Unique collectors’ app attracts venture capital interest

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Sandip Mallik

A unique app that enables collectors to manage their collections on their iPhones is attracting interest from venture capital firms.

Prime Collector is an Apple-compatible (iOS) app that enables collectors to digitise, manage and secure their assets. It was launched in November 2014 by Prime Art Capital, a global art advisory and investment management firm.

“We have also had good feedback and investment interest from a couple of venture capital firms as they see Prime Collector as the first platform of its kind,” says Prime Art Capital’s founder and CEO Sandip Mallik. “Based on our current run rate we should be ready in six to nine months to raise approximately $2 million in Series A funding.”

Mallik says Prime Collector has several qualities that make it unique: “It is the only app available globally that lets collectors digitise their assets, develop an estate transition plan, and manage collector services, both in English and simple Chinese,” he says. “There are many gallery inventory management systems out there which large collectors can also use, but they are expensive, desktop-based and clunky to use, especially on a mobile device.

“Prime Collector, on the other hand, has been developed primarily for individual collectors who can use their mobile phones and tablets to manage their treasure trove. We conducted extensive research on best practices by interviewing top collectors with the intent to understanding how they housekeep their collection. As result of this the app acts almost like a mentor to new collectors.”

Mallik learnt from the research that people tend to collect at least two categories of collectibles, such as art and wine, or jewellery and furniture. This led his team to build built the app with more than 22 categories of collectibles with appropriate data fields for each that enables collectors to keep track not only of their art, but all other treasure assets.

“There are a host of other features like creating a wishlist of works that you would want to see in your collection in the future, data dashboards, emailing, printing and PDF generation, and sharing on social media directly from the app,” he says.

He adds that the app makes financial sense: “Prime Collector also offers the best value for money. Our unlimited storage account costs $15 a month compared to our nearest competitor which sells a desktop-based system for $40 per month.”

Prime Collector grew out of the realization that inventory management is a basic yet vitally important housekeeping item for any collector. It enables a collector to first digitise their entire collection by following the simple app prompts. Once this is done, the collector knows what they have, how much is each treasure asset worth, and where each is located.

“The second benefit is proactive estate planning,” says Mallik. “Our research tells us that the 3D’s (debt, divorce and death) could lead to significant value loss for a collection and that prior planning can help secure and preserve value of a collection in the long term.

“As the collection size increases, services become very important. Prime Collector helps plan services individually for each item in a trove. For example, title insurance renewal dates are prompted by the app, or paying the storage company rent is never missed.”

Mallik says uptake has been very good in developed collector markets like New York and London. More than 50% of the customer base is in the United States, Netherlands and United Kingdom. Collectors in India are becoming increasingly aware of Prime Collector thanks to various social media campaigns they have run, and that is leading to an increased uptake. Prime Collector currently has users in 33 countries.

“Marketing expenses are astronomical,” he adds. “The cost of acquiring a new paying subscriber is the almost same as it costs a bank to acquire a new credit card customer. We see great long term benefits for our clients as they sign up. We are now leveraging our relationships with private banks, galleries, wealth managers and auction houses to spread the word about Prime Collector.”

Mallik adds that the overall user feedback has been very positive, not least because the simplicity of design has led to good user experience.

“There are some concerns amongst users in China about Prime Collector being a cloud-based data platform. We have put in place all standard security software commensurate with the risk,” he adds.