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My Studio Assistant: helping artists share their work with the world

Startup makes it easier for creators to submit, exhibit and sell their art

Startups are all about learning and persistence," says Arsen Tumanyan (photo by Orbelina Cortez-Barbosa)

Sometimes, a little creative collaboration is all it takes to go from concept to startup – especially if the collaborators are a University of Toronto instructor and a graduate student in Computer Science.

“I like the freedom of being creative and building things; that's hard to do when you work for somebody else,” says Arsen Tumanyan, who graduated with his professional master’s degree in computer science last year. “Of course, there are companies that give their employees that freedom, but right now I prefer focusing my energy on building a company rather than joining one.”

Along with former instructor Arnold Wytenburg, Tumanyan is a co-founder of My Studio Assistant, a startup they describe as a user-friendly web publishing solution for visual artists and craft artisans. My Studio Assistant allows artists to create their own websites, upload their art, manage social media, exhibit and sell their art, all using one online platform, says Tumanyan. 

And it all began when Tumanyan took Wytenburg’s Business of Software course. Wytenburg had presented the idea for My Studio Assistant as a case study and was so impressed by technical solutions his student proposed for the project, he offered Tumanyan a chance to help him work on his venture.

"We started building Arnold’s product, and for two years we experimented with ideas and prototypes,” Tumanyan remembers. “The product vision grew to a point where it required full-time commitment.”

In October of 2013, he left his job at MoPals as vice-president of mobile applications and shifted his efforts to building and launching My Studio Assistant.

“I was taking a chance leaving my full time job to focus on a bootstrapping startup. However, I also believed I would really regret it if I didn’t take on this challenge.”

Today, Wytenburg is chief executive officer of the startup and Tumanyan is chief technical officer, working on product development, user experience and the technical and design aspects of the platform.

“Before I enrolled in the MScAC program, I only had theoretical knowledge about business, but the program, and courses like CSC454, gave me the opportunity to see that theory in practice and to be part of it,” says Tumanyan. “Startups are all about learning and persistence. And by learning, I mean not only new skills but also learning about your customers’ needs.”

My Studio Assistant is unique, he adds, because it targets a specific niche, offering its clients prepackaged plans customized for the art world. For instance, it has a Gallery & Jury Submission tool, which enables artists to easily put together their applications before submitting their work to an exhibition or a competition.

Tumanyan says there is satisfaction in knowing that by creating an opportunity for himself he is also creating opportunities for others.

“We are offering the latest technological solutions available to artists, and we hope My Studio Assistant is making it easier for them to show their work and share it with the world.”

(Read more about startups and entrepreneurship at U of T.)

Orbelina Cortez-Barbosa is a writer with the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto.