Q: Tell us about your business and how it all started.
Bidgala is an online marketplace where artists from all over the world can join to showcase their art. Basically, our business was created from a problem rather than an idea as we have a lot of artist friends who we saw struggling to sell their art. After doing some research, we realized that a lot of buyers were also struggling to find affordable original art. There seemed to be nothing in between an expensive gallery or an IKEA Carbon Print. That is where the idea of creating an online community marketplace came from to connect home owners/buyers with young emerging artists that they might not know about. The venture was based on a problem rather than on an idea and so the concept came as a solution to the problem.
Q: When did it all start?
We started developing the business about a year and a half ago, but only launched the platform itself 3 months ago. We’re now a team of nearly 30 people and have more than a thousand artists on our platform showcasing their work.
Q: With the experience you’ve gained, what’s something you would tell someone wanting to launch their own business?
The main thing that we’ve learned in terms of developing anything and for just about any startup is that the most important thing to do in the beginning stages of your business is to have a MVP (minimum valuable product). Whatever your idea may be, create a model that could be validated by stakeholders (could be sellers, buyers etc.). That being said, whatever your idea is and how great you might think it is, never assume it actually is.
You need to let your customers/audience/stakeholders tell you what they want and what they need. Don't pretend like you know everything. In fact, pretend everything you know is wrong and validate every move along the way.
That being said, research and testing should be a part of every single stage throughout the progression of your business. Your audience's needs will change and your business must be able to adapt to these changes.
We waited a year before launching our company, but if we had to do it all over again, we would have spent 3 months building a skeleton of our website and business structure, launched it and worked to truly understand our stakeholders need and then adjust accordingly by fixing our mistakes and making our product / interface better for our audience.
How to do that?
A/B testing, focus groups, surveys, interviews, market research, reaching out and talking to professionals, prioritize MVP backed features, etc.
How to find people to do focus groups or interviews with?
Look at who follows your competitors, message them and try to have them answer your surveys or be part of your focus group. These people could potentially be your ideal targets because they will be actually interested in what you're doing and are most likely part of your target market. You can also reach out to professionals on LinkedIn to get more professional feedback.
*Make sure to always customize every message you send and make it feel personal.
We are very lucky to have an advisory board which comprises of members with 30+ years of experience in their respective industry. That being said, we can’t stress enough the importance of having people to guide you along the way.
Personally, we have one specific mentor/advisor with knowledge in each aspect of our business, including marketing, art, sales, and more.
Send customized messages to professionals in your field on Linkedin. Don’t stop or feel discouraged. You might have to message 200 people to get 1 answer. You can also do A/B testing with your message to see which generates more replies.
Taking the time to develop your brand story is extremely important as this is what will help you stand out and help you resonate with people, press, etc.
Conduct market research and understand where you fit in the market, understand and live by your company mission, find your company's values, understand your purpose, create moodboards, get inspired, etc.
Q : Any book recommendations?
A : The Lean Startup is a good book to read for the beginning stages of your business.
To conclude, there is no magic formula to have a successful business. It’s all about grinding, finding all the answers, and always with the mindset : “I'm not leaving this chair until this is done”. You just need to do it until it happens.
William Lande & Sam Tenenbaum co-founded Bidgala out of Montreal, Canada when they noticed a pair of art students struggling to sell their work. The struggle for the artists was intensified when the COVID-19 pandemic caused business closures and in-person event cancellations. William & Sam made it their mission to support all artists and to share their stories.