What art and venture capitalists have in common

I was strolling around MoMa with a friend the other day and we were wondering why some artists get to exhibit in museums while most don’t. Art, after all, is subjective, so it’s difficult to say that some piece of art deserves to be up on the wall while another doesn’t. My instinctive thought as we were debating on the subject was that the artists who end up in museums are not necessarily the most talented ones, but the ones better than their peers at meeting and attracting people. So I did a bit of googling when I got home, and apparently wasn’t far off. 

The way museums select their art is through art curators. These curators go out to galleries, exhibitions, art fairs, and meet people. Over time, they spot the galleries and dealers that always discover interesting talent and build relationships with the owners or dealers of those galleries. They then buy their art for the museum. So as an artist, you need to meet gallery owners (or their dealers) and get your art bought (or exhibited) by them. That gets you seen by the curators, who purchase your art from the galleries and put it up on the wall in the museum. To me, that sounds familiar. 

Let’s take venture capitalists. They have curators, generally the partners. These partners go out to their angel investor friends, demo days, incubators, accelerators and meet people. Over time, they spot the people or accelerators that always discover interesting startups and build relationships with them. Then they fund stuff. So as a startup, you need to meet angel investors or accelerators, get on their radar (or become part of their programmes), in order to get connected to the venture partners and raise the hard, cold cash.

This applies to everything – art, technology, funding, education and beyond. The world’s currency is the relationship, and relationships need to be started, nurtured and strengthened. It takes time, but it’s why some artists get their art up on the wall at MoMa, it’s why some founders get their startup acquired by Google and it’s why some parents get their kid into Harvard while most don’t. Certainly, all of this will most often happen only if the art is good, the startup is relevant and the kid is fucking smart – but more on this in another post. 

The importance of building relationships is common sense. But where most fail over and over again is at investing the required time and energy in building real, meaningful, genuine relationships, repeatedly and consistently. You can’t meet the curator for MoMa and expect your art to be up on the wall the next day or have a coffee an investor and expect a cheque that very moment. At the very least, it takes a few months. Most likely, it takes a few years. In the same way, you can’t call up the investor you haven’t seen in two years and tell them you’re raising a funding round. It doesn’t work like that.

So there you go – art, venture capitalists and pretty much everything else in life have one thing in common: they happen because someone knows someone who knows someone who can make it happen. Make sure that someone is you. If you don’t, somebody else will. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s