UVA Darden Class of 2020 Grad’s Venture Connects Rising Artists to Global Marketplace
By Dave Hendrick
During a career in consumer packaged goods, Tian “Patti” Pan (Class of 2020) helped introduce products like Pampers to rural China. In commercial real estate in Guangzhou, she helped establish a new kind of retail experience in one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. In the startup world, she interned with an accelerator in Shanghai.
Following two years at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, Pan’s latest endeavor, RevArt, brings her diverse professional experiences and love of the art world together in a company intended to help emerging artists gain exposure and take control of their professional work.
Darden first came onto Pan’s radar after she watched one of Professor Jeanne Liedtka’s “Design Thinking” courses on the Coursera platform. When she applied, Pan recalls writing that she hoped to be a consultant. Instead, once at Darden, Pan realized she was at Darden to better understand herself and take advantage of opportunities that were closed to her in the corporate world. A prematriculation exercise with the Darden Career Center suggested she may be best fit for jobs in general management, entrepreneurship and venture capital, and Pan said she resolved to explore all of them.
“It can be hard to explore if you stay in a job,” said Pan. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but when you have a decent paying job and you have a team to manage, it’s hard.”
After continuing to explore and “open new doors” during her First Year at Darden, Pan decided to learn all she could about the startup life at the Chinaccelerator venture accelerator in Shanghai, conducting due diligence on promising companies, working on deals and working closely with portfolio companies.
Hearing some friends from Darden bemoan the long hours they were putting in at their internships, Pan, who was often at Chinaccelerator until 11 p.m., said she realized she really loved what she was doing.
“No one was requiring that I be there, but I just loved staying there,” Pan said. “The founders would say, ‘Patti, you’re an intern. Why are you working this hard? I saw how passionate they were about creating, and I said, ‘I might want to be one of you.’”
Armed with her exposure to the startup world, Pan began to iterate on an idea based on her love of art and experience helping to run the first “art shopping mall” in China. At K11 Concepts, Pan helped manage the massive art and commerce center in Guangzhou, and launched the Artist Klub store within the mall, taking inspiration from the Museum of Modern Art store in New York City to launch a successful extension of the K11 brand. Art should be welcoming and democratic, Pan says, not exclusively the province of galleries. And, she believes, artists should be able to prosper on the basis of their creations.
The resulting venture, RevArt, bills itself as a “one-stop solution” for accessing global artists, connecting brands to emerging artists and vice versa. An emerging regional artist in China may become locally famous, Pan said, but is unlikely to grow and capitalize their intellectual property in the U.S. without help.
Pan, who formed the company with Le Michael Song (Class of 2020) and Class of 2021 students Jiacheng Li and Wen Zhang, credits Damon DeVito’s “Venture Velocity” class for helping her take the next step toward realizing her plans.
“I never thought about registering the company here in the United States, because I’m a foreigner,” Pan said. “Damon literally said, ‘Let’s register your company,’ and it took 15 minutes. It felt so good.”
Pan said she had assumed she would build her company in China, but once incorporated in the U.S, Pan said she had no excuse to not try to grow it.
“That class really helped me get involved with the community here,” said Pan. “It made me better understand the U.S. market, the people, the culture here and how people really do business.”
Pan plans to stay local until August working with the Batten Institute-sponsored Venture Lab and developing relationships with area artists. Afterward, she anticipates building the company in China. While the COVID-19 crisis has slowed some plans — fashion brands and boutiques are not particularly interested in exploring marketing partnerships while effectively shut down, Pan is taking the opportunity to see what high tech and virtual solutions may help her grow.
“Here today, I don’t know what my company will be, because the economy hasn’t recovered yet,” said Pan. “The thing I appreciate the most about Darden is, even though I don’t know what my company will be, I’m not afraid.”
In April, while trying to figure out the ideal path for her current venture, Pan said she was also struck by what seemed like anti-Chinese sentiment related to the coronavirus. Figuring she could play some small role in aiding the local community, Pan and Darden classmates raised more than $1,000 and accepted the donation of more than 2,000 KN95 face masks, which they directed to area organizations including The United Way, Grace Health and Rehab, and The Lodge at Old Trail.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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