FineArt opened an online art gallery portal designed to celebrate Nigerian Artists,giving younger artists an online present to showcase their talent to the world
I am a fine artist, with specialization in drawing and painting and also a computer scientist with specialization in software and web development, I am also fortunate to have graduated as both fine artist and computer scientist, with a Master degree in Information Technology, my detail CV can be found on http://nemsacademy.com/ben/cv.html
However on like the IT, I grew up knowing that I can draw, I love Art and want to be an artist when I grew up, but in 2004 I was drifted to have a taste IT although as a backup plan incase if the passion for Art could not sustain me this was like 15 years ago, and here I am loving every bit of my second passion and career as a professional Software and web developer. From 2004 to 2008 I worked full-time as a programmer and web designer with some IT firms in Lagos, I quit in 2008 to become self-employed and registered my IT company Bengallery Information Technology in same year (2008), therefore I have been fortunately to work as a freelancer for both some multination IT firms as a software engineering consultant, as well as built website and software solutions for several other organization and individuals, also note that while this was going was not losing focus of my Art passion as I was in the college studying to graduate as a Fine Artist, at the same time as a Computer Scientist, it is worth noting also that the finance to pull this up was possible because of my success in my IT career.
Now my startup FineArt.com.ng is an idea I convinced long time ago, around 2004, but I started implementing it around 2006, but it was too premature then, as I was lacking in technical capacity to build such solution and secondly I was not able to interpret and develop the idea properly.
FineArt.com.ng is an online art gallery portal designed to celebrate Nigerian Artist; giving younger artist an online present to showcase their talent to the world, and be inspired by the Older or well established Artist, through the Artist-on-Focus section where be celebrate older or well established Nigerian Visual Artists.
Q2: What experience or idea inspire you to get started with FineArt and what does this mean to you in today’s Nigeria online art industry? (If you can, please attach related photos about that experience )
As I a young artist I have experience the fear of uncertainty of never finding my voice, being unknown, and my talent locked down and never gaining exposure let alone making some money from my Art, this is was push me to explore IT in 2004. I have dream of using IT to expose my Artwork and career to the world, and also to make some money to sustain my passion for Art (even though I have dive too deep to IT as a software and developer for close to 15 year), this is what inspires me to start FineArt.com.ng, although this idea was conceived in 2004 to took me so long to implement it because I was learning to be a programmer and web designer, I was supporting myself in college, I was working, gaining experiences and exposure I needed to fine tune the concept, several attempts was made that never saw the light of the day, not until 2015 when I started redesigning the code and fine-tuning the idea
Q3: What's your technical architecture of your website? How long did your team accomplish the website until it launched?
My website FineArt.com.ng has come a long way, taking different form and name while I learn and put my idea into retrospect. I built the website using simple incremental architecture; that is I build on each function as the need arises, I hate complexity and useless experimentation with visitors’ time, I simple observe the challenges and feedback from my user before implementing the function. It took us three (3) years to get it up and launched, many of this time where spent doing non-technical stuff like talking to artists, and doing some paper works and brainstorming.
Q4: What are your thoughts on the current state of online art services in Nigeria?
When I conceived the idea of online art gallery in Nigeria around 2004, I don’t think there is anything like that in Nigeria, and even when we launched in 2015 I still cannot notice major online art gallery in Nigeria. Currently very few art galleries are embracing technology in connecting with their clients, here people still believe in going to galleries physical to enjoy or buy some good works of art, while running such gallery space can be very expensive in Lagos Island where this galleries are clustered because of high patronage on the Island, so the problem of space in Lagos can be very challenging and many young talented artists can’t afford the high cost of paying galleries. This is what inspires us to startup FineArt.com.ng
Q5: How did you find your co-founders and employees? What’s the story of how you setup your team? (please attach some team photos and co-founders photos)
I was very open to teaching and motivating younger programmer in my community, overtime I have this number of young people grew, many becomes friends and some later share in my dream. One of the most outstanding people I have such contact with in teaching PHP and MySQL was a young lady name Blessing, who later becomes my wife in 2016 and we recently welcome our first child last September 2018. She shares in my dream and has contributed immensely to sustaining this dream of FineArt.com.ng along with another young man called Toluwalope. For now we are small team of 3 passionate young people doing what we love. Sometime we also get some students coming to join us during their compulsory 6 months industrial training from the University.
