George Panton is the CEO and co-founder of Framd. Photo credit: Framd
George Panton has a problem with the art world. Particularly, he hates that art dealers live off commission, which he believes means they’re encouraged to embellish the price of the pieces they sell. “To make the price of a piece of art go up, it needs to be rare,” Panton says. “To be rare, there needs to be someone assessing what is good and what is bad – and that is the current state of the art market. It’s the search for rarity in a place where a pile of rubbish on an art gallery floor can be mistaken for art.”
As a consequence, many of Panton’s artist friends are struggling to make ends meet. “It’s a very frustrating experience and it’s been going on for centuries,” he continues. The tech entrepreneur aims to change that with Framd, the art dealership platform.
The site looks like any other e-commerce platform at first glance. A user could easily spend some time browsing through acrylic paintings of animals like penguins and gorillas, abstract art and multiple images of ocean waves crashing into each other. However, Framd has one big difference to similar platforms, according to its CEO.
Panton explains that it enables creatives, whether established or happy hobbyists, to present their work to potential customers without having to go through a middleman hellbent on boosting their own commission. “At Framd, our customer is the artist and therefore we want to make the artist happy so they continue to upload art onto the platform,” Panton explains. “This is the fundamental difference between us and everyone else. We are on the artist’s side and we want them to be successful. If [they’re] successful, so are we.”
There certainly seems to be some interest in the platform given Panton and his co-founder Jitendra Bansal raised £350,000 in October 2018 and has so far had just under two million swipes. “[The] art world is so inherently one-sided, I think it was simply a matter of time before technology caught up with it,” he continues.
He’d always thought that the art world was unbalanced in favour of the art dealers. But it was through his role as private equity director at financial services company MxP Partners that he spotted how great this opportunity could be. “It was in fact my career that led me to meet a talented software developer and [my] business partner Jitendra Bansal,” he explains. “We met while working together for an Indian healthcare business in Delhi in 2016, [we] got on famously and that’s when Framd was born.
After working together for a few months in Delhi, Panton pitched his idea to Bansal, who was eager to give it a crack. “[We] then spent a few months designing the very first product as quickly and as cheaply as possible,” Panton remembers. While he describes this version as “very rough,” it was accepted to the App Store. And before long they saw both artists and customers alike starting to sign up and use the platform.
Even though the numbers were growing, Panton and his partner spent 18 months refining the product. The former went all in with his new project. “[Everything] I earned went into Framd, along with savings, it had its moments of being quite stressful,” he says. “I basically lived on baked beans for a year.” This changed with the outside investment in October, which enabled the co-founders to quit their jobs and go all-in with Framd. “I’m still eating baked beans though,” Panton quips.
He and Bansal now plan to take the company to the next step. For starters they’re looking into launching a subscription-based model. “We also have plans to run London-based pop-up events for our members to exhibit their work physically,” Panton concludes. “Our aim throughout is for Framd to level the playing field for artists and give them a fair chance of selling their work.”