Episode 91 features, Sean Green, Founder & CEO at ARTERNAL whose mission is "to educate, innovate, and lead the digital transformation in the art world". Listen as we chat with Sean about his upbringing, the influence his mom has over him, why he founded ARTERNAL, his experience of being a black man in the art world and a lot more.
We want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of Minority Report Podcast with Eric and Kerel. Each episode, we talk with leaders in business, tech and media. And today joining us is Sean Green whose the founder and CEO at ARTERNAL. Let's jump in and get to know Sean Green. Sean. Welcome.
Thanks for having me.
Oh, man, we're pumped. We're excited. Thanks for carving out some time to hang with us.
Yeah, definitely. I'm looking forward to it. Looking forward to the chat.
Sean, can you tell us a little bit about ARTERNAL?
Sure, sure. So, you know, obviously, as the name precedes itself, we're in the art world, we're a fully vertical business automation software for art professionals. So you know, if you're transacting in the art world, our product is for you. Client relation management is where we started. And then we filled out the product of the inventory management, sales workflow, data, and analytics, and financials knows that we can help art professionals do the job much easier, more efficient, don't have to rely so much on memory, and pen and paper and Excel spreadsheets. So we tie it together, all in one simple, streamlined solution so that they can get the job done.
That sounds really cool. And I want to ask you a little bit more about that, actually, because I love trying to sort of piece together the art world and computer science together. And maybe you can tell us a little bit about how that happened. And what inspired you to do that, because you really spent a lot of time in tech and developing a computer science background. And then now tying that together with sort of the art world. Tell us about that.
Yeah, yeah. Appreciate appreciate the Q. One of my friends back in 2012 was like she's quitting her job. And I was just like, yeah, people do that, whatever. And then she followed up with, and I'm becoming an artist full time, as I say, whoa, pause. You're becoming a, what I know about is the starving artists, that what does this even mean? And she's just like, yeah, she's like, I'm tied to corporate. And she was, you know, Bay Street gig. And similarly, Wall Street is in New York. And I was just like, Whoa, you know, I want to be able to figure out how I can help you. And she's like, well, you should start by coming to the studio. And I was just like, sure. And when she said studios, like, she is really serious. And I kept the following week, and I'm looking around, and I'm like, how are you going to sell these things on this wall like a shoe box? Does this, like how are you going to sell this work? Like, who's going to buy it? How are you going to be collectors and this time, the only thing that there was was like Twitter, and Facebook, like Instagram hadn't popped off, right, like, so, you know, today and Instagram like the de facto, you know, art world visualization, creative, you know, app. And so, I went back to my crib, I hit up, you know, I was I was actually in between tech startups at this particular point. So that gave me the freedom to have these conversations. And I met with a contractor, who was from my days at net Reynolds, which was my other tech startup. And we were shooting video, you know, before and after joints for, you know, the general contractors and stuff that we serve. And so I was shooting a before, you know, and after a video for him, as I was figuring out what my next steps is Vienna, and I told him, he's like, you know, so about that idea that you had after meeting with one of our artists, friends, I mean, considering that and going back and getting a job job, right. And he's like, Well, let me tell you a story. And this might help convince you the direction of where you want to go. And he's like, I have a connection to the art world. What's that? It's like my dad, he's like, my dad, was an artist, succumb to you know, drug overdose. But you know, that, like, for me, that was powerful, like, the artists was powerful and like the way like, what happened to my father was like, a powerful experience in my life. He goes, you're also too big for getting a job, job. Like he's like, that world is too small for you. It's like, I would continue your passion, figure out what it is you want to do on your entrepreneurial, you know, journey. And here is $12k. Start. And for me, that was like, you know, really reinforce if you actually use your money to start companies like really just like, Hey, here's this, because my family doesn't come from money, right? So, like, for me, I was just like, Oh, great. And then you realize all the other stuff, legal and attitude later, but you like having that money to be able to do what you need to do is what turned into ARTERNAL today. But it was empathy for my friend, combined with somebody who was doing a contract gig for who was part of my other startup that culminated in being that you know, initial kernel that started ARTERNAL.
That's pretty cool. Sean, I want to ask you more about that a little bit. But I want to talk about your family. Tell us about your background, where were you born and raised and did a little bit about your, your family
Yod man things.
