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Meet the esteemed panel of judges for the 2024 edition of The Gavel, a start-up pitch competition where Master's degree students can showcase their ideas and potentially secure substantial seed funding for their future enterprises.

Master’s degree students at Sotheby’s Institute of Art are up-and-coming innovators and change-makers of the art world. With over 50% of our recent student intake letting us know they are interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial path after graduation, the Enterprise Studio was created as an extra-curricular program for Master's students to receive training and support for new business ventures, culminating in a start-up pitch competition, the Gavel. Through close access to mentors, students have the chance to shape their plans from ideation to execution with the winning Gavel team receiving significant seed funding for their future business. 

The winner will be awarded the Gavel Prize, which consists of:  

  • Capital of up to £30,000/$40,000  
  • Start-up space in New York or London  
  • Dedicated mentor for the first year of the business process  
  • Industry and investment introductions tailored to the winner's business proposal  

The 2024 Gavel Awards will take place on May 15. The chosen finalists will be judged on a combination of factors including feasibility of the idea, whether the student’s specific strengths and passion support their chosen project, and how they perform during the program overall.

2023 Winners

Mithra Stevens, founder of SmArt LOGISTICS, has incorporated and is finalizing the first prototype with her development team while also working on customer discovery with potential clients.

Lisa Black-Cohen, founder of the The S.E.L. (Social Emotional Learning) Art Project, has created a book, Finding Friends, for behaviorally challenged children based on the work of several well-known artists.

Meet The Judges

Brandon Busteed – CEO of BrandEd

Brandon Busteed is an internationally recognized expert and business leader who brings a wealth of experience in the education and workforce development space, most recently as Chief Partnership Officer and Global Head of Learn-Work Innovation at Kaplan. At Kaplan he developed partnerships with top-ranked universities that help pre-college students explore majors and career paths, extended Kaplan’s advising into the corporate education benefits space through a partnership with Amazon to support their 750,000+ front line workers’ paths to new career opportunities and supported an equity and access effort enabling universities to provide free test and industry licensure prep to their students. Busteed is a frequent contributor to and other publications and is a LinkedIn “Top Voice.”

Indy Sanders

Indy is an ex-pro tennis player turned tech growth specialist, who's deep connection to the arts inspired them to launch PerformVu in 2023. PerformVu has since carved its path as the leading platform connecting audiences to video art from the world's leading artists & museums. In just 12 months, PerformVu gained VC backing from leading US investors, won an award at SXSW, and delivered compounding growth.

Jeremy Kagan

Jeremy Kagan is the Managing Partner of Textbook Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm investing in founders from the university ecosystems in New York. As a professor at Columbia, Cornell, and New York University, he teaches graduate level classes in digital marketing, media, data analytics, and entrepreneurship. Kagan is an advisor to corporations, startups and digital media companies on growth and innovation strategy. Kagan is the former Managing Director of the Eugene Lang Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School, where he managed the entrepreneurial curriculum, student programs, the Lang venture capital fund, and the Columbia Startup Lab. While there, he launched the Columbia Alumni Virtual Accelerator (CAVA), and the corporate innovation program, partnering companies and student entrepreneurs to start businesses in their areas of interest.

Julie Lomax

Julie Lomax is the CEO of a-n Artists Information Company, which is the largest membership organization in the UK for visual artists with over 30,000 members. Julie Lomax has previously held senior positions at Liverpool Biennial, the Australia Council for the Arts and Arts Council England. In these roles she was responsible for over £740million combined investment in the visual arts and raised over £20m. Julie Lomax was a commissioner for the Fourth Plinth contemporary art project in Trafalgar Square, artworks in the Olympic Park, and on the advisory committee for Art on the Underground, she has been a judge for the Contemporary British Painting Prize and the Concord Art Prize. Julie Lomax is a member of the Industry Advisory Board of Bolton University, and regularly lectures at Sotheby’s Institute. Julie has played an active role in the Association of Women in the Arts since it’s inception. Julie originally trained as an artist, graduating from Chelsea School of Art with a degree in Fine Art.

Vishal Kumar

Vishal is the CEO and co-Founder of the Alice Camera, a computational photography start-up building a novel AI camera in Britain for content creators, streamers and live events. The Alice Camera was voted by TechRadar as one of the most exciting camera releases for 2022. The team went through AI accelerators run by the Digital Catapult, Nvidia and Entrepreneur First and have been nominated for an award by the Creative Industries Council and also as an advanced digital technology company in the UK with the fastest growth in the past 12 months. Vishal is also internationally recognized as a cultural data scientist with extensive experience managing data science, AI and 5G projects in the Cultural & Creative industries. He is a researcher at The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at UCL and serves as a consultant for several governments and international organizations. Vishal previously studied at the London School of Economics and Sotheby’s Institute of Art and then worked at Sotheby’s as one of the company’s first-ever Data Scientists.

Brendan Burns

Since 2004, Burns has been a professor and senior lecturer in the Entrepreneurship Program at Columbia Business School. Burns is the co-lead professor for the innovative Entrepreneurial Greenhouse Program. Prior companies (graduate teams) are responsible for launching notable companies such as Happy Family (exit to Danone Group for $300 million), Olapic (exit for $150 million), Betterment (last round valuation $500 million+), Flexport (Ycombinator grad, current valuation over $800 million), FSAStore, and many others. Curriculum is holistic and process focused, crafted to help motivated teams turn ideas into sustainable entities with economic value and job growth. Notable social entrepreneur graduates include Out2Play and CityHealthworks.

Jeffrey Boloten

Jeffrey Boloten is Director of Art Business and Enterprise Programmes at Sotheby's Institute of Art-London, and Co-Founder and Managing Director of ArtInsight Ltd., the education partner of art market research firm, ArtTactic. He was a director with several leading international publishers, including Penguin Books, and has held posts at the Tate and as General Manager of a London art college. Boloten is a frequent speaker and lecturer at international art fairs and conferences on topics including the global art, photography, and art investment markets. He is a Founding Member of PAIAM, Professional Advisors to the International Art Market, and an Advisory Board member for the inaugural Photo Shanghai Art Fair.

This year's Gavel competition takes place on May 15, 2024. Keep an eye on our news feed for further updates.