you’ll be sitting next to or what the venue will be like, but we believe that the essence of Sofar lies in trusting the container.

https://www.usv.com/blog/sofar

At USV, we are drawn to bottom-up networks instead of top-down centralized services; Etsy not Amazon, SoundCloud not Spotify, Wattpad not Kindle, Crypto not Fiat, and now Sofar not LiveNation.

I am excited that we finally found our way into the inside of this company/movement/experience. It feels so USV to me.

Funding Friday: Salvage Swings

There is a lot to like about this project which I backed this morning and is ending tomorrow.

1/ They use cross laminated timber (CLT), which is a wood product that is getting a lot of adoption now. The Gotham Gal and I are building two CLT buildings in Brooklyn and we are big fans of CLT.

2/ They are using salvaged wood to make their CLT.

3/ This is public art, which is another thing I love.

4/ Swings are awesome. At age 57, I will still sit on a swing and go for it.

5/ This is part of FigmentNYC, a public art festival in NYC this summer.

So with all of that lead-in, here is Salvage Swings. You can back it here.

Funding Friday: Half-Light

Earlier this week, I backed this project from an artist in Iran.

The project is now over. It was funded with almost $10,000. So her photography book will be made and shared with the world.

It is too bad that I didn’t share this with all of you while the project was live so you could back it as I did.

But this project exhibits all of the things that makes Kickstarter so important to me.

It is from the heart, it is art, it is full of meaning, it is from a person halfway around the world that I don’t know and probably will never know.

And it moved me.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Two hundred and fifty years ago, in 1768, The Royal Academy in London decided to hold an annual exhibition of “paintings, sculpture, and design” that would be “open to all artists of distinguished merit” and so began the summer exhibition.

We’ve been attending the summer exhibition on and off for something like ten years and I really love it. We went today, which is the 250th annual event.

As you can see in the photo above, which is from maybe 150 years ago, they pack the walls with art. You can barely see the walls there is so much art on them.

But the thing I love most is the way they hang an unknown twenty-year-old painter next to a Hockney. It really speaks to me and represents an egalitarian approach that is rare in the art world and the worlds beyond art.

You can buy many of the works at the summer exhibition and we have done that a few times over the years. Not today, as many of the works we liked had been sold or were not for sale. But I like that it is a place you can collect and many of the works are not particularly expensive.

If you live in London or the UK, you have likely gone. If not, you should. And if you are not from the UK but find yourself in London this summer, you should go.

Video Of The Week: Kevin Slavin on “Getting Brilliant People to Surprise Themselves”

There is a new cultural institution being built in NYC right now, the first major new cultural institution built in NYC in quite a while. It is called The Shed and its mission is to be “The first arts center designed to commission, produce, and present all types of performing arts, visual arts, and popular culture.”

I have been fortunate to have had a ground floor seat to watch this come together and observe the team led by the Chairman Dan Doctoroff and CEO Alex Poots make something that is equally ambitious and futuristic.

The CTO of The Shed is Kevin Slavin, who is well known to folks in the NYC tech community. He’s an entrepreneur, academic, and technologist.

In this video, made by Y Combinator, Kevin talks about how to get “brilliant people to surprise themselves” which is something Kevin and The Shed are going to have to do frequently in order to live up to their mission.