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  • Portfolio News
  • 09 February 2012
  • 8 min read
  • Words: Northzone

Art discovery service Artfinder draws new funding

Artfinder, the service that helps art lovers discover and share works online, has raised a second round of funding, I’m hearing.

The London-based company has quietly closed a fresh injection of funding from Scandinavian VC Northzone, UK/German venture firm Wellington and Silicon Valley’s Greylock Partners — all with an eye to helping build out its online catalog of paintings from artists, galleries and museums all over the world.

The company is remaining tight-lipped on the deal, and the terms are not being disclosed, but I’ve confirmed that the round took place at the end of last year.

The company, which started in 2010, is sometimes described as a “Last.fm for art” — in no small part because of CEO Spencer Hyman’s previous job running the popular online radio service.

But it’s also because, at its heart, Artfinder is a service for discovering and sharing creative work.

As I described in an interview with Hyman last summer, its gamble is that there is enough money in the art market that it can provide a valuable, profitable service to the millions of people who visit museums and galleries each week. It hopes to become the IMDB — or even the Amazon — of art, providing a home for art, and perhaps selling art, on the Web.

To do this, it has developed a smart visual search thats allows it to identify paintings using an iPhone app, while users can use the website to find works they like or share their tastes with others. They’re also able to browse specific collections using one of the bespoke iPad apps that the company has developed in partnership with the likes of London’s Royal Academy.

Those have been doing pretty well — the Quentin Blake catalog for the Foundling Museum is one that did particularly well — and it’s also been expanding its footprint on social networks with an app that integrates the artworks you look at into your Facebook Timeline:

The move represents a follow-on investment for both Wellington and Greylock, who participated in the company’s first round back last year, which brought LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman and London angel Sherry Coutu into the fold. Northzone’s Lea Bajc has joined the board as a result, and the involvement of her company — probably best known for its stake in super hot music service Spotify — gives Artfinder some extra punch.

It’s not alone in this market — there is competition of varying kinds, both from smaller upstarts like ArtSpotter and major names like Google, which has its own Art Project.

But this fresh funding should enable Artfinder to stay ahead of the pack, and I’m told that it plans to do that by revamping its offering to drive up engagement and usage.

Original article published by GigaOm can be found here.