Fuelarts x Tezos Accelerator for Art+Tech Startups completed the batch 2023
Here is how Denis Belkevich, Fuelarts founder and the Accelerator's mentors evaluate the program and see the prospects for the development for the Art+Tech industry.
Denis Belkevich
General Advisory / Digital Market Fit
Co-founder & General Partner at FUELARTS. One of the leading Art Economists. Art Adviser specializing in Eastern European Art and Contemporary Asian Art. Professional Art Manager and Art Fund Manager
about fuelarts
Fuelarts is an investment platform, specializing on the Art+Tech industry. Its mission is to support the development of the emerging Web3 ecosystem, backing daring entrepreneurs, while they are building a more efficient, transparent, and accessible Art market. In 2019 Fuelarts was founded by serial entrepreneur Denis Belkevich and former COO of Christie's Americas, ex-Senior VP of Artnet Roxanna Zarnegar. The vision for Fuelarts is not only to be an investment vehicle but a platform, merging Art and Capital. Since 2022, Fuelarts includes 3 main divisions:
  • Fuelarts Accelerator provides tools to support founders of Art+Tech startups.
  • Fuelarts Insights shares content & analytics to engage and develop the Art+Tech community.
  • Fuelarts Capital is a venture arm, investing in accelerator graduates and infrastructure leaders
- Denis, first of all, congratulations on the success of your Accelerator program in 2023! With ten disruptive startups breaking into the market, what was the most challenging yet empowering aspect of the program for you and your team?
- Our team's most challenging yet empowering experience in the Acceleration program was the simultaneous sharing of knowledge and corporate culture of the brand, Tezos, under which the acceleration was conducted. The Fuelarts x Tezos Accelerator accepted startups with existing products at the MVP level, but their knowledge of general disciplines like business modeling, customer development, Go-to-Market strategy, and understanding the art market varied. To align their knowledge, we conducted lectures for the first four weeks, followed by 1-on-1 sessions. Technical mentors worked concurrently to integrate Tezos products into their technical solutions, and the challenge was amplified because Fuelarts worked simultaneously with ten startups for the first time, and we are proud to report a successful outcome. We are grateful to our mentors for generously offering to spend more time with the batch participants.
- The Accelerator lasted 11 weeks - was this sufficient time to polish the project and deliver a flawless presentation on Demo Day?
- The Accelerator program lasted for 11 weeks. However, for Fuelarts and Tezos, it lasted twice as long. We started modeling different participation options for specific startups as soon as they submitted their applications. This included attracting additional mentors based on product characteristics and identifying investors who would best respond to their business model. By the time we held Kick-Off Day on February 3, we already had a clear idea of what we wanted to see on Demo Day and how to work towards that goal. We did not pressure the batch participants, but rather offered suggestions based on their psychological profiles. For instance, one startup made three pivots in their business model before reverting to the original idea we wanted to see, but this was entirely their decision, which is more valuable for the growth of their team and product.
- What is typically the main knowledge gap for startups in the Art+Tech sector?
- For the past 20 years, the main challenge for startups in the Art+Tech sector has remained unchanged - a poor understanding of the ecosystem and cause-and-effect relationships in the art market. This often leads to unrealistic ideas that struggle to find their market fit. The art market is notoriously closed to outsiders, and most people only know about it through newspaper articles that don't reflect its true state. As a result, most Art+Tech startups opt to become a marketplace, competing for a limited number of buyers with numerous existing and emerging marketplaces. At Fuelarts, we have a vast network of mentors who are practitioners of the art market, which we use to show startups the diversity of business models, real market pains, and numerous niches with unexpected opportunities.
- Is there any plan to expand the areas of study for the next course, taking into account the growing fields of Art+Tech, NFT, and AI?
- First of all, I must mention that for the first round of Fuelarts x Tezos Accelerator, we received over 120 applications, out of which we had to choose only 30 strong candidates. Our team even joked that we had enough applicants for three full-fledged batches.The most challenging part is always to refuse a startup from participating, but we continue to follow their progress, and with future recruitment, we already know whom to contact directly. We are grateful to Fuelarts' partner, Unstoppable Domains, for providing perks and privileges not only to the enrolled startups but also to the rejected ones. As for the next batch - it's evident that the next set of startups will have an AI focus in the Art+Tech field. Even among the current ten graduates, four startups are already using AI technology. Another area that we intend to support and develop is NFT utilities, including working with large brands that create their ecosystems through art.
- Do startups continue to communicate on your platform after the acceleration, and do you have a closed club to keep in touch with alumni?
- It's crucial to stay in touch with our graduates and provide them with attention and support. We want our founders to know that our collaboration doesn't end with the Demo Day. Art+Tech is a large family, and they can always count on our support. We have created a LinkedIn channel for graduates of all our courses, where we regularly share the best practices and insights from the Web3 market. Additionally, Fuelarts helps startups to work with investors after the batch by attending the first meetings. We always remember that the Stanford University alumni community was the driving force behind Silicon Valley's success. We try to instill the same values in our graduates - respect for art, striving for Art+Tech excellence, and attention to colleagues in the market.
- This was the first time that Fuelarts collaborated with another significant company. Were there any drawbacks or only benefits from this interaction?