Yeah, I was born in the island of Jamaica, you know, some of my conversations, I'm like, Nah, not queens. And, you know, my mom, she was a first entrepreneur knew. But before she was that, you know, she, you know, she brought us to Toronto, my dad was there My sister was born after. And for her, you know, it's all about education, and hard work and dedication, and she ended up starting a maid service in Toronto. And, like, that's what I knew was work. So for me going into the homes of these professionals, doctors, lawyers, dentists, judges, etc. And then looking at oh they vacation like that. Like, they drive whips like this, you know, it's just very aspirational. And I got to see like, the different artwork on their walls and things like that. So it's funny, like how this all kind of came together in my life and experiences later. But, you know, my mom showed me hard work, she showed me relationships and the power of relationships, right? Literally education, but a lot of might a lot of hustle on termination people are like, to me, you know, Sean had, like, how do you just get up and go on like, cuz, you know, that's what, that's what I saw. I didn't need any inspiration. Other than, you know, my mom's retirement plan, or I'm, like, you know, version two, you know what I mean? So, that, for me was very pivotal in terms of like, my formative, you know, years of like, you know, what it is to go after it and, you know, not have a boss will be your own boss and figure out my own journey, my own path to getting to where we are, and I always think my family and support, I just can't with a single site, the two s's in order to get success, you need support, right. And I believe you can't have the successes that are necessary unless you have the support system. You know, and it comes from the people who are around you, like when you look and you see a dude on the street, like, just get up and get a job or this lady just get up and get a job what the first ambition is like breakfast. And after that is like lunch. As as, like dinner after is like a safe space to rest my head like they are so far. And that's because the last hair line, you know, of thickness of support is gone. Right? That's why that person was gonna pick up that last phone call that last one and you and they burnt that one of them for whatever particular reason. But they're like, forget that. You know, Sean, let them go do his thing. Right. Like, that's how that happens. And so I tie Success and Support very tightly together.
love it. I love that.
What was it like growing up in Toronto? You know, with Yeah, Jamaican family? Was that like,
yeah, I mean, it's a cultural melting pot. I tell people Toronto is an amazing city. Yes, there's the winter there. LA now you soft. it's true, though. it like this sun. And this palm trees will weaken your membranes. Very quickly. But yeah, Toronto is great. I mean, the city, the cultural, like melting pot, I think you can get the best food from wherever you come from. Like in Toronto, you'll find like authentic like New York has great food, amazing. live there, great food, but Toronto is there's something there. And the cultural richness of the different, you know, people from different places and areas on the planet that just come there and just bring their richness and culture so I was super steep and it helps in the art world, right? We're like people from, you know, all different types of backgrounds. You know, creating all different types of cultural energy, and being able to communicate and engage and have a certain touch point because of a friend. You know, a friend of a friend, a relative cousin, I've got like that, like Toronto allows you to just have that aside from the NBA championships in the top. Over you know, you got Raptors, you got Drake, you got Bieber. Yeah, you know. There's a lot of stuff in the water. Hey!
Sean, you you mentioned earlier the drive to be your own boss, right? What is it about being a founder and a CEO that you love so much?
Yeah. Like it's that being able to solve different problems and I have an insatiable curiosity right and, and digging in and it like every day is different, you know, like on an assembly line and I know what that is. My dad was a foreman. Right in like a plastic blow molding plant, I know what that isn't going there, you smell the fumes you like, you know, you're, you're in there, you know, you see parts being, like, super monotonous and like saying, you know, same thing I think about me and where I am and like my, my dad and his like, very ya know steady like life. And in terms of his job, and I was just like, wow, it's like worlds apart, worlds apart. Right? And that's what I love about my day. Yes, the create, like you'll be on a higher by, like 10:37. And like, at 4:28 you're like, this thing is burning now. What are you doing here to fix this? And so, you know, that's a part of like, the fun even, you know, I know, like in some of the lows were like, is this gonna really work like are really going to get there and, and I think about people who are like, it's about the process of getting it. And what I'm really trying to enjoy, enjoy the process. I know that there are ups and downs. But you know, that sign curve balances itself out. And as long as we continue on up to the right trajectory, then I know we're doing great things. So I love that about being a boss and being an entrepreneur and working with the dopest squad like that. I mean, and being a part of building that squad, it's it's everything. Because the thing that I love the most about humanity is just just like people and getting to enjoy and love people and things like that. Being able to work with people who you love and adore and like, share the same goals that you wrote on a napkin like years ago, and now they're helping to manifest. Yeah, what other joy can you get?
