Last summer, thanks to this socially networked world. I stumbled upon an ArtTactic podcast. Francesco Bellanca was presenting its company, Feral Horses. As I’ve been interested in the online art market, I decided to get in touch with him in order to know more about this interesting company : Feral Horses, an art stock exchange to buy and trade shares of contemporary artworks directly from artists and art galleries. Six months after, Feral Horses is fundraising through equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs.
Arte Lab : Can you please present your startup ?
Franceso Bellanca : Feral Horses is the Art Stock Exchange to buy and trade shares of contemporary artworks. With as little as a fiver, art lovers get to endorse an artwork, support the artist and build a micro investment portfolio all at once!
Arte Lab : What is unique about it ?
Franceso Bellanca : Traditionally, art investments do not generate dividends. It tends to be the opposite as investors have to cover several costs such as transportation, storage, etc... However, we have identified an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone : renting the artworks that were acquired for investment purposes in order to increase their visibility and generate a regular return on investment for our art investors. This is our way of showing that, it is not impossible to focus on both ethical and financial benefits.
Arte Lab : Please, present your team, how many are you and how do you divide the work ?
Francesco Bellanca : The team is growing fast at the moment !
But, initially we are four co-founders:
- Christian De Martin is the CFO. He is responsible for financial planning and record-keeping.
- Romano Oliveri is the Art Director.
He oversees the art sourcing activities and provides curatorial services to our rental clients.
- Lise Arlot is the CMO. She is responsible for facilitating growth, sales and marketing strategy. - And I’m the CEO. I am responsible for leading the development and execution of Feral Horses' long term strategy.
We have recently hired Surya Prakash our new CTO who is in charge of driving the development of the Feral Horses’ online portal and its technology vision.
Additionally, we have a new business developer, Eduard Steimle who coordinates strategic partnerships and collaborations.
Arte Lab : How big is the market opportunity?
Francesco Bellanca : The art investment market is totally inefficient as it only capitalises on major collectors and investment funds and it leaves out the majority of the potential investors. In Europe alone there are 130M Millennials, of which 45% are more willing to invest than 5 years ago (Blackrock, 2015). Their investment behaviour is, however, very different from past generations. On one hand, they don’t necessarily trust traditional financial institutions. On the other hand, they are willing to invest in something that matches their values and interests. So art has a pretty strong case.
Arte Lab : Who are the company’s competitors ?
Francesco Bellanca : Over the past few years, we have seen the art investment market getting more and more attention and becoming increasingly data driven, affordable and transparent which is a great sign. Arthena, for example lowers the barriers to entry in the art fund scene going from a minimum ticket of £150,000 to £13,000. Maecenas offers an art marketplace for crypto-enthusiasts, since investors need first to buy crypto tokens before investing in the art itself.
Arte Lab : What will give your company a competitive advantage ?
Francesco Bellanca : First, we have an unprecedented low price point. On Feral Horses, investors can invest as low as £5 on an artwork. Then, as mentioned earlier, our model allows to generate dividends and, at the moment, we are the only one on the market offering this. What early traction has the company got (sales, traffic to the company’s website, app downloads, etc., as relevant) When we launched back in 2017, we have sold 17 artworks for a total value of £121,000 in 45 days to around 60 investors.
Arte Lab : How much is being raised in this round ?
Francesco Bellanca : We are raising £200,000 through Seedrs, the equity crowdfunding platform.
Arte Lab : Now that we focused deeply on your business, I’d like to ask you more personal questions ! Explain us how it feels to be an entrepreneur when we are only in our twenties ?
Francesco Bellanca : We started when we were 19 so I guess it is fairly normal for us. It is a life we embraced because that was the way to be able to push forward conversations that we believe can truly positively impact the art market in the long run. I would have a hard time thinking of myself as something else than an entrepreneur really. However, being an entrepreneur has never been an end but instead a mean to achieve something I deeply care about and believe in.
Arte Lab : What is for you the main important qualities to succeed in the business area especially in the art market ?
Francesco Bellanca : I would say that it is critical for startups and, especially those operating in the art market, to have clear in mind when to conform and stick to the rules and when to challenge the status quo. In such a traditional industry that tends to be reluctant to changes, it is critical to pick your fights carefully !
Arte Lab : Do you have a mentor ?
Francesco Bellanca : It may sound cheesy but my mentor is my dad and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have the chance to work with him on the Feral Horses adventure. He is one of the cofounders of Ion trading and his expertise has tremendously helped us to grow and develop. I sincerely enjoy having this intergenerational relationship within a startup environment. A favourite artist? Picking one artists is almost impossible, especially when you have the luck of discovering a large number of them. Ranking them would be too difficult. What I can say is that overall I have a tendency to admire artists who really push the boundaries and try to promote difficult topics in their own way. This is the reason why my tastes are very eclectic.
Thank you Francesco !