Book an Artist Founder Gaurav Kawar has an eye for blank walls.
Once he started seeing them, he couldn’t stop. At home, in bars and restaurants, in transit - Gaurav started noticing blank space with the potential for beauty everywhere.
An ex commercial accountant and Senior Analyst at Coca Cola, Guarav was familiar with two-sided marketplaces and the concept of supply and demand. Delving into the idea of connecting brands and businesses with people who could brighten up their spaces, he found the artist side of the marketplace elusive.
As is often the case with creatives with little exposure to corporate environments, the street artists Guarav initially connected with were struggling to market themselves.
The businesses on the other side didn’t know where to look for mural painters or installation creators. When they did find them, response times were poor and communication often broke down before a deal could be secured.
The informal and often anti-establishment nature of the industry meant things like insurance, contracts, procurement requirements, and quality assurance were basically a non-entity.
From humble beginnings in Brixton, UK, Gaurav has been named among GQ’s Top 10 Innovative Australians 2021, and The Australian’s Top 100 Innovators for 2021 and 2022.
The company has coordinated art for WeWork, Netflix, Jimmy Choo, Sony, and Mercedes, as well as impactful pro bono projects like a Thank You mural for the frontline and essential workers who supported Australia throughout the bushfires and the pandemic.
Book An Artist has commissioned over $1m of artwork to date in both Australia and the UK.
Here’s how they got there.
Perfecting the art
Before connecting with Skalata, Book an Artist was growing organically through artist networks in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
But to grow both sides of the marketplace and break down the language barrier between creatives and corporates, the team needed capital, operational structure, marketing power, and sustainable processes to help them scale.
Skalata worked intensively with Book an Artist across three main areas of the business:
Growing the team
As a solo founder, Guarav needed additional resource to handle the growing workload, and to galvanise efforts in customer acquisition, customer support, marketing, and product development.
We helped Guarav connect with talented staff, giving him the time to develop a far more advanced product, and to improve marketplace dynamics.
Growing inbound leads
Book an Artist had seen success connecting with and securing artists onto the platform, and had taken a considered approach to ensure that the number of artists on the platform matched buyer (i.e. artists, once onboarded, do not have to wait long to get jobs). But no matter how considered, artist demand was now outweighing buyer demand.
Gaurav needed to ensure there was equal demand on the buyer side, and worked with Skalata to plan and execute traffic growth strategies, including content, PR, and SEO campaigns to attract buyers.
Through these efforts, Book an Artist was able to grow monthly inbound leads by 125% from January to July 2020 - an impressive feat through the first throes of COVID.
Reviewing the revenue model
The pandemic was no doubt a wobbly patch for Book an Artist. Hospitality made up a significant part of their client base, and venues were shutting down left right and centre.
But the company continued to assist and support its artists throughout, target new areas for expansion (like construction projects, which were less affected than food and beverage businesses), and ultimately exceed its revenue targets despite the setbacks.
Between January and August 2020 - arguably the darkest days of COVID-19 - the number of active commissions on the platform actually doubled. In October, for the first time, Book an Artist booked a commission for every day of the month.
We worked with the team to review the revenue model, leading to significant improvement on their margin, improving the unit economics of the business, and increasing net MRR 426%.
Gaurav currently charges artists a 10-20% commission for connecting the artist to the client, as well as for the lead management administrative tools available on the platform. This compares to 30-40% commission charged by the creative agencies whom the artists would otherwise be dependent on (as intermediaries).
As a result, growth benefits from a flywheel effect, with more commissions driving more artist onboarding, which in turn drives more commissions.
As of March 2022, Book an Artist has raised $1 million in a funding round led by Airtasker CEO Tim Fung.
It’s operating in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and now Singapore with a view to exploring new international markets.
Artist sign ups also have grown by more than 400%, an app has been released, and revenue has grown by 350% over the last 12 months.
It's a masterpiece.
Street art does something really important. It creates small pockets of beauty where - for whatever natural, financial, or government-mandated reason - colour and texture is lacking, and customers and pedestrians go uninspired.
This is why Book an Artist has never limited itself to the corporate side of things. In his constant quest to explore new revenue streams and bring art into every blank space, Guarav wants to bring colour and an alternative to wallpaper into the homes of regular people.
“We believe that art can truly energise spaces, drive business and growth, and encourage further public engagement with brands or spaces. Murals and graffiti art are a unique design choice more spaces are considering as they go to redesign and revamp their boring blank walls. We now have plans to add more categories. We want to be the brand - if you want an artist, go to Book an Artist.”
While growth may attract competitors, Gaurav is continuously incorporating customer feedback into the platform's development, allowing the platform to build on its first-mover advantage.