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Interview with ARV founder Maria Meshcherskaya on how this all started and what’s the secret behind building a tech startup without a background in tech.

Hey! Thank you for finding the time, so great to talk with you finally.

Thank you for having me! Happy finally to share the story.

How did you come up with the idea for the ARV app (arvme.com)?

Well, from a very young age I was passionate about the idea of connecting people rather through new activities or in extraordinary ways. I was a pretty shy kid and despite my extrovert nature always found it’s tricky to make new friends. You know, how you first have the intention to start the conversation with someone, but then stop yourself because you are not sure, what to start with? That’s the exact feeling I had my whole childhood.

So, I think unconsciously it was always the problem I wanted to solve, I just couldn’t find the way. Time passed and I got obsessed with one more idea, which was to move to NY. Since I still was an undergraduate student in Russia, I needed to complete the institute first and then go study abroad. Thus, in 2017 for the first time I came to NY for summer courses at Sotheby’s and it was just the dream place, to be honest. So as part of the course, we had to come up with a project related to the art and expansion of its potential. It hit me right there – we do all sorts of things with art – besides using it as the network, which it’s already formally is. Think about it, every country, region, and almost neighborhood has its museum, gallery, or art-related space, which shows authenticity of the local destination, its culture, tradition, and values of habitats. And, of course, the intention of every person who is exploring it for the first time is to ask – what is it about? And here we go with the communication, right? No need to be shy, because of your intention to explore the culture, it doesn’t put you in the position of a vague situation, where the other person not sure, why would you bother them with extra questions, and finally – it creates this bridge for further discussion. So, I was like, yes! We should use art as the middle ground for making new connections throughout the world.

Okay, well, it sounds quite inspirational, but how did the class project turn into an actual app?

Aw, well, it was the whole journey to go with. So, beginning from 2017 I started to explore all possible options to make this plan a reality, I was researching online, asking friends, and looking for companies, which could build the MVP for the app. Luckily, my family supported me every step along the way and when I finally found the team, they helped me financially, so I could pay the company and get my first MVP on the market. 4 months later after endless discussions, drafts, and debates about the design, interface and so forth we had ARV in the App Store! I wish I could say that’s was it – we got popular and the dream came true, but it was so far from it and just the beginning of the story…

So, you launched the app during your graduation year, right? Did you have time to work on it or how’s the whole process was happening?

Right, so I was working at the time on my capstone, one more research related to the investment potential of the art sector and the app. I honestly just tried to prioritize things at the time and make them done depending on the deadline.

After graduation before I moved to NY, I had the whole year to work on the app, to build its network of partners and potential investors, to find team members as passionate about the idea as I was, and to plan everything with the moving, finances and other upcoming changes.

Where did you find your first investors?

Aw, it’s a very funny story, so since my background was in communications and journalism not in finance or tech, I had no idea how we suppose to raise funds, manage startup finances, reach this break-even, and other things. What I knew though – is that I’m good at presenting things and networking, so I just googled the largest tech event in Europe. The rationale behind this was that if I can’t do something myself, I can find people who’d be as passionate about the idea as I was. That’s how we got our first booth at the Web Summit to present the app to the public, met future team members, a great amount of bright talented people, and of course, partners and investors.

Interesting, so what was your pitch like? Do you still remember it?

Of course! “We are building a worldwide network based on art objects from around the globe, so to let people chat and meet their adherents from a very far distance through masterpieces”.

Sounds fantastic, did it work well?

Enormously, that brought us, multiple partners, including Enterprise Europe Network, provided support from Paris Region, and also, we got lucky to have great talents from the Northeastern University interning in our company.

So what are your plans now?

First and foremost, since we already established the company in NY, start to distribute the app in the US, find more team members for further development, possibly implement neural networks for easier recognition of art pieces and more immediate connection, and of course, releasing the plan of making ARV worldwide app. It honestly would be so great if more people would be able to have friends in other countries, so to explore new cultures, traditions and maybe form new dreams.

Thank you! Let it be so

Thank you!

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