Kira Wampler is a 20-year product and marketing leader who has successfully led teams at major companies, including Trulia, Lyft, and Intuit. As the current CEO of Art.com she has had the chance to create new ways for people to customize and engage with art in their everyday lives. When she’s not driving marketing strategies and leading companies through digital transformations she loves watching basketball, spending time with her family and enjoying the outdoors.
Wampler will be participating in the panel “Female Founders and Executives in the World of Art, Design, Fashion, and Tech” at If So, What? Saturday, April 28 at 2:30. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear her speak in person, and check out our interview with her below.
If So, What?: You’ve had a very impressive and successful career so far. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got your start, and what your career trajectory has been like?
Kira Wampler: I’m fortunate to have grown up with a very supportive family that encouraged me to be curious, creative, and risk-taking. I was a history and diplomacy major at Georgetown, and I like to say that I really learned “how to think” there. You can gain functional knowledge in many schools, but it’s a rare experience that teaches you how to think critically and connect disparate threads into an impactful solution. While at Georgetown, I also worked as a marketing manager for a non-profit that, at the time, provided the world’s first online search and retrieval database for Japan-related information. Essentially Google years before Google existed! I was completely hooked on the promise and potential of technology to make people’s lives better.
In the late 90s, I moved to San Francisco and really became immersed in fashion, art, and technology while working at the handbag company, The Sak. I traveled a lot, including a stint living and working in Vietnam with my then boyfriend and now husband of 15 years – what an adventure in culture, economics, art, and society. When we came back from Vietnam, I went to Duke University for business school, and there, in addition to an excellent business foundation, I really learned how to collaborate and how to get the best out of teams and people.
Since business school, I’ve worked in companies ranging from multi-billion dollar public entities to unicorn-scaling start-ups, and all types in between. The common thread, from finance to fashion and transportation to art, has really been vision, purpose, and human potential. I’m drawn to leaders, teams, and market opportunities that bring together technology, culture, and innovation to solve real customer problems and to create new experiences that people didn’t even realize they needed but that would fundamentally change their lives. I’m hooked on wowing customers, driving growth, and inspiring teams.
ISW: You moved from Lyft to Art.com. What brought about the change, and what has it been like for you to shift to an art-focused company?
KW: I loved my time at Lyft scaling the business – 7X in rides, 6X in passengers – all while doubling brand awareness and building an awesome team. When I got to know the team and the opportunity at Art.com, though, I couldn’t resist. First, and fundamentally, I’m always interested in opportunities where there is an inherent human desire combined with a changing technology landscape. There’s almost no other deeper intersection than with art.
Humans always have and always will desire beauty and inspiration around them. But how they discover, buy, and enjoy that beauty and inspiration is changing rapidly. As people expect more choice, more convenience, and more customization, those desires run up against how people typically experience art, which is that they “fall in love with it when they see it.” So, the challenges and potential to bridge that gap and make it easier to help people discover, buy, and enjoy art they love was hugely compelling to me.
ISW: Art.com brings high-quality art to people around the world in a very innovative way. Can you tell us a little bit about the company, and how you are using technology to make art more accessible?
KW: Art.com is the world’s largest provider of art and custom framing online. We have access to more than a billion images, though we hand-select them for our visitors through a variety of search, curation, and personalization techniques so the assortment is not too overwhelming. Our collection of art ranges from hard to find Basquiat prints to exclusive gallerists selling their work for the first time online, to unique twists on museum masterpieces. On nearly all of our pieces we offer the widest variety of custom servicing options. For example, our customers can easily choose from over 200 molding choices, mostly from Italy, that are then hand-crafted by our team in Ohio or the Netherlands…all in under three days at significantly lower prices than custom frame shops. So, from our earliest days, we’ve focused on a broad assortment and efficient, high quality operations supported by our world-class technology team.
In the last year, we’ve increased our investment in mobile – both mobile web and native apps. We were recently recognized by Apple as an App of the Day and continue to be a featured app based on the innovative solutions we’re developing to answer the questions “How will this fit in/with my space?” and “How will this be unique to me?”.
We are the first online retailer to offer augmented reality for walls – blank or already filled with art – to make it easy to see how the art you select will look in your own space. More than 40% of our mobile app visitors use the AR feature, called “ArtViewTM,” which creates more confidence in the buying experience online. We also launched Gallery Wall Designer which provides styles and templates to easily swap out art within the templates to create gallery walls. Customer can buy the entire wall at a simple price point and the art ships together with a custom hanging guide. Again, two ways that we’re bridging gap of acknowledging the convenience and choice customers expect online while also inspiring and delighting with how the art will look in and enhance a home or office.
ISW: You’ll be speaking on the panel “Female Founders and Executives in the World of Art, Design, Fashion, and Tech” at If So, What?. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience as a female executive working at major companies in the Bay Area?
KW: I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with and for great leaders here in the Bay Area. Specifically, when I started back at Intuit, I was inspired to join the company while working as an MBA intern there. About mid-way through my internship, not one but two senior women came back from maternity leaves and were shortly thereafter promoted into much bigger roles. So…when you see it, you can be it. That gave me great confidence that I, too, could join a successful company and grow my career and family at the same time. It certainly hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve also worked pretty hard to choose companies, teams, and leaders well!
ISW: What should visitors to your talk should expect to hear about and learn from you at the event?
KW: I’m very focused on deeply understanding customers. What do they want, what’s getting in their way, and what don’t they know they want but can’t live without once they have it! And, then how do we apply those insights to the intersection of art and technology – what role can technology play to bring more art to people’s lives.
ISW: What advice would you give to young women starting out their careers in the art world today?
KW: Dive in! The world is valuing creativity more each day. Artists, technologists, and business leaders have extraordinary opportunities now – more so than ever before