Cross Campus met with WhyNotArt’s CEO and co-founder Phillip Rosenberg at Cross Campus Pasadena to learn more about how his team brings art to the masses.Q. In one sentence, describe what your company does.A. We are an online art platform that offers fine art subscriptions, a new way to live with and experience original art.Q. What is the problem you’re solving?A. More and more, brick-and-mortar art galleries are closing down as rents continue to rise and sales decrease. Unlike other retail sectors, the e-commerce side of art hasn’t been as successful. This is due to high individual prices, shipping costs, and the need to see an art piece in person to be able to truly understand and judge it. We believe art is for everyone and the path to ownership should be a fun and easy experience. With WhyNotArt, anyone can turn their home into their own private gallery space.
Q. What brought your company to Los Angeles, and what do you like about the startup ecosystem here?A. Both founders of the company are originally from LA, which made it an easy city to expand to. But there is more to it than that. The art scene in LA has really changed over the past five to ten years. More artists are moving to LA and the collectors market is becoming more established, making it an exciting city to launch in. On top of that, LA is decentralized which makes it hard for potential collectors to find an artist or gallery they like, making the need for a platform like WhyNotArt even more important.Q. Cross Campus’s motto is #worklifebalanced. How do you and/or your team stay #worklifebalanced?A. Work-life balance is extremely important and one of the reasons I moved away from the finance world in NYC. Many people I met there had a misconstrued view of work-life balance, and that attitude didn’t work for me. I love what I do but I have other passions that help keep me sane. In most of my free time, I am training and playing beach volleyball, something a lot easier to do in LA than in London!
Q. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?A. Sales are always the best moments for me. You can talk forever about the concept and think you have it fine-tuned, but until some one buys your product you never really know if it’s really relevant. My most satisfying moment is when we got our first completely random client to sign up. That was when I was like, “Okay, this might really work!”Q. Talk about a time you or your team failed at a goal you needed to achieve.A. Our first real goal we failed at was reaching our year one sales target. The first month we launched, we got a flurry of orders predominantly from people connected to the business (family, friends, and friends of friends). I took this immediate success and wrongfully assumed that we would continue at this rate for the rest of our year. I learned first hand the difficulties of a B2C business. Even if a client likes your product, it takes time to build credibility. In London and the US, people are used to shopping from long-standing companies. It is always more of a risk buying a service or product from a startup. I didn’t factor in the fact that our first clients had some connection to the company, which got rid of the credibility factor. It took us over a year to start building that credibility with random clients and only then did our sales really start to grow.Q. How do you and your team define success?A. Being a small company, all of our employees need to wear many hats and take initiative. To be successful at our company, you need to be able to be speak to an artist about their recent work one day and fix a bug on our website the next.
Q. If your company was a superhero, who would it be and why?A. Our company would be Iron Man. Out all of all the superheroes, Iron Man is a superhero who is real and attainable. He doesn’t have any crazy unreal superpowers, and his character played by Robert Downey Jr. is realistic; he has his own quirks and sense of humor.Q. Who do you respect the most, and why?A. I respect my grandfather, Andreas Dimitracopoulos, for the decisions he made and the outlook he had on life. He truly had an entrepreneurial spirit and was a successful self-made businessman with a work hard, play hard attitude that I try to adopt. What I really admire is how he watched over and was loved by his employees. At his funeral, the police had to shut down several main roads as so many of his employees and their whole families came out to pay their respects.Q. Where do you see your organization in 10 years?A. In ten years, our goal is to have built an international online art platform that connects artists and collectors from different cities across the world. A collector in Amsterdam can subscribe and receive an art piece from an artist in Mexico City, and then 3 months later rotate it for an art piece from Chicago, and so on. Learn more about Cross Campus here.