Global Entrepreneurship Week – A Look Back

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Global Entrepreneurship Week

Over the years, entrepreneurs have driven massive change across industries and transformed the landscape with a host of initiatives, innovations and ideas.

Bold startups are tackling problems head on and working towards solving a host of issues by experimenting with new technology, communication channels and working alongside governments and corporations. Reports show that there is positive uptick of 27% for startup funding indicating that there is significant interest in amplifying the work done by these new-age entrepreneurs.

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The Online Collaboration Tool your Team has been waiting for

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When an idea proves as intricate as it is innovative, strategically unraveling the extra layers reveals true intention-as well as clarity in the execution.

That’s exactly what Mural (mural.co) founder, Mariano Suarez-Battan has done. For more than 15 years, Mariano has found various levels of entrepreneurial success in the tech industry. He’s a daydreamer, has business savvy, and is creative and passionate about knowledge.

We recently spoke with Mariano about his newest innovation, Mural, a real-time whiteboard where creators can compare, share and collaborate on project ideas. Mariano has effectively designed a secure, cloud-based digital platform where project concepts are maximized by the ability to connect globally with other creatives.

Mural originated as a way to collaborate for video game development, but has since evolved to deliver across multiple capacities. Mariano explains that Mural “felt like a new way to interact freely with online content, (he and his team) first saw it as a creation and interaction medium for the Internet,” before realizing they had stumbled across something much bigger. Upon probing the possibilities and streamlining his focus, he cut through to the heart of the concept. “We decided to focus on making the service great for Design Thinking and agile visual collaboration.

When you consider enterprise, widespread or localized, connecting and collaborating globally is essential to the success of a well-rounded idea. Mural allows global flexibility with cloud-sharing.

Mural curtails the hassle that typically coincides with team members contributing from around the globe and across several time zones. Notes, designs, and edits are neatly displayed and timestamped in a format that is easy to absorb upon arriving at the office after a colleague has spent their workday (your night!) making updates.

This system eliminates the inevitable errors and miscommunications that arise from relying exclusively on email, text, telephone conferencing, etc. An added benefit is reducing travel time and allowing for more productivity, which conserves budget and delivers exceptional projects on a deadline.

Mural was not developed solely for big business and enterprise. The platform itself is an incredible nod to the world of educating through connections. It vastly improves the experiences of teachers who are now able to visually collaborate with field experts when developing their lesson plans, or college professors who can interactively prepare their students for success.

Mural revolutionized hands-on learning for major universities, Stanford in particular. Mariano elaborated on the reasoning behind expanding the software into university learning, highlighting that educators “are in the business of preparing the next generation of Imagination Workers and our mission is to Inspire, enhance and connect imagination workers globally.

Mariano spoke animatedly about the impact Mural has on students, adding that universities have “found the (Mural) service great to support their education aiming to help their students practice deliberately instead of reading or viewing content about Design Thinking.” Practical application makes all the difference in genuine comprehension and usability!

Of course, no entrepreneur’s road to success is paved in gold. The precursor for Mural came about when touchscreens had not yet gained the reach and popularity they’ve since achieved, leading to a fair share of start-up pains. This original business model sold to investors, and the Mural team worked tirelessly to gain industry recognition and influence as they sought to recover their passion project.

Mariano is (rightfully) most proud of the fact that he was eventually able to repurchase his company from the investors. He also imparts a critical piece of advice to all entrepreneurs, “Presell your solution to the problem FIRST. Don’t build anything or raise money until you have ten future customers lined up.” He placed an equal level of emphasis on determining, as well as preserving, a brand and steadfastly keeping its components top of mind in all business decisions. Mariano’s selection of a .co domain was chosen to bolster and hearten Mural.co’s own authenticity, and ensure its continued fulfillment.

 

Icons & Innovators – Meray Azar from epicexperiences.co

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DotCO_Innovator-meray azar

EPIC Experiences (epicexperiences.co) is a ‘shared booking platform’ that brings together like-minded people to share in unique, social experiences. Users create a profile – not unlike a dating app – that introduces themselves and their interests, and through the app they can find and meet others to attend events and other ‘experiences’, from theatre and live music, to outdoor activities, to classes and dining experiences.

The app facilitates booking straight through the platform, making the process simple, safe and easy, and leaving users to simply enjoy the company of new friends who share their interests – and most importantly, have some epic experiences!

A cure for loneliness

EPIC experiences founder, Meray Azar explains the idea came from a common experience of seeking real-life “human connection in an increasingly isolated lifestyle.”

“I entered the startup game relatively late. I was 33 at the time and was in an amazing corporate career, but I realized I just didn’t have friends with the same interests any more. Many of my friends were married and having children and I wanted adventure and the ability to explore my local city with someone else.

It was just so lonely experiencing awesome restaurants, galleries and shows on my own. So I created EPIC experiences.”

The success EPIC experiences has seen so far clearly demonstrates Azar is not alone in this feeling, and some of the most rewarding elements of the business to date have come from users’ openness and willingness to share, and the real connections that have been built on the platform.

“We know that our members share our passion, drive, and true thirst for adventure, which never goes away. I see stories unfolding before my eyes and I love how our members allow us on their life journeys.

“I love it when a member comes up and says ‘I joined EPIC experiences’ or ‘I told my friend they need to join.’ I’ve made some amazing friends through it myself.”

Inheriting an entrepreneurial attitude

Azar says the entrepreneurial spirit has been with her from an early age, following in the business footsteps of generations before her.

“I’ve always had it, as my father and grandfather were entrepreneurs. At the age of 14 I was working with my dad in his shop, chasing sales and ensuring customers had an amazing experience.

This continued on in adulthood, when my sister and I would take our unwanted fashion to markets and sell them to what we hoped were new homes that would love our threads as much as we did.”

When it comes to defining these qualities that support her startup aspirations, Azar puts it down to “drive, focus, and lots and lots of passion.”

“People that have those qualities inspire me, and are what makes life exciting – so I surround myself with those qualities.”

She also says that despite any degree of success, she’s maintained a startup attitude to allow her to keep doing business the way she wants.

“I’m a startup that seems to be constantly in the startup stage, no matter how advanced the business gets. I like to move really fast and make data-driven decisions that allow me to think intuitively.”

meray azar

Advice for entrepreneurs

As Azar focuses on growing EPIC experiences through onboarding new experience suppliers, scaling the business to new cities and building out its technologies, she reflects that she’s learned a lot along the way.

In particular, Azar has improved her pitching skills, taken part in competitions and been recognised at startup events – though says she realized there was a misperception that she “needed funding from angels and VCs” that she had to overcome.

“I just made it work – and our team learned a hell of a lot getting on our own.”

Her advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs? There’s no time like the present.

“Don’t wait! Just go for it – you will learn so much, and put yourself through so much, but it is so worth it.

“I’m big on supporting other startups, so hit me up if you want tips and if I can’t help I’ll try to point you in the right direction.”

Why .CO?

EPIC experiences wasn’t the original name of Azar’s business – and when it came to rebranding based on consumer feedback, .CO provided the availability and choice needed to get creative with the name and truly reflect what the brand represents.

“We had a lot of feedback that our original name wasn’t resonating with what we were trying to achieve and capture. Originally we were known as Epic Catch, and it just didn’t fit with our mission of curing loneliness.

“Then we discovered epicexperiences.co was available and we went with it – the decision was made one afternoon and we flipped the URL overnight, the day before appearing on a national TV show.

“From there it was simple – 301 redirects, updating our collateral – it was that easy.

Now I feel like epicexperiences.co is better aligned to our mission of curing loneliness.”