Artivive: AR Platform for Art

Artivive is an AR tool that allows artists to create new dimensions of art by linking classical with digital art, while visitors only use their smartphones or tablets in order to experience the AR layer. As such, for museums, exhibitions, galleries, Artivive offers a new way for the audience to interact with exhibitions.
Founded in 2017 in Vienna, by Sergiu Ardelean and Codin Popescu, Artivive currently collaborates with 170.000 artists, and works works with venues such as: Albertina Museum in Vienna, MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Shanghai Himalayas Museum, the Ying Art Center in Shanghai, MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ilmin Museum of Art in Seoul, and the Leica Gallery in Singapore.

You can meet Artivive at Ars Electronica Festival, where they will showcase their product, at the CultTech Space, in an event organized by Immaterial Future Association. (*bonus: if you visit the space, you can meet also other CultTech Startups there, alongside debates)

Before founding Artivive, Sergiu Ardelean worked as creative director at a marketing agency for several years and had his own agency; he had the experience for AR marketing projects for big companies such as Volkswagen or Audi. He kicked into the ArtWorld, exploring the potential to expand artworks into digital spaces, and at the same time to bring digital art into galleries and museums.

How was this trip? We have talked with Sergiu Ardelean, co-founder and CEO, about the beginning of Artivive, how they raised funds, advices for accelerators, and….how AR will ruin the world 😛

TVA: I find it interesting that you bet on AR when AR was not a trend, and nobody knew if this will or not make a use-case. Where did your passion for AR started?

SERGIU ARDELEAN: It was a chain of events that brought me to augmented reality. I was very technical, but also from the creative space. I was very interested in how technology can help the creative space, and can create new mediums, narrative and stories.
When as a creative director, at a marketing company, I was able to make an amazing campaign for the car industry, it was like a playground, we could try so many things, to see how people are interacting.
At the same time, I was thinking how it would be if artists had access to digital tools that would be very easy to use?
So, just take the technology and make it very easy, and creators will not have the problems with lines of codes, they can understand how it works and just drag-and-drop. And these were the first days of Artivive.

TVA: Because you mentioned this, how do you see AR and art – as more for animating art work, creating new artworks – a medium of itself – or a tool to create a network between people – AR is used also for socials.

SERGIU ARDELEAN: It is everything. I think the discussion goes a little bit further than just technology or just augmented reality.
When we are using for example google maps, we are not talking about user data, gps, touchpad, etc, we are using the map for directions.. It is what AR is doing now.
We have these two worlds. On one side, it is the traditional art world, that we find in museums and galleries, and we have these movements of digital art worlds, jpeg, NFTs, etc. And AR brings these two worlds together.
With augmented reality you can have 3D artist, animation artists, but, at the same time, empowers visual artists, painters to come to the digital space, to start experimenting with the digital medium to augment something that they are doing.
So, coming back to the example with the map, this is what is happening: nobody cares about having the smartphone with the camera, everybody is interested about the artwork, the story, what the artist wanted to tell. And this is what we are trying to do at Artivive.

TVA: You work with different countries, but also different art industries – theater, dance, fine art, etc.. How do you see the difference within different creative industries when it comes to adoption of new technologies, in your case AR?

SERGIU ARDELEAN: I think now is the time, we have many brave creators – be it a theater director or a painter – that try to find their own way. There are so many new creative technologies coming out there, I don’t think that we have the recipe for what will succeed, but it is so important to have the opportunity to try out, and also see what people like.
Because for example, I think my parents are interested in other kind of experiences than people playing Fortnite, but maybe in few years people that are playing Fortnite will pay for tickets to go to theater, and i think they will enjoy to be in physical space like a theater and somehow have a digital extension in a way or another.
Now, it is the time when everything is evolving and changing. And this is great because there are so many new projects coming out from these experiments.
I think there are also a lot of endeavors that maybe are not coming out as they wished. But, we have to have this ‘trail and error’.

TVA: You are on a different continent with your business, what were the challenges of this scale-up journey?

SERGIU ARDELEAN: We have everyday challenges.
1. First of all, I tried to keep the vision… Because when we started and we were talking about AR and arts and how to bring these two worlds together, nobody would ‘hear’. 5-6 years ago, people were thinking that we were crazy – “art and mobile phone, and art and digital, that will not go”.
But, the thing is you have to be perseverant, and really believe in what you are doing, because it will take a lot of energy – for example to hear 100 times people don’t think that what you are doing will work.
2. Secondly, the next challenge, in the art and culture sector, is to have a profitable business so you can earn money – this is also a general thing for startups.
3. Third challenge is scaling up with the team, finding the right people, who share the same vision, that are understanding what you are doing. So, not only people that work 9-to-5, but people that have the same motivation to change the world. And keeping everything together. Because then when the team is growing , you have to find the investors, and then the investors are looking at the team, so it is juggling so many things at the same time.
4. Also, to have the power to stop and ask yourself if what you are doing is the right thing, or if it is there a better opportunity?
5. And the last main part, besides luck, is to get in touch with the community, because Artivive wouldn’t be Artivive without the artists, without the creatives, without the content.

Everything that we are doing is for our community, and we have to be in touch with them to see how they are using it, how we can make them happy, listen to their problems, and engage with them, because they are the most important.