I hear that I hear that technology plus art. I don't know, too many black men sitting at that intersection. Right. And I'm glad that we are having this conversation. Give us a sense, what is it like to be I would imagine, one of the few if not the only in the space that you're in right now.
Yeah, it's very interesting. And yeah, I'm the only founder CEO, you know, black individual in the space. And I remember my co founder, we say to me, I can leave you in a room, and I just come back, and I could point you out like a sore thumb, boom, there you are. Hmm. And it's changed a bit over the course last decade, still a long ways, a long ways to go. But this industry trades on trust and information, right. And trust is the most fun. So I had to figure out a way how to how to gain the trust in these spaces. And you know, sometimes you know, your code switching just to figure out like, you know, how you can chameleon your way into getting people to embrace and adopt you. And at times, you know, I had this one dealer and be like, hey, you're I'm paying attention to you. Right? This is even before we pivot, we're two pivots and three name changes into ARTERNAL. And he's like, how did you get here? You mean the sixth train? Like what Like what? And he was like, you know, like, what you're seeing is interesting in and I was just like, this is like a backhanded compliment. Like, I can listen to a black man and actually focus in painting interesting. And like, we're, I'm intrigued, and I want to dive in further. And for me, like I was just like, well, we need the whole day for and we probably need the whole year for you to actually understand that because, you know, I have to take you back to my mom that raised me, and then you know, the rooms that I would send the private school that she scraped her payments to go through, where I was the only black kid in my grade, almost my school. Right. So, you know, I understand how to wade through different rooms. And that prepared me for the space that I'm in today. You know, when I am, you know, walking through, you know, Beverly Hills, and I get pulled over on foot. And I have to deal this is like, I mean, I can say, Well, this is in the height when they were shooting black guys three years ago, right? But they're still shooting us today. Like Like, like that. And when you're being told to like spread your legs, put your hand behind your head and you've never put your hand beind your head and that right? Like, and you're like whoa, you can be like there is situations where like when you're getting apprehended for any particular way your whole thing's like fight or flight right that's what you know. And so it's so complex, right? Like, I take it from like, what is being black and says art world to the story to like me, you know, being stopped on foot and and spread my legs and like being emasculated because It's important for people to understand that I like I can be at this level. And there's still levels of where I want to go. But I can be at this low and it doesn't matter. I'm guilty. I'm just a black man.
So you go through it, because we're dealing with people at the end of the day, and I'm dealing with those same people, you know, in different aspects in varying degrees in the art world. But fortunately, I've been able to, you know, garner the respect, you know, yeah. All right, about what we're doing, you know, see a lot of the positives right that outweigh the negatives and experiences, and I love this art world. And for me, it's about bringing, like, I believe the thing about being unique, right? Like, that sucks. Like, I shouldn't be the only one in this room. Like, there needs to be more people like me in this room? And and how can I lose that? Yeah.
So that leads right into the next question, how do we get more people in the room? Right? You mentioned earlier, you know, things are starting to change a little bit, but there's probably still a long way to go. So what are some of the things that we have to do to get more people in a room with you?
Yeah, you know, like, for us, there's a few different things that we're doing, you know, internships, you know, with HBCUs, that, you know, we started and we're excited about, you know, a gentleman named Ahmed who's just joined us. But then also, it's like, my homies who are tech startup founders, who I'm like, What did you mention art I Yo, come over here, like, let's have a conversation, go check this dealer, or let me know who I can make a phone call for you to make an intro, right, just pulling in all my tech homies who, you know, are CEOs in their own right and doing their own things, making sure that they can be a part of this conversation, there's so much here that we don't even know that people leverage the art as an asset to help their whole portfolio, and also to pass down to their children, so they can create generational wealth, there's so much richness here that I'm still learning, you know, day to day, right. And so being able to pass that on, but also, you know, leveraging my statute to be like, Hey, you know, let me try and dig in and figure out what the data looks like in the, in the space. And so I want to be able to present data and create, you know, a report so that the industry as a whole can understand, you know, what's going on, and, hey, let's try and fix this. If we know the numbers, then that gives us a place from which we can act. And so you know, several different laneways, you know, to try and make a difference and try and make the space more inclusive.
