Rich Thinking: Paul Becker, founder and CEO of Art Money
Innovative Aussie companies that punch above their weight aren’t that unusual - especially in the fintech space - but, while giants like Afterpay conjure up images of fast fashion or consumer goods for the masses, Art Money allows customers to pay off their purchases interest-free over 10 months.
Art Money CEO Paul Becker says the company is also shaking up the old-fashioned art industry and is making a splash in Australia and overseas, even securing support from auctions giant Christie’s in the process.
You say you are a fintech first - why did you choose the art industry?
While art itself is cutting-edge, the industry can be very old-school.
While most galleries are like small businesses, the finance side of things can be very slow. It’s been one of the last industries to go online.
We saw an opportunity to approach this differently and challenge the boundaries in an industry where no one else was doing this.
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What’s an example of how the industry tends to work?
In the US, for example, it’s still not unusual for people to write a cheque, or it might be a handshake and a deposit, and then full payment may not be until three months later.
In every single way, it’s an industry that has been very slow to adopt change - which is fascinating as it’s very different to what we are offering, which is a way of thinking differently and challenging the boundaries.
As someone who is personally passionate about art, tell me how Art Money has made a change in the industry for not just the buyers but the artists as well.
For me, this started as a business journey and quickly became a personal journey too. Connecting artists and the galleries to buyers by being able to help buyers spread their payments for the art across 10 payments interest-free means that customers are able to buy pieces immediately. For the galleries and the artists, it means that they get paid far more quickly and easily.
Art Money gives potential buyers access to over 1,800 galleries around the world and buyers the opportunity to access the art they want to buy without having to pay for it in one go.
For the artists, it means they get paid far more quickly and aren’t left hanging waiting for their money. Artists have a right to put food on the table too, they're entitled to make a living.
The galleries are generally small business owners who are doing it for the passion. I saw an inefficient industry where there were a lot of opportunities to improve things across the board.
Is it a tough sell in the art world in the current cost-of-living crisis?
All my investors ask that question too, but I'm not concerned because I think it's actually a positive for us because we're making change in this industry for the better. When things are looking rosy in an industry there’s not much of an appetite for change but, when things are tougher, that’s when you need to do things differently.
For many of our customers, they are still passionate about buying art, they still want to do it, but they're more cautious. Absolutely, they're more cautious. But then this gives them another reason to say yes, and then use a tool like this because that's a financially responsible way to do it.
Why is art important?
With art, you have a unique thing - it is the only one in the world. And there's a story behind it, whether it’s about the artists or the show it was in or even where you might have been in your life when you bought it. There’s a story there, and it’s something you will probably keep and enjoy for years to come.
More broadly, I believe that the world's a better place if people are into art and culture. It can help you see other points of view and really help develop empathy.
Then there's that creative-thinking side - like, who are the people that Apple and Google want to employ? They want to employ the creative thinkers. And as artificial intelligence stands up, the world needs more creative thinkers.
Written by Kate Browne.