The Power of Dumb Ideas with George Hartley from Bluethumb | #388

Play episode

George on art, tech and creative pivots

George is co-founder and CMO/CPO of Bluethumb, Australia's largest online art marketplace. Prior to that he founded SmartrMail, a marketing automation company that was acquired by Relay Capital in 2022. He has a masters in Computer Science (Intelligent Web Systems) from RMIT, and is a (very) amateur musician.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by George Hartley, Co founder at Bluethumb

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by George Hartley. Co founder of Bluethumb, Australia’s online art marketplace.  Representing over 20,000 emerging and established artists from Australia, Bluethumb’s mission is to make discovering artists and buying art easy.  They have on boarded a third of Australia’s Indigenous Art Centres and have recently launched in the US.  In this chat, George shares the life changing impact the marketplace has had on individual artists, the tech venture that Bluethumb made possible and how they have almost quadrupled their average order value since launching.

“That feeling of not knowing enough about art and being a bit intimidated in galleries, that has helped us because our mission is to make art for everyone”

George Hartley

The dumbest pivot

‘We didn’t have that ‘could be usable’ caveat. I think that’s how you get really, really out there, stupid ideas.  We had a nice offsite. We went to Mona and had a couple of days with the team and we had a full day, we got into teams and it’s like, okay, the stupidest or the dumbest pivot, the stupidest pivot we could do. 

You have to create a pitch deck, you have to sell it to us, and then we’re all going to vote on the stupidest pivot and they won a prize. So that was how we did it. And we spent a whole day on it. And the next day we had our big pitch sessions. It was fantastic. 

So we start from super dumb ideas and then some kernels of interesting stuff actually can appear. I think Ogilvy would start there too.’

US expansion strategy

“We don’t hire up a bunch of people and get a fancy office and spend on big flashy launches. That’s not what we do. We focus on the channels. It’s the high wind channels that work for us here, that’s the focus there. 

So that is go hard at SEO and then run hard at the couple of paid acquisition channels that are kind of a high rise. We have a rise of 17 on paid on Facebook and 11 on Google ads. These are high returns for what we’re spending, but that’s cause we’ve got that ethos of, we don’t want to overspend. We don’t want to get over our skis. We want to be kind of profitable on first sale for our acquisition. 

And when we work on retention as well. When we started looking at it, we were selling 1 .1 times to a new buyer a year, and now it’s up to 1 .4. And our AOV, when we launched it was $300, we quickly got it to about $600 cart, now it’s $1100. So all those things kind of add up to like an improving company.”

Stamp out carpet bagging

Indigenous art has this horrible history of carpet bagging and nefarious stuff happening. Carpet bagging is going up and buying a whole ton of artwork directly from an artist really cheaply and immediately on selling it for like 10x, 20x the price. Basically ripping off artists. And it’s been a fairly common thing.  It’s bad and thankfully it has been being addressed in the last two decades, I’d say. 

There’s the Indigenous Art Code that is there. It’s government funded to stamp that out and basically set the rules for best practice. And we very quickly kind of spoke to them. And they didn’t have any online sellers who had been certified by the IAC when we started. So we worked with them to become certified. 

And basically that just means you are going to act ethically, give most of the money to the artist and do your best to verify that the artwork you’re selling actually is indigenous. 

That was part of signing up the art centers. So we’ve got a third of all the Australian art centers now selling through or on Bluethumb.”

Links from the episode:

This episode was brought to you by…

Subscribe to Add To Cart

We’ll let you know about new episodes PLUS exclusive
competitions and discounts from our guests!


More from this show

Weekly Ecommerce Newsletter


Let’s get social

We are a team of dedicated professionals delivering high quality WordPress themes and plugins.