Our Investment in Arta

Installation of “Iroquois” by Mark di Suvero. Photo Gregory Benson © 2007 for the Association for Public Art.

Complex shipping is complex. Moving a large piece of fine art, for example, can take multiple days and require a team of expert riggers, two cranes, and a cherry picker. Handling the first and last mile are particularly difficult and finding and engaging the right company (hint: it’s not FedEx) has always been a slow, inefficient process.

This is an extreme case of course, but shipping almost any high-value item ($10k+, so think fine art, jewelry, antiques, etc) is a bit of a nightmare and has always involved very high communication overhead.

The big shipping companies don’t want to handle these items and typically will cap their liability at $1,000, regardless of declared value. Customers therefore turn to a network of hundreds of small, high-touch shipping houses who are expert in handling such shipments, but tend to have telephone-driven, offline processes, and frustratingly slow lead times to price and coordinate a shipment.

We werent necessarily thinking about this problem when we met Adam Fields, the founder of Arta (a reference to the Greek city of the same name, an early maritime power). Arta handles the first and last mile, their marketplace for shipping high-value items streamlines the communication process and creates an efficient end-to-end workflow for shipping.

From SFMOMA Mark Di Suvero Sculpture Installation Time Lapse by alex pitt https://vimeo.com/70135759

We were intrigued by the problem he was solving but were initially skeptical about how many people experienced it (see above gif). As we learned more about the market and better understood Adam’s vision for taking a process improvement targeted at fine art shipping and using it as an initial lever to reorganize first and last mile shipping for any high-value item, we saw how it could be transformative and knew we wanted to be part of this company (but honestly Adam, you had me at “maritime”).

Adam has worked at the intersection of art and tech for almost 10 years, most recently as a VP at Artspace, and he and his team bring deep collective experience to bear. As they expand Arta’s service to cover adjancent areas (antiques, furniture, and jewelry among others), it’s exciting to see their customers who were initially won over by the tools Arta provides starting to benefit from the power of their growing network of vendors and shippers.

We love Arta for a few reasons that are typical of the companies we like to work with — a founder with domain expertise going after an undervalued space (which we believe is a large market), a team using software not simply to encapsulate and simplify an offline, complex process, but to reorganize the workflow and the industry behind it, and the beginnings of an efficient, scalable network to drive it forward.

PS Arta is hiring a VP of engineering - work with them and help transform this industry.