TVA: When you started, there were not so many accelerators or investors in this area. 5-6 years ago, investors were interested in completely other areas, nobody was really talking about art, culture and tech. How did you succeed to secure funding?
SERGIU ARDELEAN: I would say many investors, many funds that are out there are planned for the next 5-10 years. And the vision we have with arts and culture is long term.
Because also if you are looking there are funds for galleries, arts or museums, but we know that it needs an update. And we think that the update will not necessarily be moving only online or remaining as it is. It will be a mixture.
And I think that the vision we have as AR bringing these two worlds together was something that our investors saw as well, and thinking for the long run. And the track record that we have of 170.00 artists using our platform, shows that we do solve a problem..
We don’t necessarily invest a lot in marketing, we have product-based growth – people are using the product in a way that is solving a problem, and it secures our growth. And these two factors – mission and vision that we have, the artists that can monetize, as well as the track record shows that we are doing something right. And now, with the NFTs and Metaverse, all the skeptic people we talked to a few years ago, who were saying you should not do this, are not saying: ‘I saw it from the first time, I know that you will succeed’ 🙂

TVA: We are curious about your revenues and business models

SERGIU ARDELEAN: We have three pillars.
The first pillar is the tool, where artists are paying for subscription, so a SaaS model.
The second focus is on projects and works that our artists are doing and collaborations with different brands. For example a museum can come and work together with the artist that we have, or a cafe or another brand hard rock cafe or Desigual etc
And the third pillar we are building right now. Because AR art offers an added value or utility, the moment that you are buying a digital artwork you can also print or have a print on the wall or Tshirt. This brings NFTs into the physical space where you can own and display the artwork that you have. With the Saas model is the lowest and is growing slowly, the projects will be bigger and growing as well, and with the NFTs people will reach an international audience and also collectors and it is a market that is moving very fast.

TVA: You are also in the Chinese market, actually the first time when I heard your pitch was at a conference in Chengdu – how is going on there?
SERGIU ARDELEAN: The Chinese market was very promising, we had a lot of workshops there back then when we were in Chengdu, we were also in Shanghai and Beijing, we also worked with a lot of universities. We had a small team and office there. But, unfortunately, corona put an abrupt stop.
In Shanghai they had a long-long lockdown, and slowly we also started losing team members, because they had to find other ways to earn money. And they have strong regulations on the crypto market and with NFTs. But, I am still positive and hope the lockdowns will stop and people will be able to travel again.

TVA: Coming back a little bit to the support systems for creative startups, I am not sure if you had a chance to be in an accelerator back then, but how important is an accelerator for creative startups and what would you recommend to accelerators?

SERGIU ARDELEAN: That’s a very good question. We were part of an accelerator back then , it was an accelerator at the university from Berkley – unfortunately it wasn’t a cultural, creative or art accelerator, it was a general startup accelerator.
Accelerators are very important for bringing together people that are working on the same issues. I think it is very important as an entrepreneur, startup founder to know that you are not working alone. And we learned a lot from other startups.
And also it was the community, you could chat about what other people know about a certain investor, how to approach them, you could have different intros. I think this is an important part of being with the same peers.
There are different collaborations that are coming together – some people from there now work at startup, they reached out to different VCs and now, they invested in us.
So, you never know when something is coming back. And I am not a big fan of remote, because it feels different, and most ideas are exchanged not when working, but at after-discussions or at a coffee.

And the second most important part is that you learn. For example “what should a pitch deck look like?”.
It is very good that you have an idea but people actually are looking at your pitch deck.
It is very important to have a product market fit, to learn how do you interview with customers, to have a business plan, to have a pricing model.
These are things that you don’t learn in school. So, it is important for an accelerator to teach all this.
And the mentoring part. And it is not that the mentor knows everything, and it is better than the startup. But, it is more about bringing in another perspective, or asking questions that nobody wants to ask or have a fresh view on things.
So, for an accelerator the most important thing is to bring the startups together to exchange and let them have a network, then teach them on parts that are critical (hiring, company culture, etc) and the third is to have received different perspectives through mentors, and from people who have experience in different fields.

TVA: You are participating at the CultTech Space at Ars Electronica Linz. Why would people go and visit? Let’s have a 1 minute pitch 🙂

SERGIU ARDELEAN: What we are doing at Artivive is an amazing experience. And also talking about how art will develop might be very interesting for people.
We do see AR as the Art form of the 21th century and we have 170.000 artists with several thousand artworks to back this.
So, whoever is interested in where art is going and how digital and traditional artworks will bind together will find our presentation at Linz.

*For anyone who are interested to participate at the CultTech StartUp Showcases , series of events will start on Saturday Sep 10, 2022, at 1:00 pm 

As we have become accustomed at the end of the interview, TECHVANGART asked some Crazy Questions

Shot Questions:

TVA: World goes crazy, total dystopia, and we know the one thing to blame is technology (because technology is blamed for everything). So, in this world, AR is to be blamed for ….?
SERGIU ARDELEAN: I would like to argue, because you can’t blame technology, it’s the people who are using technology. I think we, people, are really stupid. We have so much information also about climate change and all the things that are going wrong, and I have the feeling that nothing is changing.

TVA: AR is used a lot for social networks, and people are asking will AR create the dependency. Do you think this can happen?
SERGIU ARDELEAN: I think the way we are addicted to different social media channels is evolving a little bit. But then the whole gen Z is also interesting. I don’t understand how they can spend $300 for some sneakers in a game. I think we have to ask them. I think that with the hardware, and how technology is evolving, AR will play a big role, But it won’t be technology itself that will make people dependent.

About Artivive:

Artivive works with museums, galleries, festivals, and designers to present tailored solutions to individual problems. For our clients, Artivive provides a reliable, fast, and scalable infrastructure for the best experience for their visitors, prolonging visitation time, thus increasing emotional bonding. In addition, Artivive creates digital content, organizes workshops, and proposes artists for collaborations https://artivive.com/

What to get in touch with Artivive?
Artivive has a subscription-based model for artists and creatives worldwide and a project-based model for B2B counterparts. The different account types can be found on the Artivive website: https://artivive.com/register.

All photos are copyrighted by Artivive and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage

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