Here at Work In Startups, we’re on a mission to champion the best and most exciting startups in the UK. To support this, we’re starting a new blog series highlighting some of the most innovative and fast-growing startups around. Follow us as we interview startup founders across the country and find out more about their goals and ambitions, what the future holds and (for all you startup jobseekers out there looking for the inside scoop) what they look for in a prospective employee.
This week, we’re interviewing Robert Norton, CEO and Founder of Verisart – the world’s leading platform for certifying and verifying artworks and collectibles using the Bitcoin blockchain. Verisart has just raised $2.5 million in seed funding and is growing fast, hiring equally as fast, and radically disrupting the art industry.
What would you say Verisart’s mission is? What are your values?
Our mission is to build trust and advance cultures by empowering people to secure objects of value and transact with confidence. Before founding Verisart, it was clear to me how widespread fraud was in the physical art business and how untrustworthy many of the parties were. I realised that image recognition, blockchain and museum-grade certification standards could be leveraged to change this – so this is what Verisart has set out to do! Through registering and tracking collectibles and artworks, authentic and fake artworks can be easily identified.
As for our values, our primary asset is our people and our strengths result from how we work together as a team. We need a great team to build great products. Our core values are our ‘Big T’s’: Time, Tenacity, Talking, Trust and Team. However, we are equally committed to the following:
· Forward Motion & First Principles: each failure brings us one step closer to success
· Interdependent: self-reliance and personal responsibility carry us so far but interdependence carries us further
· Responsibility: be a first responder and responsible for fixing things with integrity
· Merit: attract the world’s best talent and promote based on merit
You guys have achieved some fantastic growth! What’s next for Verisart?
First and foremost, we’re improving the tech that we already have. We’re also going to launch some premium products and services – so keep your eyes peeled! We want users to have more control in terms of granularity. For example, there may be certain parts of the certificate that users are willing to share, but others, such as past purchase history, that they are unwilling to share. The ability to lock down certain parts of your record would be really valuable to some of our customers. Furthermore, we want to shift the certificate from being a digital representation to being a tradable thing of value. We ultimately want the certificate to live in your wallet because of the flexibility this brings. People will, presumably, want to use the certificate for different purposes and we want to facilitate this. A Fairtrade Art Certificate is also on the horizon….
I see that you have been hiring for quite a few techie roles – what’s great about your startup tech team?
They’re incredibly entrepreneurial, agile and passionate. Everyone who works at Verisart believes the business is a good use of blockchain technology. They are inspired by the potential of the blockchain to create a new standard for certification and want to make sense of the increasing amount of data that is becoming available for people in the art market. At Verisart, we also operate on a flat hierarchy. We value everyone’s ideas and want the entire team to be involved in decision-making, which, I believe, sets us apart! The team is also very experienced. Our CTO, Paul Duncan, was the founding CTO of Borro – the online lending platform for luxury assets. Our VP of Engineering likewise has a strong security background. Peter Todd, a Bitcoin core developer, and Dr. Ahmed Elgammal, Professor of the Art & Artificial Intelligence Lab at Rutgers University, also advise us.
What do you look for in an employee?
A range of things. We look for people that are active listeners – so people that fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. We also want people that are compassionate coachers, so help others understand what they need to do to be better at their job. Most importantly, however, we want people that fully show up and bring their full self to work. To thrive at Verisart, you’ve got to be energetic, entrepreneurial and passionate about our mission! Our mantra is “if you forget all of our values, be kind, show gratitude to others and seek to help and grow the company.”
Do you have any pearls of wisdom for young startup co-founders?
Focus on the narrative of what you’re about to do. Imagine that you have already achieved what you want to achieve – is this the lifestyle that you want? At the end of the day, your company has to support your personal goals. I’m not just talking about financial goals – being a boss can be stressful and the hours are long. Think carefully about whether you want this. Also, being a big storyteller and communicator will really work in your favour! You have to be able to paint a clear picture of your mission, your goals and how you’ll reach them, and why your start up is unique. This will help you secure funding and attract great talent. You also need to be incredibly tenacious as this is the fuel that will get you through your journey. Starting your own business isn’t all plain sailing – there are bumps in the road and you need the determination to keep going. Perhaps the biggest piece of advice I can give, however, is that your choice of startup co-founder is really important. You need to partner with someone that is passionate, driven and shares the same goals as you.