Two years ago, HomeAway co-founder and CEO Brian Sharples came up with an idea for making it easier for people to buy contemporary art.
On Thursday, Sharples unveiled the results: A new Austin startup called Twyla, which sells limited-edition artwork by leading artists on its site, Twyla.com.
Twyla is also announcing that it has raised $19 million in a funding round led by GV (formerly known as Google Ventures), with participation by IVP and Redpoint Ventures.
The announcement comes a week after Sharples stepped down as CEO of HomeAway, the online vacation home rental site he co-founded in 2005.
Sharples, who led HomeAway through an initial public offering in 2011 and oversaw its $3.9 billion purchase by Expedia in December, has been replaced by John Kim, an Expedia executive who will lead HomeAway under the title of president. Sharples will remain as chairman of HomeAway through January.
"When you're running a company for 12 years, but you're an entrepreneur, you don't stop thinking of new things," Sharples said. "I went to my board and said, 'Hey, just to let you know, I'm not leaving HomeAway, but I'm excited about this new company, and I'm going to put some money into it and be chairman."
Since then, Sharples, whose title is chairman, and Matt Randall, Twyla co-founder and CEO, have been quietly building the company, which has 30 employees and will soon move to a new headquarters at Ninth Street and Lavaca downtown.
Twyla collaborates with artists to create limited-edition prints of their work for a fraction of the cost of their original pieces. Pieces include photographs, paintings, mixed-media and collage.
Twyla has worked with 80 artists to create a collection of more than 300 framed pieces, which range in price from $1,000 to $5,000. Artists include Miya Ando, Travis Boyer, Guy Dill and Kristen Schiele, whose work has been shown at the most influential museums and galleries worldwide.
Twlya typically creates 100 limited edition prints of an artist's work, and handles manufacturing, orders and shipping.
Artists get about 25 percent of the gross sale value of the piece. That compares to a 50 percent cut that artists typically get when their work sells at a gallery.
That means that if an original piece sells for $30,000, the artist would get $15,000. "But if we sell a hundred prints for $3,000, that's now a $300,000 revenue stream off that one piece of art."
To market the work, Twyla has created showrooms including boutique hotels and venues across the country, including South Congress Hotel in Austin and Soho House West in Hollywood.
"Artists love it because we're enabling a much broader audience to buy their work," Sharples said. "We say, "These buyers are the collectors of your original work in the future.' It's like a gateway drug into art collecting."
As part of the investment, David Krane, CEO of GV, has joined the Twyla board. Other directors include Doug Woodham, former president of Christie's, and Amar Lalvani, CEO of hotel management company Standard Hotels International.
"There's a huge gap in the art buying market between posters and Picasso's," Krane said in a statement. "Twyla is filling that void, finally speaking to a new generation of buyers who want to invest in art they love at a price they can afford."