Pittsburgh-Based Easely Is 'Netflix for Art'

Easely allows you to rent prints through the mail, determine if you like them and purchase or swap for something else.


Netflix has been delivering movies to customers’ door for more than a decade. Rent the Runway enables you to borrow designer looks for a big night out and ship them back. Now, Pittsburgh startup Easely is applying the same model to art. Through the site, you can rent works of art and arrange to ship them directly to your home.

The ready-to-hang canvas prints even arrive with a hammer and nail.

CEO and Co-founder Ashwin Muthiah says he remembers going to gallery crawls in college, where he admired pieces but hesitated to buy, thinking he couldn’t afford them. He also wasn’t sure if the art would suit his home.

Also, he says he and Easely Co-founder Harris Gani, who now is the company’s chief technology officer, determined that the average spectator often doesn’t feel qualified to judge if art is “good.”

“I think people grow up and have disposable income, but they never learned how to buy art,” Muthiah says. “You don’t want to be the fool who spends $1,000 on a $20 piece of art.” Muthiah and Gani set out to solve those problems by creating Easely, which launched late last year through AlphaLab, a startup incubator in the South Side.

Easely works much like Netflix, enabling customers to browse through options and rate their preferences and dislikes. Works chosen by a team of five curators with a combined 125 years of experience in various genres of the art world will be recommended to customers.

Customers pay a fee that corresponds to the size of the print; five pricing tiers range from $9.99 to $24.99 per individual piece per month. The first six months of rental is credited toward the purchase price if a customer decides to keep the piece. Packages for more than one piece of art at a time are also available.

The company founders are happy to fill another niche as well: Easely provides a digital space for artists looking for a location to show their work. About 500 artists have submitted pieces, and curators have accepted work from about 150, which amounts to 1,500 pieces of art and growing. Muthiah and Gani also seek out independent artists; they say they’d rather feature them on the site than the grand masters.

“Everyone’s seen Monet and van Gogh, so I think we found it more exciting to deal with current artists — people who are creating now and will continue to create,” Muthiah says.

He and Gani met in junior high school. In their junior years of college — Muthiah at the University of Pennsylvania and Gani at New York University — Muthiah developed the idea for Easely and asked Gani to collaborate. The two left school, where they had both been majoring in business and computer science, to apply at startup accelerators. AlphaLab was the best fit, they say.

“We weren’t particularly thrilled to be coming to Pittsburgh, but once we got here we were very pleasantly surprised,” Muthiah says. “We think we’ll be here for a long time.” 



Categories: The 412