Carrie Eldridge is the founder of the ATO Platform. She has 22 years of sales experience in retail, software, and financial products. Before launching ATO, she was a private wealth manager at Morgan Stanley. She was the youngest woman in the Los Angeles region and the President’s Circle (top 1% producer). Carrie launched her first technology company while still in her sophomore year in college. Mode De Faire was a website-as-a-service (WAAS) that allowed customers to buy and sell luxury apparel in a private community. She worked for IBM as a sales leader, was recognized as a top producer in the country, and was inducted into the executive mentorship program. She independently designed a mobile sales app that gave new life to an old algorithm that was later adopted and rolled out across the country. Simultaneously, she developed a mobile app for the Dallas Cowboys Stadium-a security asset tracking mobile app that also allowed for ordering concessions and merchandise. She has the world record for selling the highest-priced physical art purchased with bitcoin in 2018 for 150 Bitcoin. Carrie is a graduate of Southern Methodist University. She is a frequent speaker on art, blockchain utility, equality, and human rights topics, participating in panels at venues such as the World Economic Forum, the UNGA, and Art Basel. She has been interviewed by Forbes, NBC, CNN, Yahoo Finance, Harper’s Bazaar Art, ArtNet News, CNBC, and more.
AF: Hi there, Carrie! We are excited to chat with you today. We would love to know more about you and your upbringing: where are you from, and what are the arts communities like there?
CE: I grew up in a big family in Plano, Texas. We would frequent the Dallas Museum of Art.
My mother and fathers’ family collected art. I remember my father’s massive hand-woven silk tapestry of Jesus with a flock of sheep in our den on a wall, the size you see in the Louvre. I remember my mother’s Japanese samurai swords and 18th-century vases throughout the house. My parents weren’t mega collectors, but they ensured we understood the value of keeping art in the family for generations. Art tells the story of a person’s life and even a family’s legacy in ways words cannot. My focus in school was always on math and science, but fortunately, we had wonderful art teachers that introduced me to ceramics, glass, drawing, painting, and various mediums. Art has always been precious to me. The art community in Dallas is outstanding! We have the beautiful Crow Museum of Asian Art, the Nasher Sculpture Museum and Gardens, an entire arts district, and free events for children involving art throughout the year. We would attend as many as possible.
AF: What was your first job? What is an important lesson from it that has carried with you?
CE: My first job was working for my father’s mortgage company. I was 12 years old, and during summer work hours, I was a receptionist. I organized documents, sent and received faxes, prioritized their importance, and answered the phone to take messages for my father when he was visiting clients. I learned the importance of order, the discipline of following up with people on time, and professionalism. I learned that professionalism is a sign of respect.
AF: When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
CE: While working at Morgan Stanley in Beverly Hills, I attended many art gallery openings and events to kill two birds with one stone. I wanted to meet potential wealth clients while seeing art. When I met artists who shared their struggles with me and started learning about the unfair business practices in the industry, I became impassioned to improve things for them. I thought long and hard, did almost a year of research working every night, and even traveled to Chicago and Tokyo to meet with art experts. I learned that artists have no direct financial stake in their future, yet the future market value depends on them. I learned that women and minorities are disproportionally represented in museums and galleries. Yet, they make up more than half of MFA graduates. Art is an asset but is not tracked, valued, or appraised like any other. I couldn’t figure out why no one had combined banking logic with technology to track this asset, protect artists and the work from counterfeit markets, copyright infringement, and of course, get them paid a royalty when art is flipped.
AF: What do you wish more people knew about the ATO Platform?
CE: We were created to empower artists, giving them tools we know they need to build their careers, protect their brands, make more money, and create the legacy they want. We created something that galleries and other companies don’t do because they were not designed to do it. ATO Platform is a turn-key solution for artists, an ally to stick with them through thick and thin, regardless of what gallery they are with, change to, or have no gallery at all. Our technology uses machine learning (AI) and Web3 to make it possible in a way that can scale to serve millions of artists and collectors by providing them with real value. Finally, as far as we know, we are the only company that has tirelessly designed tools to benefit collectors long-term, for their entire lives serving as an authenticator, proof of provenance, proof of purchase, up-to-date sales history, and even estimates for the appreciation of their art, all for the low cost of free.
AF: What is the strangest thing to happen to you on the job?
CE: When I was in Basel, Switzerland, last year during Art Basel, a protest against the event, and apparently, all the attendees started. They were marching outside a restaurant I was in with a group of collectors and art advisors. One of the loudest protesters marching in the crowd tripped and fell on her face. I ran out to help her, but she refused help. Other guests of the event and I invited her in to take a break, drink some water, and have a snack. We genuinely were concerned for her and offered to call for a doctor. Her angry demeanor changed. She saw us as regular people willing to help regardless of her protest. At that moment, I saw it on her face. She realized she shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
AF: What are you most excited about for this year’s ATO Platform?
CE: Rolling it out to artists all over the world. We already have over 100 artists registered with hundreds of works of art, edging toward 1000 very soon. I am also very excited to expand my team and hire incredible people just as passionate about helping artists as I am.
AF: As you know, Art Frankly is a community that cares about job transparency and supporting fellow art professionals. What best advice can you give about working in art or higher education?
CE: Be sincere. That is my advice for working in any industry. When you are sincere, it clearly shows. You don’t have to explain to yourself why you do something when your passion says it for you. This will naturally attract the best people into your life and career.
AF: What is one thing that you wish all professional artists knew?
I wish all professional artists know about the ATO Platform. What we provide is so important and cutting edge. We solve 4 of the most paramount problems in the art industry. Every artist who cares about their legacy and rights should be using ATO.
AF: Well, Carrie, it has been wonderful chatting with you. Thank you for participating in Frank Talks! To finish off, we’re curious: If you could own work by 5 different artists/craftspeople, who would be in your collection?
CE: Simone Leigh. Barbara Kruger. David Hockney. Claude Monet. Jessie Mockrin.