At GetAssist, we have a set of core beliefs.
We believe people deserve to get more network out of their social network.
We believe in supporting platforms that allow people to connect with purpose.
We believe in helping make everyday life easier for everyone.
We believe in giving people who crave meaningful connections to ability to do that.
We believe in supporting entrepreneurs—from the dreamers to the believers, the movers to the shakers.
So when we met with the women behind the highly anticipated Monarq app, we knew we’d found friends for life. These two amazing ladies are aligned with GetAssist’s core beliefs, and they have a unique mission of their own: To inspire women to lead a more fulfilling life, spark authentic conversations and forge new friendships. We sat down with co-founders Diana Murakhovskaya and Irene Ryabaya to talk more about the future of social, what it’s like to create an app, and the Monarq Movement!
GetAssist: Would you be so kind as to introduce our readers to Monarq? How you started, the struggles and triumphs you’ve experienced along the way, and where the journey has led you today.
Monarq: We spent almost a decade in finance in various banking and commodity sales & trading roles and were looking for more fulfillment in our careers. We both left the glitter and flashing lights of wall street for the greener and more rewarding pastures of entrepreneurship. After first traveling the world together and apart we worked on a few passion projects in food and EdTech. It was our years of working and studying in male-dominated industries that lead us to our self-discovery process and together we unearthed a shared passion to empower women.
Serendipity brought us together as friends and business partners. Now we want to share with other women the joy and fulfillment our friendship has given us. We set out to create a safe space where women can grow their social circles, lead richer, more meaningful lives and become bolder about pursuing their passions. And so, Monarq was born!
It’s been an incredible journey where everyday is different and exciting in its own way. Working in corporate world sometimes felt like groundhog’s day with everyday being like the last. While running a startup, we learn something new every day and are motivated and inspired by the challenges we face. We also love the fact that we can affect real change. In our opinion this ability to see holes in our world, needs going unfilled, problems going unsolved, and go “I am going to fix it!” is what defines an entrepreneur.
We definitely have had some hairy moments with running our own bootstrapped company. When we were fairly close to wrapping this phase up for release our lead developer landed in the hospital for awhile with a collapsed lung and our designer had a death in the family. Things halted for a bit and seemed dire but we knew that startup life would throw us many curve balls yet. When you’re in WFIO mode it’s hard to see the light but we took a deep breath and threw ourselves into taking action. We worked through it and with the support of our incredible network got to where we are today!
GetAssist: When did you first realize the need for more meaningful connections between women, and how did you come to the conclusion that an app would be the best way to accomplish your goals?
Monarq: Strong friendship and bonds between women help reduce stress, research by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, has shown. When stressed out women choose to spend time with other women, the hormone oxytocin is released, calming them and relieving stress.
The hard science aside each of us knows in our gut how important our girlfriends are to us. Women rely heavily on our social networks to help us find great career opportunities, introduce us to the right significant others, celebrate our wins and support us through the hard times. When a life change, be it a geographic move, a new job or motherhood, causes us to feel distant from our tribe, depression and anxiety often follow. That is a cycle we intent to break.
We also found in our own research that women do more of what we love when we do it together. We work out, cook, learn, party, shop, travel etc. etc. more often and with greater satisfaction when we have a partner in crime to share that experience with. Most solutions out there fail women on so many levels with large format meetups at specific times, dating-only solutions and networking groups that put new pressures and obligations on our already busy lives. Monarq allows you to access it anytime right from your phone so it is infinitely easier to find a one-on-one partner for your every passion, new or old.
GetAssist: Why do you think women aren’t able to make friends on other social platforms commonly used today?
Monarq: This is a great question and it comes up often. The social needs of the modern woman are evolving. More women are becoming increasingly mobile in their careers and personal lives as they take more freelance and startup jobs, and remain unmarried or have unconventional romantic relationships. Because of this quiet revolution many women are losing their social circles and support finding it a struggle to build new ones. The current solutions for discovering new friends and building up your social life fail women on several levels. Many solutions focus on dating and meeting in a group setting vs. focusing on creating real connections for women to meet other like-minded women one-on-one. Facebook is great to connect with those already in your circle or those you know, but doesn’t make discovery of someone new as easy. It doesn’t make introductions for people who would be good for you to be friends with and can still turn into a dating feel.
GetAssist: How important do you think it is for people who meet online (or via an app like Monarq) to continue to connect in-person?