Shawn, I'm curious, because so many of the kind of experiences touched on real quickly, you know, from your experiences as a child with your family. Some of those things kind of like, in turn become what we kind of pass on to either if we have children, or if we have new folks in the space, you know, and your pseudo mentoring or just kind of developing folks, what are some of those lessons that you learned from your family or from other folks that you've worked with, that you tend to pass on? What does that look like?
Yeah, yeah, I mean, my mom, ....Green is her name, she, like, integrity is a word that she always uses, you know, like, move with integrity. Like, and it's such a strong word, and it's meant more that you know, later, you know, in my life to me, because you realize that people can be finicky, you know, there are variables that you cannot control. And so you realize how powerful it is when you deal with a person who was genuine and shows integrity. And so, I like push that on, and make sure that that's like a part of, you know, my conversations, like, build incredible relationships, like, again, because, you know, through the lens of seeing my mom, you know, how she worked and how she operate, and how powerful I've seen, like, the relationships that I've built, and how, you know, come to, like, support me and what I'm doing, you know, one of my advisors at once told me, you know, time is your most important asset, right? So be careful who you share that resource with, ensure that you're getting value for your time, because it's your most expensive asset. Right. And so, you know, these are some of the things that I hold dear, and that, you know, I kind of like push push for because, you know, if you move, have good integrity, build relationships and leverage your time, effectively, you know, you can do a lot of great things.
What are some interesting areas in your industry that you're excited about? Sort of seeing grow? What are some spots that you know, you think about and are kind of like newer, that you can't wait to sort of see grow?
Yeah, everything around, you know, ecommerce and seeing post vaccine post pandemic come to fruition because people were panicking at the beginning of the pandemic and be like, man, we can't go to an art fair internationally. We can go into a gallery, you can't go to a museum, you can't like like the spontaneous combustion of activity of that, you know, IRL experience is so key To the art world, it's it's to a fault. Almost. Right? And, you know, when you see that, you know, there's people opening up apps that you can buy or sell or, you know, privately on where data and transparency in terms of data is very key, right? All these, you know, are market inducing, right? They're catalysts for bigger a larger market. And so I'm excited to see how people try and make private sales more with thing, provide digital infrastructure for private sales, because that's the part that's taken off usually, because it's all about relationships, at the end of the day, and so, payments is another thing, you know, we're probably going to be leading some of that with being the first to process of bank wire in the space. So very excited about that. Yeah, because 80% of transactions are processed by a wire in the art world, right. So it's not like your typical stripe credit card and things like that, with these high ticket items. So, you know, these are some of the things that I'm excited about. I think the collector just moves around the collect, I think, I mean, we know not even think like from research, like collectors are grossly under served
as a collector kind of changed over time recently.
Oh, yeah. I mean, first of all, the like, imagine, it's like you have top tier dealers who literally just work on memory, which is crazy. It's insane. It's, it's crazy. And so our focus with what we build our tools, helping to democratize memory, right? leverage the cloud and things like that. But your best dealers in the game, who run it, like will tell you like I was in, you know, Eric's crib, and I saw that he had this and I want to sell it, you know? Right. Like, they know, like, they just take it in as soon as as soon as then they start doing Minority Report with their mind and things like that. Yeah. And so it's very, like, I think, as you see them going from, yeah, had to manage 10, collectors to 25, collectors to 50. collectors. Great. Now, it's hundreds of collectors, right? These collectors are busier than ever, you know, but pre pandemic, they're flying all over private jets, this, you know, blah, blah, blah, going globally, internationally, it's, it's impossible for you to track them. And they're chasing the information and trying to get to it and be the first to collect and grow that particular artists career and things like that. So, you know, cuz the collectors have changed in the way how they exhibit different behaviors and, and want to get on the action and want to go to these, you know, Yale MFA grad programs, and you know, Pratt and things like that, like, they're diving in super early now. You know, and just seeing how they're behaving around black art is interesting, right, black art is on an incredible rise!
