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On January 29, 2018, it was announced that Luxembourg company, itondo, has been nominated in the “Creative” category to participate in the StartUp Europe Awards 2017.  This is in addition to 13 other start-ups in various categories.  We spoke to Director and co-founder Karen Zadra about itondo, an art marketplace and mobile iOS app that lets people preview art on their own walls to scale before they buy.

Along with 13 other Luxembourg start-ups in various categories that we will be highlighting in a series, itondo,  founded by Australian Karen Zadra and her husband Dirk, but headquarted in Luxembourg, was nominated in the “Creative” category to represent the Grand Duchy for a chance to win at the StartUp Europe Awards 2017.

In itondo’s category, the aim of these awards is to reward the best start-ups working on cultural and creative projects in its broadest sense (visual arts, architecture, audio-visuals, literature, music, design and fashion), taking into consideration the originality of the project and its subsequent implementation. Moreover, the project must pursue a transnational geographical dimension, successfully reaching a European or even global dimension.

Virtually hang artworks on your own wall

The itondo app uses augmented reality to let you virtually hang any artworks on your own wall, to scale, so that you can preview art live in your own space before you make a purchase. You can walk around to see the artwork in your room from different angles or take some wall photos to try art on them anywhere, anytime.

We interviewed Karen Zadra, Director and cofounder of itondo

Q – Karen, can you please tell us a bit about the motivation for your company and how you ended up in Luxembourg?

A – Karen Zadra:  Dirk and I were running a gallery in Australia, where we started to develop itondo. We needed to be closer to the major art markets. Dirk is German, and although we thought about America, what we really wanted was to be somewhere geographically central in Europe so we could travel around to art fairs. Although Dirk is German, we decided that it would be easier to move and conduct our business from Luxembourg.

Q – So it was the central location that drew you?

A – Yes in part. However, beyond the location we saw Luxembourg as culturally neutral. You can be international from day one. It has a very open culture, which works well for our business. We are very excited to be in Luxembourg and we have received a lot of help along the way.

Q – So you moved to Luxembourg to create itondo?

A – Yes. We still had about six months of development when we packed up and came to Luxembourg because it looked like the best place to be. We connected with Technoport, spoke with them and we were part of their pre commercial programme. They are very good to work with.

Q – What was the impetus for the app?

A – It came from our commercial experience. Our gallery was located in Adelaide, Australia but our clients were in Sydney and Melbourne. Many of our customers were asking us to send Photoshop mock ups of the art on their walls, which is a typical service that galleries offer. We started looking for an accurate, efficient technical solution. We eventually incorporated augmented reality because you can get as close to the art as possible. It is a very immersive experience. Originally, our developers were in Poland and we came to Luxembourg to finish the development part.

Q – So your main selling point is still the gallery in Australia?

A – We still have the gallery so yes, in part, this was a business solution for us because it helps clients see what art looks like. The itondo platform is open to other galleries and artists if we judge the quality is suitable (which can be tricky as a lot of art is a matter of taste). The seller pays an annual fee for the platform but no commission on their art sales, which is a good deal for them.

Q – Has it proved a success so far?

A – Indeed it has. As an example, there was someone in Luxembourg who went from buying a small painting for 2,000 euros to a couple of paintings for 13,000 euros after the app showed them that the larger works fit perfectly.

Q – You are also an expert of Aboriginal art.

A –Yes, that is true. In fact, we did an Aboriginal exhibit at House 17 (a private members’ club in Luxembourg) and it went very well. People were using itondo to try the works at home. We hope to do another exhibition this year.

Q – Do you see expanded uses for itondo?

A – Yes we do and it looks quite exciting. Museums are beginning to show interest. We are about to launch “Museum Masters” on itondo so people can see famous works from museums likethe Metropolitan Museum of New York, to scale.. Imagine being able to visualise a Claude Monet on your home wall! This could be used in schools as part of an educational experience because it is as close to the real art as one can possibly get. The fact that it is to scale is very important because the size of these famous art pieces is very relevant to our understanding of them  and it can sometimes come as quite a surprise when we are then in front of the real thing.

It is important to stress that we focus on the art market because that is where our interest lies but we can pivot into interior decoration, for example, such as rugs and carpets.

Q – You sound very enthusiastic about augmented reality.

A – When we did a soft launch about two years ago most people had no knowledge of augmented reality until Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc. started talking about it. It is going to be bigger than the Smart Phone and it will change the way we do things.

Now people understand that augmented reality will have some very powerful applications.

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