Fuelarts accelerator awards 100,000 in surprise kickstart grants to Art+Tech startups

The New York-based accelerator Fuelarts held its first Demo Day to introduce its latest cohort and discuss the Art+Tech market investment potential.

Two startups, Artherium, an NFT inventory app, and Sarturn, a GameFi platform for Gen Z art investors, were awarded surprise kickstart grants from Fuelarts, amounting to $50,000 each. Another company from the first cohort, digital marketplace V-Art, raised $150K earlier this year. Four startups were handpicked for Fuelarts’ first virtual batch.

The accelerator’s mission is to bridge the gap between art and technology by supporting early-stage startups. Fuelarts was launched by former COO of Christie’s Americas, ex-Senior VP of artnet.com, and adjunct faculty member of Sotheby’s Institute of Art Roxanna Zarnegar, and serial Art+Tech entrepreneur, Sotheby’s Institute graduate, and art economist Denis Belkevich. The accelerator raised $500K from philanthropic funders in September. 

According to Fuelarts founder and CEO Denis Belkevich, during the pandemic top auction houses and dealers turned their attention to the burgeoning tech sector. “One prime example happened recently when Sotheby’s invested $20 million in Mojito to create a metaverse destination for NFTs,” he added. “With art market players getting involved too, we’re seeing a lot of excitement around Art+Tech from institutional investors and the VC world.” 

Katya Kohen, the managing partner at Amadeo Global VC fund and Fuelarts investment partner, believes the Art+Tech market has the potential to bring a substantial return on those investments. “Historically, traditional art would only generate 3-5 percent IIR (internal rate of return). But for Art+Tech startups like the ones Fuelarts presented today, we’re looking at a return above 25 percent,” said Kohen. 

By late next year, the Fuelarts accelerator intends to become a company-builder VC, which would help startups adapt their business models to shifting market demands. “I think starting about seven years ago, and until now, Art+Tech took the lens and zoomed out away from building marketplaces, looking instead into all the other different facets,” said Roxanna Zarnegar, Fuelarts’ co-founder and board member. She believes subsidiary businesses, such as smart contracts, offer the biggest opportunities for Art+Tech investors and entrepreneurs alike. 

As a part of its mission, in January next year, Fuelarts will be issuing a report focusing on challenges and opportunities in the Art+Tech market. The document will include an analysis of already existing startups, current funding opportunities, forecasts for the coming year, and interviews with industry leaders. Dates for the next batch of Fuelarts applications will be announced later this year.