Unknown Speaker 22:37
What's that look like? Sean, because I seem a little bit from the sidelines. But yeah, it seems like a tremendous surge, or what's that look like?
Yeah, it's an incredible surge. Right. And it's funny, because, you know, I caught myself in a moment where I was just like, I'm seeing a lot of me's right, like, you know, worse than out there. And I'd be like, you know, is it too much? Because I remember being in this particular show, I think it's like the new museum. And I was just like, wow. But at the same time, I was just like, you go into every other like, Museum, you just like, there's so many white faces, like, everywhere, figurative sculptures, this and that. I'm like, we haven't even scratched the surface. Right? You know, right. There needs to be so much more of this.
Treat it like a special exhibit. To some extent, right. Yeah. Everything else is just there.
Exactly. Exactly. And so you know, like, we just need to see more of it. figurative abstract sculpture, mixed media, all of it more.
Well, let me on that point, Sean, how much has technology sort of level the playing field for the independent artists, and I'm specifically thinking about like Instagram, where if you are an artist, I mean, you have now access to shop your work all over the world. Right? Whereas, you know, 10-15 years ago, that wasn't the case.
Oh, yeah. It's helped tremendously. It's helped tremendously. And so it's funny because our client with the gallery who represents these different artists, you know, it's all about that heat, right, if you can create that heat and that fire, dealers now start to take notice and find you and go search out, you know, seek you out. And so, Instagram has allowed you to create again, we all know, the data's the numbers, you know, numbers and also do numbers and sell out of your studio, things like that. So when you come to a dealer or a dealer approaches you, because you'll find it'll be like, yeah, you don't approach me, Well, you know, if you're hot, we'll find you, that sort of energy. And when they come to you, and you're like, yo, my followers are here. Like, I've just done these numbers in the last, you know, quarter Yeah, like, now you can command a difference. conversation, right? So that's the power of social is the power of technology. And we're gonna see a lot of stuff. I mean, as you guys probably know, NFT's or talk of the moment, and things like that that's happening. Again, it's another cultural unlock. It's another unlock for the power of commerce in the space. And so we're about to see a lot that's going to happen there, you know, creating this sort of independence for these artists. And we'll see how the dealers find their way in in that ecosystem.
Gotcha, gotcha. Okay. Okay, switching up topics here a little bit, I want to go back to life as a founder and CEO, and obviously, you're thinking about this stuff all day long. You live it, you eat it, you breathe it all day long. With that said, What does work life balance look like for Sean Is there such a thing
as a very interesting, Q, this difficult to come across the balance part of the work life balance. But, you know, for me, it's like, you know, playing around, you know, with my daughter's, like, when you're on all fours, or you're doing tea time, when you got Elmo puppet on your hand, you know, you're doing, you know, pre k drop offs with another like that from it's a moment to like, you know, disconnect, and just be like, just be Dad, just just be doing that, you know, FaceTime with my son, and he's just outside of Toronto. And so, you know, like, these are the moments you just take it in, you know, you kick back asking, you know, you know, my son playing ball, you know, How's his ankle that he just kind of, you know, messed up trying to dunk on some old guys. Like, for me, that's like, it's bounced, but, you know, meditate, like morning meditations are like my long showers like I take my showers probably are the reason why my water bill looks the way. But, you know, that's where I can like meditate. It's my only time of like, solace, where like, it's completely uninterrupted, unless my daughters come in and bang the door down and like, shower. But other than that, like it's uninterrupted. And I get to, like, you know, get my day planned, or just end my day, you know, in a bit of a Zen moment, allows me to be able to attack it, you know, the next day or that particular day,
Sean, take us into your world of how you stay informed and what you read and watch and see, to see and know what's hot, and what's out there, or just things that you should be focusing your mind on, take us into that world.
