Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Smartphone App 'Immaculart' Kick-Starts Global Recovery

[Still trying my hand at those tabloid headlines - expecting a call from Murdoch any day]

So I posed a question in my last blog post:

What class of product generates value from thin air?

Well, with no further ado, the answer I had in mind was...


Not everyone likes art, I know.  But a lot - I'd say most - do. And the beauty of art (beyond the aesthetic kind) is that it can be owned at effectively zero cost.  It can be enjoyed without being consumed, appreciated without depreciating. It is an asset.  I'm not saying that if you are silly enough to buy a painting of a dot for ten grand that you'll ever recoup your outlay.  But if you discover a piece you really like and you're willing to pay a couple of hundred quid for it, then you can pretty much guarantee that there are a thousand other people out there that would do likewise.

And it is this ability to be both consumer product and asset at the same time that makes it a very useful tool for redistributing wealth in a socially ethical way (unlike, for instance, the insane notion of a lottery!! - sorry pet hate).

Of course many artists face difficultly in getting their art seen by those thousands who might appreciate it. So a few months back, when I had my epiphany, I began work on a little project. And at long last it takes its first tentative steps into the real world.

The project is called: immaculart.

It's an art gallery. For your phone.

It's an app where you can browse and buy real art by real artists.  And, also, for a more passive experience, you can allow the app to change your wallpaper periodically to a great piece of art from our collection.

Right now, it's just in a pilot phase, but it's live and you can try it out - only on Android at the moment I'm afraid.  But if it goes well, it will be made available on other platforms and more features are in the pipeline.

So, if you like art, do download the app, give it a try and let me know your thoughts (or any problems).  Or if know an artist, tell them to get in touch.  This is a way of them getting their work out to the world.

Contact me on paul.newell@immaculart.com or any of my other email addresses :)

Monday, 2 April 2012

Elixir of Value

So we all know that encouraging people to spend money is one way of stimulating the economy. But that's about as limited a notion as trying to measure the extent of that stimulation via GDP. After all, having a car crash stimulates the economy, and adds to GDP (by virtue of all the medical treatment and car fixing involved), but no one's suggesting we encourage those. The problem here is in measuring output and not outcome (a really nice way of putting it borrowed from Umair Haque).

But this is all covering ground I've discussed before. The point that's important here is that what we spend our money on is crucial. We have lots of choices on that front, and their outcomes are all different, so you'll be glad to learn I am not going to begin analysing them all here. But in putting thought to this a little while ago I stumbled across a particular type of product with a very special property: it generates value from thin air.

Let's just consider the individual cost of buying a normal product. If you spend, say, £500 on a TV, how much has it cost you? £500? Well no, because you now have a TV, which has a value. But it's now secondhand, so scarily enough it's probably already depreciated 50%. So the actual monetary cost to you is about £250. Over time it will depreciate to nothing and will cost you the full £500, but over that time you will value the utility from owning it at far greater than that. So all is good. But not great. We generated some value and then saw it witter away into nothingness.

Now, diamonds are cool (of course) - as are many minerals. They don't depreciate. If you spend £500 on diamonds, then they are still worth £500. And over time they are likely to actually appreciate in value.  Awesome. But, these already exist. All of them. There are only a finite number of diamonds in the world - that's why they hold their value. So there is no generation of value here - just the moving of it about a little.  (Without going into detail, houses can be considered similarly. Because, it's mostly the land that gives a house its value, and that is finite also.)

What if there were a product that could be made from basic materials, such that it has added value over and above those materials (just like a TV), but that then appreciates in value over time? That would be ... really interesting. Why? Because, if person A (Alice) could make these things, and person B (Bob) wanted one, then a rather intriguing scenario ensues. If Alice has £20 and Bob has £500, and Alice can make a product from £20-worth of raw materials that Bob is happy to pay £500 for, then Alice now has £500 and Bob has something which is worth £500 (and will be worth even more in the future). We've generated permanent value from nowhere!

Is this possible?


So what is this magical product? Well, let me know your thoughts...