Will Alverson and Julia Farrell aren’t artists. In fact, the DU undergraduates are studying analytics, computer science, business, physics and math. Yet, it was their passion for local art that brought them together to launch a business called Artspark.
“My family was into art,” said Alverson, a second-year Daniels student. “When I traveled with my mom and sister, we would always go to art museums and local galleries.”
Farrell, a senior computer science major, moved to Denver from Mooresville, North Carolina. She loved going to the First Friday Art Walk in Denver’s art district on Santa Fe.
“Everybody loves to look at art,” Farrell said. “But, when I went to First Fridays, there wasn’t a directory and it was hard to find the galleries. I thought with my coding experience, I could make [a directory] pretty easily.”
Farrell tossed her idea out at Dynamize, the student entrepreneurship club at DU. Alverson, who was at the meeting, was paying close attention. He had developed Artspark, a website to share local art with art seekers, in his “Gateway to Business” class his first year at Daniels. The introductory business class requires students to develop and launch an app. Students can then go on to compete for seed money in the Madden Challenge. Alverson took second place in the competition.
“The Madden Challenge has become a vibrant ecosystem for entrepreneurial activity throughout all of DU,” said Stephen Haag, faculty director of entrepreneurship and the instructor for the “Gateway” course. “It started as a class competition, but now the Madden Challenge is a launchpad for the start of many student businesses.”
Alverson knew if he wanted to develop Artspark into a feasible business, he needed to recruit someone with coding skills. Farrell was a perfect fit. The two teamed up, along with Jack Wickum, a second-year international studies major, to bring Artspark to launch.
The website features local art galleries in order to promote local artists.
“We want to help art galleries turn over their inventory faster,” Alverson said. “It’s a great resource for art lovers but also for the galleries. We can track user behavior and collect great data for the galleries to work with.”
Two local galleries, the Georgia Amar Fine Art Gallery and the David B. Smith Gallery, have signed on.
“We get to go to the art galleries and get exclusive looks at the exhibitions before they happen,” Farrell said. “The people are so nice and genuine.”
Farrell and Alverson might not be artists, but they see their passion for art and entrepreneurship taking off.
“Our current business plan starts small,” Alverson said. “But we think this has a lot of market potential. This could have huge demand in many cities known for local art.”
Alverson has two more years before he graduates. Wickum and Farrell graduates in fall 2017. Farrell hopes Artspark will scale by then. If not, she can always pursue a career in cybersecurity.
Professor Haag has been their mentor and adviser from the start.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Will, Julia and Jack,” Haag said. “They have ideated, pivoted, persevered and succeeded. Working with them has made me a better person.”