Published: September 20, 2016
Allis Ghim joined the online selling platform Bidsquare as its CEO in December 2014, three months after the company’s founding by six top regional auction houses: Cowan’s, Rago, Leslie Hindman, Skinner Inc, Pook & Pook and Brunk. A former Fulbright Scholar who spent a year in Korea in the 1990s, Ghim, whose career experience includes stints at 1stdibs, eBay and Goldman Sachs, has overseen triple-digit growth at Bidsquare, which has hosted more than a thousand auctions, listed 453,000 items, processed $246 million in bids and added more than a hundred online sellers. With an eye toward further expansion, Bidsquare recently raised $1.5 million in seed funding from board member and angel investor Stephen Smith, an Americana collector.
What career experiences have been most valuable to you at Bidsquare?
Marketplace businesses are inherently challenging. My expertise managing business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sides of the business, both client- and buyer-facing, has been the most relevant to growing Bidsquare and has given me the know-how in putting the right measures in place to execute on our vision to be a trusted destination for both buyers and sellers as we scale and grow.
How does Bidsquare define itself?
Bidsquare is an online platform that combines the latest technologies with a traditional auction industry. By marrying our technology with a strong understanding of how buyers behave online we make “discoverability” and online bidding easy for collectors. We allow auction houses and dealers to focus on what they do best, which is acquire, evaluate and sell great antiques and art. Bidsquare’s role is to complement, not compete, with bricks-and-mortar auction houses and dealers.
What does Bidsquare mean by “curated collections”? Is your “buy now” format new?
The curated aspect of our platform is what sets Bidsquare apart. Because we only deal with reputable sellers, buyers have confidence that all items featured have been curated, authenticated and vetted by an expert. Curated experiences help filter the overwhelming amount of material online. Buyers can inquire about additional condition reports and speak to the expert directly to learn more about the item. We have expanded our selling formats to include “buy now” to offer sellers maximum flexibility and give users the opportunity to buy without delay.
What are Bidsquare’s inherent strengths?
We are a curated and trusted platform where authentic property is sold. Our platform is extremely well designed and superior to other platforms. Our online marketing expertise coupled with our deep understanding of online buying behavior enables us to build custom marketing programs, promote our sellers and the property they bring to market to a global audience and reach new buyers. We have a high concentration of qualified, affluent buyers because of our focus on building a trusted platform. Lastly, we pride ourselves on the level of service we provide to further differentiate ourselves. All of our accounts have a dedicated account manager. We like to think of ourselves as their online partner. We provide all of our accounts with a high level of personalized support.
Bidsquare’s approach and positioning is unique. We are filling a void in the high-end market. The opportunity is tremendous, so our biggest challenge is keeping focused. We certainly need to continue being really smart about where and how we grow, but doing so forces us to be better, smarter and ultimately build better products.
Where do you anticipate the most growth? Are Asian markets a priority?
The United States still drives the art market, but we operate in a global environment. Not only is there tremendous opportunity globally, but also in cross-border trade. I’m excited by the growth and know there is tremendous opportunity for Bidsquare as we continue to grow and scale our business. Asia is certainly an extremely attractive market for us. We already have a number of top collectors and buyers from that region. We will be very strategic about our international expansion, not just in Asia, but globally.
Where do you see Bidsquare in the coming years? Do you expect consolidation or a shakeout in the online art industry?
The online art market is growing at a very fast pace, more than 24 percent annually, and is expected to reach $9.58 billion in the next five years. This is one of fastest growing areas online in the United States and globally. Bidsquare is uniquely positioned in the industry. It will be very interesting to see how things evolve and shake out.
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