Our Founder & CEO, Adam Fields, looks back on five years of ARTA.
This March, 2020 marks ARTA’s fifth anniversary. We’ve come a long way from a tiny, 1-person WeWork office to building a brand whose services and technology are used by thousands of clients across the world. I wanted to take some time to reflect on where we started, where we are today, and where we are going. At our core, ARTA is fueled by the passion and hard work of our employees and the trust of our clients and partners. I look forward to seeing where the next 5 years take us.
On the origins
The idea for ARTA developed during my time at Artspace.com, with my thesis evolving and as I became more involved with the operations for our ecommerce business. I realized that now more than ever, it’s easy to list an item for sale on a product page online. But for items like those we were selling at Artspace—fine art, furniture, collectibles, etc.—the entire checkout and post-sale experience was broken. Companies like Amazon were experiencing exponential growth simply because they focused on that post-sale experience: make it as easy and seamless as possible to receive something purchased online, and consumers will keep coming back. I spent a lot of time at Artspace thinking about how we could improve the process for safely, quickly and efficiently getting collectors their purchases, and we eventually started taking more control over fulfillment from our galleries. I realized there had to be a way to automate white glove shipping just as FedEx or UPS had for parcel goods, and decided to build it myself.
And on the name—I get asked this a lot. ARTA is named after the ancient Greek city Arta which was known as a hub of transportation. It seemed fitting for our business then, but even more so as we look forward to what’s next (more on that further down).
On the early days
In late 2014, before we officially launched our platform, we started pitching our services to galleries and manually booking and dealing with shipments. I knew fine art was a prime use case for what we were building, so we primarily focused on that industry. At that time I had made my first hire, and it was just the two of us. A large gallery decided to give us a try, so we offered them a quote on an upcoming shipment. When they said they wanted to book the shipment, I was so excited, but quickly realized I hadn’t really thought through the post-booking process. I had to manually create an invoice, and figure out the logistics (pun intended) from there. It was a little chaotic, but we made the shipment happen and I knew there would be many more to come. When our platform launched in March 2015, and we received our first booking it was thrilling: the concept of receiving multiple premium/white glove shipping quotes through a digital platform (vs. email) and paying online with a credit card was revolutionary for the fine art industry. We quickly realized we needed to build many more features to scale our product (we hadn’t even built booking confirmation emails yet!), but we were on to something. We brought on our third employee in October that year, continued to build our tech, and continued to grow in the forthcoming years.
On our growth
On the topic of growth, it’s really amazing to look back on where we started versus where we are today. We were two employees in a WeWork office in March 2015, seven employees in our own new space by late 2017, and have grown to 22 employees today across two offices in NYC and London. The London office opened in late 2017, allowing us to truly focus on our international business and expand globally. Our revenues and gross margin have continued to see double digit growth since our inception.
Our product has truly evolved as well. In 2018, we launched ARTA Instant Quote which provides instant shipping and service costs based on machine learning and tens of thousands of data points we had acquired and continue to acquire since our inception. Due to the fragmented nature of the white glove logistics space and the lack of price transparency, this was no easy feat. We continue to adjust and build upon our model to this day. In early 2019 we became a licensed freight forwarder. In late 2019, we launched our API Beta with Phillips, showcasing the same instant pricing capabilities to their collectors within Phillip’s own ecommerce platform. To kick off this year, we expanded our capabilities to offer three different service levels: in addition to our premium services, we now offer Parcel and Select services to provide more flexibility on price and speed of delivery to our clients. Our Operations Team worked incredibly hard to build our relationships with 500+ service providers across the globe, helping us become the all-in-one solution we are today.
On the future
So what’s next? Our biggest focus this year is partnering with strong ecommerce brands to integrate our API and provide instant white glove shipping pricing at the point of transaction. We are also exploring integrations with platforms and companies looking to expand internationally or launch ecommerce for the first time. A big focus will be on continuing to build and expand our API and tech platform, helping us to become the world’s best white glove 3PL.
We’ve already validated that there is a need and big opportunity for what we are building, and I’m looking forward to seeing that take new shape in the years to come.