Tiger of the Week: Carter Cleveland ’09, Helping Art Go Digital

As an undergraduate, computer science major Carter Cleveland ’09 began an ambitious project, working on a web service that would catalogue the world’s art. Four years after graduation, Cleveland and his startup, Artsy, continue to have big goals. “Eventually we’re going to become Amazon for the art world,” he told Fortune in an interview published this week.

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Artsy founder Carter Cleveland ’09 speaks at a design conference in Munich in January 2013. (Photo: © Jan Haas/DPA/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Cleveland’s vision is more than mere hubris. According to Fortune, Artsy raised $1.25 million in seed funding in 2010, two years in advance of its launch. In just under one year online, the site has attracted 150,000 registered users and delivered 230 million artwork views.

Artsy’s “Art Genome” recommendation algorithm has earned high marks from leaders in the art world, including Seb Chan, director of digital and emerging media at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. “You go to museums and you browse — chancing upon things is what it’s all about,” Chan told The New York Times in 2012. “The Art Genome is another way of creating serendipitous connections.”

In addition to helping its users discover new works, Artsy helps potential buyers to connect with galleries around the world — the Amazon element that Cleveland mentioned. And for art enthusiasts who aren’t in the market for a Manet or a Pollock, Artsy provides, in digital form, a remarkable trove of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and more, all with the click of a mouse.

Like many of our Tiger of the Week honorees, Carter Cleveland ’09 was nominated by a PAW reader. Do you have an idea for a future Tiger of the Week profile? Let us know.

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