Yeah, man, it's a lot. I'm kinda like, you know, YouTube, Twitter, the information, the top like web web search, like, you know, in my feed when I tap on my Google, you know, like, culture, and art and tech, like, you need to just know everything because people Apex in the art world, no matter where they are, like, your biggest form of stunting is like, yeah, you know, I just bought this piece of art right here, you know, and it's a one on one. And so when you're in these different rooms, like you're learning a heck ton from people in different industries, as well. And so the wealth of knowledge that you're picking up as you're engaging, you know, my wife is always looking at Whole bunch of Hey, yo, did you see this? Yeah. And so there's all these different elements, where I'm like, gleaning information and then turning that information and leveraging it to build a relationship stronger, do something unique with like, either a post that I need to put out, and you know, my systems amazing on my social and make sure that, you know, I'm out there, but you know, it's like, I'm gathering information from a whole bunch of different resources that are out there.
Did you have anybody that like, besides your family, we talked a lot about the early inspirations, but a little bit later in your life and closer to work? Did you have anybody that sort of helped work with you to sort of develop some of that, or there's a lot of that more of a natural sort of set of skills that you tap into,
yet, it feels more innate, it feels more natural, like, my insatiable curiosity, like wanting to know more and like, you know, how something is done and wanting to dive deeper and dig in that. That's pretty much you know, what it's been I have great advisors, great mentors, like around me who, you know, crushing it in different arenas that I pull into the biz, and that helps us inform you know, how I execute but yeah, yeah, it's, it's me dialing in.
Sean, for the audience that's listening right now. If there's someone out there that wants to get into the art world as a buyer, where should they start?
Yeah, good Q. You know, I tell people, you know, start by just looking. Just figure out you know, where the art openings like one thing that people should know is like galleries that are free To go to now, yes, you have to know this is by appointment, you know, COVID. But that's going to be done soon you just be able to frequent, go to as many gallery shows as possible, get on as many lists as possible, right? Because you can just sign up for their list and receive their emails and train your eye. It's like, I want to think, Well, I was looking at almost a decade ago, and like, you know, over the course, you know, 5,6,7 years, because just like, Wow, well, I put like, my eye has matured so much, right? In the in the last, you know, 2,3,4 years, right? And you'll, you'll feel that muscle start to continue to strengthen over time. And that's when you'll get closer to me like, Okay, I think I'm ready to acquire. And then you start asking different questions and wondering, you know, more about the history of certain artists and artwork and things like that. And be in conversation understand who are the players in this space? Right? Like, who are the major collectors who are collecting? What are they collecting? Why are they collecting that stuff, right? And take photos as if you wanted, as if you were going to acquire this particular, right, and then look at that over the course of a 12 month period. And then look at where those artists are post purchase, right? And then once you can see, you know, have your like was if this was my, you know, acquisition portfolio, this is what this would look like, and do it like you would with like fake chips, but you treat them like real chips on a poker table, even though you can never really treat the chips like the real chips. You know, get as much of that feeling as possible and then put your skin in the game but buy the love, they'll buy to reap the rewards. That's always super key.
Okay, love that advice. Love that advice. Alright, fun question. I love asking every guest we have on the podcast, give us the top three apps that you use on your phone on a regular basis, but you can't name email, calendar or text messaging,
no email, no calendar and no text, no text messaging, okay. Evernote.
All right,you got to take those notes for the art world.
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. You said no email right
slack. slack count.
Well let that one slide.
And then, like, um, my whoop band. I don't feel like whoop, like, that's an app that I'm trying to like figure out like, sleep patterns. My whole like, you know, heart rate stuff.
Yeah, I know.
Alright. Yeah. Yeah, I think that's it. That's a
note taking communication and health. All good.
That's it. Awesome.
My bubble would be LinkedIn if I get a bubble.
Well, Sean, thanks for spending some time with us and our listeners love to stay in touch and follow our guests. What are some ways that they can follow you and also stay in touch?
Yeah, for sure. Sean_ARTERNAL that's Sean_ARTERNAL. Sean_ARTERNAL is how they can find me. Follow me DM me catch up with me. Pretty much on all mediums. I think Twitter, Instagram. What else LinkedIn? Yeah, you find me on either of those platforms. .
Excellent. Well, everyone. Thanks again for listening. And thanks for joining us, Sean. You can find more episodes where you find all of your audio and video, just search Minority Report Podcast and look for the logo. Thanks.
Awesome. Thanks a lot. Really appreciate it.