Turning Art into new Connections - Interview with the ARV Founder Maria Meshcherskaya
As part of the UNOFEX Talent Series 2021 starring outstanding talent and leaders from around the world, we introduce to you the New York-based art and tech entrepreneur Maria Meshcherskaya. In this interview we talked about, how Maria get the idea for her app ARV (arvme.com), the future of art and we also talked about how she expanded from Prague to New York. There is also much more to discover, so lets get started!
Where did you get the idea for ARV (arvme.com)?
Well, as with any idea it’s hard to say exactly, but I’d say mostly from the issue, which I was facing myself for quite some time: when you really want to meet new people and create meaningful connections, but don’t know exactly how. Then it hit me – it’s easier to start and make conversation, when you have some mutual interests, even though it sounds so obvious, yet to find mutual interest takes time whereas with art you rather like it or not and if you do, I bet you don’t mind discussing it with someone.
What problem are you trying to solve?
We want to make it easier for people to make new long-lasting connections and also find friends in other countries even if they can’t afford to travel.
Tell me about your background.
I was born in Moscow, Russia, lived for quite a while in Prague, then got back to Russia and graduated with a major in Journalism, I worked in the publishing business and media industry through my last years in university. After that, I founded ARV. I guess I was just blessed early to find myself and my life's work…
Who’s on your leadership team and what’s their background?
There are 3 of us with backgrounds in tech (AI, ML), media communications, and art management + 2 teams from London and Portugal, which we work with remotely.
You expanded your company from Prague to New York. How did that happen and why?
New York always was and is a great dream of mine, from the beginning I couldn’t think of a better place to be and develop the business. Besides, in 2019 I got the chance to study at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, which totally came as a rewarding experience in understanding the art scene and the main challenges it's facing. After completing the program, we opened the company here in New York. Luckily, there weren’t many things to move cause everything nowadays, at least in our sphere is online and digitally, so we just had to adapt to the new schedule because of the occurred time difference.
Who are some of your clients?
Most of our clients are creative minds, who are craving (literally!) to find adherents and someone, they’d be thrilled to talk to. It might seem unnaturally exciting, yet it is so. Good conversation is one of the pleasures we all appreciate, so when you have a chance to meet someone from the other corner of the world, who shares your preferences, what could be better?
Who are your main competitors?
Hmm.. Well, I’d say probably dating apps + Facebook, but luckily not direct. We focused on helping people to build actual connections, that will last, not to find immediate ones or stay in touch with already existing.
How are you different from the competition?
In short – we are the only one, who gives users actual ground to build conversation, not leaving them alone in the blank space of the screen, without knowing when and how to start the conversation with the person they like.
What are your strong points as a CEO?
Incredible people, who I work with + my curiosity, open-mindedness, and relentless desire to work.
What’s the most inspiring speech you ever heard, that motivated you as a founder, and why?
I think Steve Job’s one, though it may seem like a cliché, I remember I saw it for the first time on YouTube and it impressed me so much, just simple advice he gave at the Stanford Commencement ceremony: “Connect dots”, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”. So simple, but so right. That’s what we are trying to do, find connections, make it work, keep it fun and feel grounded every step along the way.
Describe your a-ha moment at which point you knew your start-up might become a success.
It really hard to tell, but I’d say when we first get the response from the outside, our startup started to be invited to summits and conferences, we got to UNESCO, became members of the Europe Enterprise Network, caught first media attention and what’s more important gained more users. Then, I was like alright, I do feel it might work.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you, and did you follow it?
I think my grandfather. He always says "listen to yourself". I didn’t follow it for a while, but when I started, it was life-changing, every decision became so much easier and just felt right.
What do you think is the future of art and how can ARV contribute to this?
I think the future of art in transformation, I mean it’s still will be a great aesthetic pleasure, cultural phenomenon, and visual expression, but hopefully with our help it also will become the visual language, which would unite communities and cultures based on similarities they have, not only on differences, which often might lead to the new disputes.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Mostly - being with family and friends, walk in nature, exercise, read and watch good movies.
How does the outbreak of Covid-19 affect your career?
Luckily, it didn’t affect us directly, but, of course, it was a challenging time for so many people, that we couldn’t stay away from it, so we just tried to do our best to create more options for communication, so people won’t feel that lonely and isolated.
What are your goals and dreams as a founder?
The biggest one, perhaps, for ARV to evolve with the time from the app into a communicational system, that would actually help people to connect on the new level, find more compromises, start to see the beauty in differences, and appreciate the diversity in things as one of the main components for the better future.
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