IMD News · Start-up - Innovation

The art of entrepreneurship: how IMD’s EMBA team helped one startup to fly

How a group of EMBA students helped an industry-disrupting startup win over Silicon Valley investors during a discovery expedition to Palo Alto.
June 2022
The art of entrepreneurship: how IMD’s EMBA team helped one startup to fly

It’s the stuff of dreams: in December 2021, the founders of Artmyn, a Swiss startup conceived at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), were overjoyed when their company was acquired by Invaluable, the world’s leading online platform for premier auction houses selling fine and decorative arts and collectibles.

For Artmyn’s co-founders Alexandre Catsicas, Loïc Baboulaz and Mattheiu Rudelle, the acquisition spelt considerable investment in the innovative startup, which develops technological tools for viewing artworks on screen in sophisticated and immersive ways, as well as art authentication solutions for works of art. It was also the culmination of an intensive, collective effort made by Artmyn and IMD’s EMBA cohort who collaborated intensely with the startup and championed the company’s cause in a pitch to venture capitalists during their week-long Silicon Valley Discovery expedition.

Alexandre Catsicas, now CEO of Artmyn, recalled the level of commitment and capability shown by the EMBA team. “During the trip I witnessed this capacity in the EMBA team to have a whole day of meetings, visits and presentations and then, instead of having fun with their friends or going to restaurants, they would go back to their computers, work on Excel spreadsheets and slides until they got something presentable or convincing for the next day.”

Artmyn’s revolutionary product enables an incredibly real viewing experience on any device through its capture of thousands of digitized images of the artwork, each requiring several terabytes of data. Everything from brushstrokes to the way the artwork responds to different light conditions is available to the viewer. Its patented scanner and software have dramatically changed the way art can be viewed, authenticated, bought and sold. As such, it is a disruptive product likely to change a highly specialized market.

My partners and I realized that there were two key issues in the art market. One was the emotion that you feel when you are in front of a physical artwork; it tends to disappear when you look at it in a traditional 2D image, so our first approach was how can we bring back this emotion to the screen? In parallel, we realized that there was a lack of transparency in this market and that there was an opportunity to provide more information to collectors, so we started developing these analytical tools as well,” said Catsicas.

The EMBA team worked with Artmyn to boost the company’s presentations to potential investors over the course of the week, perfecting their pitches, to ensure success.

“It was extremely motivating to witness the capacity of IMD people to jump into what is a very niche market, which took us years to understand the fundamentals and the challenges of, and, within a few hours, they were able to discuss it as if they knew this market, as if they founded the company with us. It made you want to match their level of resiliency, of their capacity to adapt, of their ability to commit to demanding work,” said Catsicas.

The collaboration proved so successful, that a group of the EMBAs invested in Artmyn, EMBA Mohammed Al-Saqqaf became the company’s chairperson and several others continued to work with the Artmyn team in an advisory capacity.

“We came back from this trip with an amazing chairman who always supported us, and a dozen of sophisticated investors, advisors, mentors, and that for me was priceless,” said Catsicas.

The original Artmyn team continues to develop the product as part of Invaluable, but Catsicas will never forget the “human adventure” he experienced as a new entrepreneur stepping out of the innovation lab and into the world of business and investors.

“One of the things I realized in Silicon Valley was the difference between the theoretical world that you may learn in books and then the real world with the real challenges. That is what most of the entrepreneur’s life is about. It is how to deal with unexpected, real situations,” said Catsicas.  

 

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