Headquarters: The LAB Miami
Concept: Share photos to inspire artists around the world to draw you, paint you, maybe even sculpt you, and browse inspiring photos shared by others so you can get creative, too. The Sktchy community includes active artists in more than 60 countries, and to date they have created and shared more than 25,000 original artworks inspired by the photos in Sktchy’s user-submitted gallery.
Story: Sktchy grew out of a local art project called Sketchy Miami. “Our mission was to empower local artists by giving them an opportunity to connect with art lovers in a fun and meaningful way. We expected 50 people at our launch party. Five hundred showed up. Our next event drew 1,000-plus attendees and soon artists around the world were asking us if they could participate. We ended up building the mobile app so anyone anywhere could join the Sktchy community, find artistic inspiration and share their creativity with the world,” said Sktchy founder Jordan Melnick, a journalist who also founded the culture blog Beached Miami.
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Launched: The Sktchy iPhone app launched in September 2013.
Management team: Jordan Melnick (CEO, project manager, marketing), Alexander Lavrinenko (senior developer), Branson Lundemo (UX design)
Financing: Recently raised an initial seed round to make big sharing and design upgrades and plans on raising more funding in the fall.
Recent milestones: Built a community that includes includes active artists in more than 60 countries; surpassed 25,000 submitted original artworks; raised seed funding.
Biggest startup challenge: “It took us a while to clarify Sktchy’s core mission: We’re here to inspire people to share their creativity with the world. Now everything we do, from design to development to partnering, is about advancing that mission,” Melnick said.
Next steps: To make big improvements to the Sktchy iPhone app (emphasis on performance and sharing) and start bringing a richer Sktchy experience to the Web so that non-iPhone users can join the community. Launching an Android version is a big goal too. “We believe everyone has creativity worth sharing with the world, and we want you to be able to join Sktchy’s amazing community regardless of what phone you have in your pocket — or if you have a phone at all),” Melnick said.
The team is beginning to explore revenue opportunities in a way that is supportive of artists and non-intrusive to the user experience. “We really are still figuring it out,” Melnick said. “We’re also exploring partnerships with other amazing companies with a passion for creativity and building the artists community.”
Strategy for next step: Hard work and focus.
Investor’s view: Mark Kingdon, an angel investor who invested early in Twitter, Fab.com, Refinery29 and other companies, said he immediately liked the app and its traction, and believes it has a lot of potential targeting the creative class worldwide. He also thinks Melnick has assembled a great team.
“The team has created a simple user experience. I think the fact that it has been kept super simple, it really really works. There’s this great interaction between the artists and the people who post the pictures, it’s touching,” Kingdon said. “When I think about the app, I think about Instagram for artists. I think it can be bigger than portraits, as big as inspiration.”