Innovation and technology: Conserv cofounders bring tech to art ecosystem

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Austin Senseman and Nathan McMinn, cofounders of Birmingham tech startup Conserv, have ambitious goals for their business.

In five years they’d like Conserv, which sells sensors and software, to be the default for conservation professionals at museums, galleries, libraries and the like - and they'd like to build a high-growth, valuable company along the way.

But success also takes on another form for the pair.

“Success is the percentage of days I wake up and get out of bed and do what I love to do,” said McMinn, cofounder and chief technology officer.



There’s no doubt he and Senseman, Conserv’s CEO, are doing just that. The duo is passionate and ready to get others on board with their mission to build solutions for art conservation professionals – those tasked with caring for items in collections and preventing them from damage and repair.

Conserv will soon have its sensors installed at the Birmingham Museum of Art, where the sensors will measure data not currently being actively monitored like light, vibration and gallery occupancy. The first big gain that customers will see, McMinn said, is that the company’s museum partners will save time on the processes they do manually today.

The company is currently in beta, with customers including the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Huntsville Museum of Art and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, among others. It is officed in the coworking space Forge in downtown Birmingham, and, after six months, is at the point where its product is ready to sell.

“Every museum, gallery, library or archive has a mission, and that is to educate the public about the objects in their spaces,” Senseman said. “We show up and care about things alongside of them. We take care of things and are aligned with what conservators care about.”



Before launching the company last October, Senseman and McMinn were neighbors in downtown Birmingham and had other careers – Senseman in analytics, McMinn at a software company. Both were lacking day to day passion and looking for the right person to start a company with in a space they found meaningful.

It took them several months before they landed on the conservation area – but it is an area McMinn has known his entire life. McMinn’s mother is a conservator at the Birmingham Museum of Art, and he and Senseman saw a need for better solutions in the market.

“It was easy for us to say yes to, because I’ve spent my whole life around that world and understand the importance of caring for our shared cultural heritage,” McMinn said.

Though working in the conservation space is new to both, the work they do in analytics and software development is not.

“We have an enormous amount of experience,” Senseman said. “We didn’t just stumble into this. We want to build things around what people love to do in a high growth way, and I think we can.”