Monarq: I think apps like Monarq are great facilitators for people to discover connections that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to using traditional meetup and networking groups. However, once you’ve been empowered with new connections online it’s very important to connect in person. We truly do believe that in the world where every woman has Monarq on her phone she is never lonely. She is never bored on sat night or lonely in a new city or being hit on at a hotel bar at a conference because a new girlfriend is always at her fingertips.
In the Monarq world each woman is empowered to try pursue her passions because she can always find a partner in crime or an experienced mentor who wants to share her knowledge in anything whether it’s learning to code, starting yoga or becoming a sommelier.
GetAssist: Many GetAssist users are small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to monetize their skills and find a greater connection to their community. How does Monarq strengthen local communities?
Monarq: We love the idea of connecting with purpose—that is exactly what created Monarq for! Launching a social app like Monarq is very interesting because you have to have the right people on the app to make sure everyone who logs in every day has a great experience.
We are really focused on growing our community the right way so we have taken steps to ensure that we get the best women involved during the private launch before releasing the app to a broader audience. We have partnered with some great local businesses and brands in Arizona including Kaleidoscope Desoto, Tea & Toast, Madison Improvement Club, SEED Spot and CO+Hoots. It’s been extremely helpful to both us and our partners to work with companies and share our audience and resources with each other.
GetAssist: Starting your own venture, what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to make a difference in the world?
Monarq: Surround yourself with great passionate people and tell everyone your idea because ideas are abundant, but drive isn’t. Listen to your users but go with you instinct and make decisions quickly so that you can iterate and move forward. You have learn to be be patient more so than ever with users, developers, your partner and with yourself.
We also love this inspiring quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe “At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.” Building a company is a very hard thing to do. You will be working yourself to the bone without anyone telling you that you have to do so. This means you need to be insanely driven and passionate about what you are building. Given this, it is, off course, hard to know when to make the leap and many women keep waiting for the “perfect” idea or the “perfect” partner to come along. Our biggest advice is don’t wait. When you have the financial safety net in place to allow yourself the space to experiment, jump in and your network will lift you up,
GetAssist: When living the startup life, what are some must-have rules you live by to stay sane?
- Ask for help when you need it, people really do want to lend a hand
- Stay true to your vision
- Make fast decisions to succeed or fail fast and move on quickly
- No two days will ever be alike, so take each one as an opportunity to learn
- Nothing will ever be perfect so know when to say “good enough!” and move forward
- Startup life is a long game, don’t beat yourself up for mistakes and celebrate every small win with the people who helped you achieve it
- Do what all successful people do and ask others what you can do to help them. Good people never forget a favor.
Monarq: Developing an app almost always starts with the seed of an idea sketched on a piece of paper. Monarq started the same way. We had iPhone shaped printouts and scribbled stick figures on them in a shaky hand. We quickly learned about low fidelity vs high fidelity wireframes, .eps vs .png files, native vs web apps etc. It was a steep learning curve for two women from corporate tech and finance!
Then comes the hard part of hiring great design and tech talent to execute your dream and managing the process to make sure every part is done right. Once the app takes shape, “everyday is launch day.” This is advice we received early on from a serial entrepreneur and we’ve lived by it since. The process includes a lot of testing, bug fixes, content changes, app store approval (not an easy process!) and many sleepless nights. The first version of Monarq was submitted around 3 am.
We think that apps can be great drivers of new leads and sales for small businesses and a great new user experience for their clients, but technically it can be a an expensive undertaking and often a challenging one for completely non-technical people. Only you can decide whether you want to rise to the challenge and whether the time and money invested will be a worthwhile benefit for your business
We’ve actually started a series of all women hackathons to bring together women with business ideas with developers and designers to help bridge the gap between technical and creative women and to encourage more women to grow their tech skills. #SheHacksAZ is coming soon and we urge the ladies of the Valley to apply to bring their ideas to life!
GetAssist: What’s next for Monarq?
Monarq: Now that you can download the Monarq App in the app store we are focused on two things in the coming months. First we are launching it in Arizona this fall with a series of events you can check out here. While that is happening, we are working on next set of new features to engage our users and give them an all around meaningful experience with Monarq every day.
And finally, we’re working on events with great partners in New York and Houston where we plan to launch in 2016!
GetAssist: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Monarq: We’re truly excited to be launching Monarq in a Arizona and be able to be part community filled with so many inspiring women. We hope to meet and introduce as much of you as possible and really hope you come out for some good vibes, laughs and new friends. Become part of the Monarq Movement and join us at some of our local events!
GetAssist would like to thank Monarq for this lovely interview! We wish you nothing but success.
Do you have a way you’re helping others connect with purpose? Join GetAssist and let us know!