- We were delighted to receive the trust and support of Tezos in developing startups for their art ecosystem. It was a significant and responsible choice for both brands. Over the years, we have witnessed how Tezos takes care of its art ecosystem, which includes startups, artists, curators, and collectors. Thanks to their hard work, Tezos is rightfully considered Blockchain No.1 for art today. For Fuelarts, this experience was valuable, as we got to work with a top Web3 brand and an ecosystem that demands flawless handling of art. Our views aligned on many aspects, from startup selection to mentoring approaches. Tezos also provided five technical mentors who provided invaluable support. Furthermore, many established startups in the Tezos ecosystem expressed their willingness to partner with our young startups, and our Tezos Foundation batch graduates are now being considered for investment opportunities. In short, we did not experience any contradictions during the work process, and we hope that this is mutual.
- Let's talk about the trendwatching aspect of the Fuelarts platform. After analyzing about 800 Art+Tech startups from around the world, what trends and sectors do you predict will experience growth?
- I have already mentioned that AI and NFT utilities are the main trendsetters for the 2023 season. Furthermore, if artificial intelligence is the clear favorite of the "hot" market's new wave, then introducing the practical benefits of ownership into NFT products is a form of apology for the previous season's "tail pulling," which many startups failed to develop or consider. We should not forget that in recent years, we have created numerous NFT collections that are now "dead weight" on the balance sheet of their owners. To avoid discrediting the term NFT, we must breathe new life into these assets. Our third direction for 2023 is to revise successful Web2 business models and develop them in the Web3 coordinate system. Founders must remember that all successful models have already been invented and tested by the market; they simply need to adapt them to the new realities.
- Which project is your favorite and why?
- As the head of the accelerator, it would be inappropriate for me to talk about my favorite startups. If they are accepted into our program, it means that we believe in their potential and success. At the time of the Demo Day, all participants of Fuelarts x Tezos Accelerator 2023 were equally promising. What happens next is up to them. However, there are times when I feel sympathy for the founders themselves during the mentoring process. This is not necessarily based on their attitude or friendliness, but on the level of their interest in the outcome. In the last batch, several founders impressed me with their professionalism, passion for their startup, and respect for their mentors. You tend to celebrate the successes of such people more than others because they possess the rarest quality of all - humanity.
- What are the goals of Fuelarts platform in empowering the Art+Tech community in the future?
- We have three main areas of focus for the coming months. The success of the last batch of Fuelarts x Tezos Accelerator has caught the attention of other brands. They see building their own army of startups that share their corporate values as an opportunity to quickly and easily enter Web3. Thus, we have created the Fuelarts Corporate program and are in negotiations with large retail and financial companies. We plan to hold the first joint batch in the fall. Additionally, our Fuelarts Startups Report has gained attention from market players, which led us to the idea of creating a full-fledged online resource based on our analytical department that reflects investments in Art+Tech in real-time. This should help startups and investors respond faster to market changes instead of waiting for our bi-annual report. The third area of focus is to complete the raise of the Fuelarts Capital I fund, which will allow us to invest not only in our graduates but also in potential market unicorns that we identify through our analytics and daily networking. If we can achieve at least two out of these three goals by the end of 2023, it will be a tremendously successful year for Fuelarts. Nonetheless, we believe we will achieve all three stated objectives. Otherwise, why declare them?

"We are excited to welcome these startups to the Tezos community. We're proud of the work they have done and look forward to seeing them grow within the ecosystem. "This program has been important in providing the proper education, experience, and support for art and tech startups to enter the world of Web3."

Mason Edwards
Chief Commercial Officer of The Tezos Foundation
" Embracing new technology will bridge the digital and traditional art collectors and artists in more dynamic experiences."
Roxanna Zarnegar
Fuelarts Co-Founder, Art Business Expert, CEO Provenance Venture Partners
"Fuelarts x Tezos acceleration program has no analogues. Startups received a practical concentrate - all the most useful and relevant from art, marketing, finance and technology. We are sure that they will make a breakthrough in the market."
Katya Kohen
Amadeo Global Investment Group
"It was an absolute pleasure to mentor these startup founders. They are full of amazing ideas and will do big things in Web3. I can't wait to see their success."
Jeffrey Eshleman
Managing Director Amadeo Global / Head of Investor Relations Fuelarts
"This is the second Fuelarts batch that I mentored, being responsible for the topic of networking, marketing and Art PR. I am more than satisfied with the results of the teams and I am glad that professionals of this level are now included in the international art community."
Anna Shvets
Art Business Strategist, TAtchers' Art Management, CCO Fuelarts
" Fuelarts х Tezos Accelerator has been an amazing experience as it collected great minds - top experts and top startups - this selection made it be a huge success!"
Agnieszka Cichocka
ArtTech expert, Head of Acceleration, Advisor at Fuelarts
" Fuelarts is a new additional dimension in the Web3 space, where new talented startups can find their opportunities, extend their knowledge and achieve the next level with their innovative products. Personally wish them to find their special place in the fast-growing technology world."
Petr Voynitskiy
FinTech expert, RadioButton
" This intensive and fast-paced program was designed to help entrepreneurs accelerate the development of their products. It provided a safe space for teams to share their ideas and receive feedback from mentors and the unique setup of a VC plus blockchain ecosystem that is committed to seeing the teams succeed. Can't wait to see where the teams take their products."
Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt
ArtTech expert, CEO Tech-Diplomacy.org
" Fuelarts x Tezos Accelerator was an incredible opportunity for startups to develop their business and build real web3 decentralized applications. It was a pleasure, as a mentor, to guide them technically and also shape a new economic model with them."
Benjamin Fuentes
Web3 and Blockchain Expert, Marigold
Accelerator Partners