Jordan Melnick isn’t the bragging type, but his app has drawn a passionate fan base many entrepreneurs only dream about. Perhaps his startup story will inspire you too, and it has only just begun.
Sktchy grew out of a local side project called Sketchy Miami that brought artists and community members together to make portraits at live events. Melnick expected 50 people at its launch party, but 500 showed up. The next event drew 1,000-plus attendees, and soon, artists around the world were asking to participate. He knew he was on to something.
So his small team built a mobile app, Sktchy. The concept of Sktchy (sktchy.com) was simple: Users submit photos of themselves for inspiration and artists draw, paint or sculpt portraits. The before-and-afters can be discovered and shared on the app.
Launched a little over two years ago, the iPhone app immediately took off, and in the past year, has accelerated. “Sktchy is a social network for artists. Today there are active artists in 100-plus countries, we get close to 2,000 original pieces every week, we are picking up hundreds of new artists every week. ... The growth has been all through word-of-mouth,” said Melnick, Sktchy’s CEO, who has a journalism background. “Our strategy is to keep making the product better.”
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This month, the team received a significantly larger, undisclosed round of funding from Mark Kingdon, its original angel investor, and Krillion Ventures, a Miami-based venture fund co-founded by Melissa Krinzman and Jeffrey Miller.
When I invested in Sktchy, I saw a beautifully designed app with great potential. Today I see a five-star-rated app that’s been downloaded more than 100,000 times.
Mark Kingdon, who first funded Sktchy in 2014
“When I invested in Sktchy, I saw a beautifully designed app with great potential,” said Kingdon, who first funded Sktchy in 2014. “Today I see a five-star-rated app that’s been downloaded more than 100,000 times. I see 200,000 inspirational photos and more than 100,000 original artworks. The engagement around artists and their work is staggering with more than 2.5 million wows from the Sktchy community, rivaling what they’d see on Instagram.”
Kingdon is a three-time digital CEO and founder of Quixotic Ventures who also invested in Everypost and Hyp3r locally, and in Twitter, TheRealReal, Refinery29 and other companies.
Melnick says his small team plans to use the funding for product improvements, including a redesign that will better surface art in the platform’s archives and introduce a way to enable sales. An Android version of the app is in the plans, too.
Kingdon said he reinvested because he sees huge potential for Sktchy to build a leading community marketplace for art: “When launching a marketplace, liquidity — i.e., matching supply and demand — is the big challenge. With Sktchy, there is already significant latent liquidity because artists and their followers have asked repeatedly for the ability to buy and sell art.”
Artists and their fans already exchange contact information in the comments sections and conduct transactions via email, and some have commissioned works through Sktchy. So as Melnick sees it, it’s a natural progression for the company.
“We want to empower artists in various ways. We are an inspiration for them, we are a place where they can share their art and build a following, we are a community they can tap into. Now we want to help them easily sell their artwork inspired by our photos,” Melnick said.
Sktchy also plans to open up the platform beyond portraiture, and has been experimenting with inviting inspiration photos of landscapes, cityscapes, animals, etc. But no worries, Sktchy fans: Melnick said portraits will always be a big part of what Sktchy is about.
“I would love Sktchy to grow into a bigger creative community and a really valuable company from Miami,” Melnick said. “Our history is tied to this community, and it is great that investors here are supporting what we are doing.”
Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg