Following exit to Live Nation, Universe founders secure $10.8 million for online art marketplace Peggy

Peggy team
Peggy uses AI to help artists and collectors authenticate artwork.

After selling their social ticketing platform, Universe, to Live Nation Entertainment, serial entrepreneurs Craig Follett and Adam Meghji are back and targeting the art market with another Toronto-based startup.

Peggy, an online social marketplace for contemporary art, has unveiled $10.8 million CAD ($8 million USD) in equity seed funding and launched its platform, which aims to make buying and selling art more flexible.

“This unprecedented flexibility, previously only available to billionaires, is now available to the rest of us.”
-Craig Follett, Peggy

A spokesperson for Peggy confirmed with BetaKit that the round closed “at the end of 2022” and was led by Real Ventures, with participation from ZVC, Garage Capital, Portage, and Nomad Capital. The financing also saw participation from angel investors Robert J. Harding, former president of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s board of trustees, and David Marcus, executive VP of global music at Ticketmaster, among others. United Kingdom-based rapper Tinie Tempah, who is reportedly an avid art collector, and Rose Rocket VP of engineering Ian Logan also invested in Peggy as part of the round.

Montréal-based Real Ventures also previously invested in Universe, prior to the latter’s sale to Live Nation in 2015. Former managing partner of the VC firm, Janet Bannister served as a member of Universe’s board.

Peggy represents one of Real Ventures’ latest investments since the VC firm paused its fundraising efforts in 2022.

As part of that pause, Real Ventures co-founder John Stokes took over as managing partner following Bannister stepping down from the role last fall. This came after the firm saw a slew of personnel changes and faced difficulty raising its next fund.

With Peggy, Follett and Meghji aim to support artists, as well as offer a place for collectors to resell pieces online in the secondary art market.

Using artificial intelligence, Peggy claims that its patent-pending digital fingerprint tech will allow users to authenticate artwork. The startup claims its digital fingerprint solution only takes a few minutes to complete the authentication process, register the transfer of ownership, and pay artists royalties.

“For the first time ever, collectors can buy art with the flexibility to sell it on the other side, should they one day need to rehome the artwork,” said Follett, who is leading Peggy as CEO. “This unprecedented flexibility, previously only available to billionaires, is now available to the rest of us.”

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Per Peggy’s website, artists and their galleries each receive five percent of the total transaction value for every secondary market sale through its marketplace.

Peggy claims that it has partnered with 30 contemporary art galleries for its launch with shows at art fairs like Art Basel, NADA, Liste, and Zona Maco. The startup also said that artists on the platform have been featured in biennial events like the Venice Biennale and museums such as Centre Pompidou, MOCA Geffen, and Louvre Abu Dhabi. Peggy’s website states that it currently has a team of 19 people across four continents.

Peggy also noted on its website that its initial focus is on two-dimensional paintings by contemporary artists—meaning all of the work listed on its platform has been created by living artists or in the past 25 years. Peggy’s VP of art Bronwyn Hunter-Shortly is the lead at Peggy for curating galleries, artists, and artworks from around the world. She brings previous experience from Christie’s Auction House, Kasmin Gallery, and Winston Art Group.

Speaking to the challenging fundraising environment, Peggy claims that its ability to close this round offers “an example of how art is a stable asset class and investment—that also supports artists and galleries.”

In a shared statement with BetaKit, a spokesperson for Peggy said: “Collecting art is proven to be an investment that is stable, reliable, and hedges against unpredictable market conditions and downturns—Peggy’s funding round echoes the stability that art provides in economic downturns.”

Featured image courtesy Peggy.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a staff writer for BetaKit.

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