Q6: When you guys built the initial products and service, What were the difficulties your team faced and how did you fix them?
One of the major challenges we face is how we want FineArt.com.ng (although then we have not agreed on the name) will be run; idea of limiting number of works to be uploaded by each artist, challenges of convincing artist as at 2005 or 2006 to visit this strange website to upload the pictures of their artworks was strange and terrifying to some of them, some even suspect and accuse us that we may expose their art concept to be stolen by other artist online, financial challenges was the least challenges them because we are sure we are not going to be making money then. Anyway most of this challenges where taken care of as social media started gaining popularity everything was blown open, everybody is now finding their voices online, and there is very little challenges about one artist idea being stolen as everyone is now putting up the pictures of their artwork everywhere, so that tension just goes away with time.
Q7: How did you get initial money to start the business? Did you raise some investment from some angel investors like other internet companies?
We did not raise money through some angel investors when we are starting, as I said my small team of three (3) are friends, so they support the dream on part-time basis while maintaining their full-time jobs, the cost of hosting the site is from my other IT company. It was worth to note that when we started angel investors sees no reason to put their money in out startup because the physical art gallery is still new and gaining more attention. Although as I talk to you we are currently pitching FineArt.com.ng to investors to enable us grow beyond our current level.
Q8: How did you attract new users to your website and use your software? What are the useful operation methods you can share?
I am a visual artist myself, and while studying in college I have lots of artist friends whom I also connect with on social media, therefore introducing them to FineArt.com.ng so my passion for art is what has kept us going, and the love of younger artists in giving them a platform to showcase there artworks is motivation behind we getting users to register with us. So the LOVE for what we do and the LOVE for the people concern is the key operation method.
Q9: Have you experienced startup failures before? If YES, what did you learn from it?
FineArt.com.ng was initially a fail startup 2005 to 2008, so we quickly learn how lesson by understanding that we launched too prematurely with wrong motives of how-do-we-make-money-from-this to let’s-just-do-what-we-love-and-have-fun so there is no pressure on us for now, so we are just having fun.
Q10: How did you grow your revenue? What’s the story behind how you got your first revenue from clients?
As I said earlier the initial startup fund was from my other IT business and currently we are looking at getting some investors
Q11: How to attract buyers give orders on your site?
The idea of FineArt.com.ng is to connect buyer directly to seller, and for now we make the process so simple, that an order places by the buyer appears at an in-mail to the seller, giving the seller the opportunity to reach the buyer directly.
Q12: How do you ensure sellers quality in your site?
I simply spell out the terms of condition to the sellers, and ensure they comply.
Q13: What’s your goals for your business? Why do that goals are important for you?
My goal is to provide all Nigerian/African artists the opportunity to showcase their artworks to the world without hindrance. And motivates them by celebrating the older or well established artist, and recently we have started celebrating even some of this new and younger artist as well.
Q14: What’s your views on your competitors?
Competitors are very important, the keep you on your toes, however we are more focus on our goals knowing that the environment here varies from that which is obtainable in Europe or America. Ours is majorly for the local market for now.
Q15: How do you keep learning? Where do you go to learn more?
Apart from graduating from college, where I have learnt the basics and formal processes of Art in Nigeria, the internet is now one big open university for my continues learning, I also invest a whole lot on printed books (home library).
Q16: What do you do on a daily or a weekly basis that you think is important in terms of forming your opinions on the Africa art industry?
I study and learn on a daily basis, if I am not busy working on a web/software projects or painting/drawing in my study. Over the weekend I most time access my progress or review that which I have done during the weekdays, and sometime I attends Art exhibitions or talks around Lagos.
Q17: What’s your biggest surprise over the last three, four years on software and internet industry where you have been working? What happened that you didn’t expect?
It takes a whole lot to remain focus in this era of information overloading or outbursts on the internet. And new technologies keep popping up every day and someone somewhere is expecting you to know it all.