It’s time for a Luxury Web that Sells Aspiration at $$$
I am speaking at the 2nd Venture Capital in Emerging Markets this 17th April in Instanbul. Organised by Golden Horn Ventures, I come across one of their portfolio companies, BeFunky, which TechCrunch already covered this past June 2008 and which got awarded a TechCrunch40 as well.
BeFunky lives in the realm of self-publish, self-create world of Moo, Bubok, and other services within the online creative industries. Identity-wise, BeFunky can also create avatars, which would put them in the WeeWorld sphere. As you can see, I refuse to name other than European startups. This is purposefully.
How can one monetise Art? What’s the real value of a work of Art that is collected or hangs from one’s walls at home? Time and time again, for example in this excellent post by Chris Anderson on free business models online, we try to put some financial pricetags to emotional products, let alone online models that indeed have a chargeable nature in the offline world, like newspapers. But what to do in the creative industries, in a world where the theory of the length of a piece of string is what rules?
My own formula, which derives from curating art and working with art galleries many moons ago, is based on the scarcity of the artist output. The more the creation gets close to a print model as opposed to a unique piece, the cheaper the pricetag. But if the piece in question presents elements of hardship of access, ie. the artist is dead, or the prints collection has a limited edition, then this rises the monetary stakes.
How would I curate BeFunky? I would create limited editions and put a pricetag to each print. Then sell the edition auction-style: as people buy the prints, the pricetag per print increases. Same as in concert tickets: the cheap and cheerful sell first, then come the extorsionate. Ask anyone in London about the Michael Jackson’s July 2009 concerts sale. When the edition is sold entirely, put it to rest and do the same with the next.
What other elements help to sell art? Celebrity endorsement has helped the fashion industry enormously. Imagine, the number of mini-celebs on Twitter and other networks who pride themselves on their cartoon-like avatars, many of them CEOs of the coolest Internet companies. How many of their fans would like their limited edition avatar to be just like theirs? In a world where music artists turn their fans into fashion victims, why not translate this model over here? Look at Qik and Ashton Kutchner.
A fashion house creates a Haute Couture collection and a prêt-a-porter collection which also comes along the runways but is infinitely more affordable and is what Net-a-Porter.com sells to affluent women. Haute-Couture are unique pieces, very limited per size and at pricetags of between several thousands of dollars or more per item. Can we have Haute-Couture digital art for personal use? Because there is a Prada and a Burberry Prorsum (all pret-a-porter) there are a Zara and a TopShop. Let’s create the two models online. Great volume at low cost comes after there is an iconic element (Prada) that is wanted by the masses but afforded by the few. But it all starts with the expensive one.
I posted last week on Dopplr and its similitude to the luxury world. My take on this is the same: that a vertical that services those who want to be and feel different, enjoying a superior quality, do pay, do engage, are loyal. Erik Weichmaster only wants to grow A Small World from the existing 500k members to a future just 2 million worldwide.
The trend is here: if you have a service that truly delivers unprecedented quality, and BeFunky is definitely here, think in these terms and start valuing your product not as a high volume commodity but as something that is worth paying for. Or if you attract the people in the know, the mini-celebs, get the sponsoring from brands that want to connect to them.