Boston, MA-based art tech startup Cuseum has just raised $1.2m in seed funding from world-class investors. In conjunction with it, Brendan Ciecko, founder & CEO, answered our questions about himself, the company, the funding and future plans.
FinSMEs: Hi Brendan. Can you tell us a bit more about you? What’s your background?
Brendan: I’ve been an entrepreneur, designer, and technologist for most of my life. I started to design and began learning to develop when I was 11 years old. A few years later, I founded a creative agency producing websites, software, and marketing tools for the music and entertainment industry. At Ten Minute Media, we built things for some of the world’s largest brands, music artists, and record labels, such as Mick Jagger, Katy Perry, Slash, Tony Bennett, Universal, Warner, and Sony. It was an incredible journey to break into the music industry at a young age and to work on hundreds of exciting projects.
For the past few years, I’ve been looking to branch out into something new and to build another company from the ground up. he concept of using mobile technology to enhance people’s experiences around art enchanted and inspired me. The arts have always been a passion of mine and I knew the timing was right to start a new company: Cuseum.
FinSMEs: Where and when did you start? What’s the opportunity you found in the market?
Brendan: I started Cuseum in 2014 – we were previously called Spotzer and recently change our name. In 2013, I began working on a concept for a platform to power mobile apps in the cultural space that are engaging, social, and proximity-aware. The announcements of iBeacon by Apple was one of the catalysts. I spent several months meeting with museum directors, curators, educators, and IT staff to gain a deeper understanding of the current state of operations, their frustrations, and wants and needs across the technology spectrum. Most of the solutions they were using were inefficient, expensive, and clunky. I saw an opportunity to build a platform that is user-friendly, innovative, and provides value. We want to help our customers be more successful in using technology to boost their engagement with visitors, patrons, and supporters.
FinSMEs: How does Cuseum work? Tell me something about the features of the platform…
Brendan: Cuseum powered mobile apps serve as the visitors’ passport to museums, galleries, and other cultural institutions. As the visitor enters the museum, they can pick the path they’d like to pursue; whether it be a exhibition, tour, or highlights. As they enter a gallery or walk-up to the works of art, their presence and proximity is sensed and the app will pull up content related to the piece. Visitors can easily engage in conversation, share over social media, and bookmark the works of art that they like best. These are just a few of the core features of the technology.
On the platform-side, we provide museums with a powerful cloud-based Content Management System, a Dashboard, and various analytics tools to gain a better understanding of their visitors. Museums can finally access data about overall engagement times and impressions of objects in the collection! We’re really excited about the potential of mobile and beacon technology in the cultural space and want to make this technology easy, and seamless to plug-and-play for museums of all sizes to use.
FinSMEs: Where are you in terms of growth?
Brendan: We are quickly growing and are currently a team of 8 people. We will be making some big announcements of museums and galleries we are working with very soon!
FinSMEs: You just raised a seed round. What can you tell me about your all-star investors? How are you using the funds?
Brendan: We are thrilled to be backed by a dynamic group of investors and advisors that support our vision. We are using these funds to expand our team, speed up development, and release new features.
Brendan: Right now we’re focusing on deploying our technology to a number of museums. We are also rolling out new product features over the next few months. Our long-term vision is to be the universal passport to the art world, and to bridge the physical aspects of art with the digital world. People often talk about the “Internet of Things,” at Cuseum, we like to say “Internet of Art.”
FinSMEs:…what about Boston as a startup ecosystem? Incentivizing?
Brendan: Boston is a world-class city and I’m fortune to be a part of such a supportive startup community. The resources, network, and energy here make Boston a great city to call home. Boston is also host to some of the world’s best arts and cultural organizations… Cuseum is proud to be born in Boston!