Meet the co-founders of the Monarq App, Irene Ryabaya & Diana Murakhovskaya! The two met on Wall Street and later decided to leave to do something more meaningful with their lives. They realized women were more willing to go out, explore their city, & attend events if they had a friend to go with. They decided to create an app where women can meet & network with other like-minded women and develop authentic friendships! Monarq isn’t just a social networking app. The company also hosts various events around the US including women hackathons to get women more interested in the tech, creative, & startup world! Read their journey of creating the Monarq App below!
Tell us your backstory prior to getting involved in the app industry.
We spent almost a decade in finance in various banking and commodity sales & trading roles and were looking for more fulfillment in our careers. So we both left the glitter and flashing lights of Wall Street for the greener and more exciting pastures of entrepreneurship. After first traveling the world together and apart, we then dabbled in some hobbies and passion projects. It was our years of working and studying in male-dominated industries that led us to our self-discovery process and together, we unearthed a shared zest 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 what they want to do. And so, Monarq was born!
What is the Monarq app & what inspired you to start it? When?
One day on a mountain in Borneo, Malaysia in late 2014, it dawned on us that the best way for us to build an inspiring company we’d be proud to call our own would be to blend our skills in tech, sales, and finance and to combine our mutual tenacity and overarching ability to get sh*t done. We came home from that trip and gave ourselves 30 days to start a company and find an idea we were passionate about. It didn’t take long for Monarq to come to the forefront and we quickly got to work registering our company and figuring out a way to make it come alive.
Monarq is a soon-to-be launched free iPhone app created for women by women. Our goal with Monarq is to make it easy for women to make one-on-one, authentic, obligation-free connections with like-minded women whether for a day or a lifetime. The Monarq mission is to inspire women to lead a more meaningful and fulfilling life, spark authentic conversations, and experience the joys of new friendships.
What kind of people/positions do you need on your team to build an app?
It’s like that age old wisdom “it takes a village!” Right now, we have each become “Janes of All Trades,” stepping into all the roles as needed. To build a successful app and company, you need developers, designers, social media/community building experts, research assistants, lawyers and most importantly, hustlers who can help you get things done. We’ve tried to hire as diversely as possible and are passionate about hiring women for our team.
What does the launching process of an app include?
We love the advice we received from one serial entrepreneur that told us “every day is launch day.” The process includes a lot of testing, bug fixes, content changes, app store approval (not an easy process!) and many sleepless nights. We have incredible friends and supporters whose feedback we value immensely and who have been there for us every step of the way.
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 has a great experience. We are really focused on growing our community the right way so we have taken steps to ensure we get the best women involved during the private launch before releasing the app to a broader audience.
What kind of costs are involved with building (& maintaining) an app?
We’ve been able to rally a great group of people who are extremely passionate and excited about working with and growing Monarq. That has helped us create everything from our website to our app on a tight budget which we are fortunate enough to be able to self-fund. As we grow, our needs will expand both on the marketing and social media side, as well as the development and design side, so we will need to raise money in order to keep creating a product our audience will truly love.
Reviews can make or break an app. What steps do you take when an app receives a bad review?
We haven’t had the app broadly reviewed outside our circle, but we are sure that will happen once we release it outside our private beta in the fall. However, we take all reviews (good or bad) into account and always consider the user experience. Our users mean the world to us and making sure each woman who logs in has a positive experience is paramount. Right now, we interview as many users as possible to get a general sense of what works and what needs improvement. Then we have to prioritize what we can fix and what has to wait. In the end though, you just have to go with your gut!
There are hundreds of apps with similar ideas. What tactics can you do to make your app stand out?
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 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. Outside of creating a really great product, we are launching an ambassador program and partnering with great women’s groups and influencers.
What collaborations have you done & how has working with other businesses/influencers helped your company?
We have done several great collaborations with amazing brands in Arizona including Kendra Scott, Kaleidoscope, Lululemon and CO+Hoots. It’s been extremely helpful to both us and our partners to share our audience and resources with each other. We are working on some amazing events when we come back for our broader launch in the fall and partnering with some great companies and influencers…hopefully including Bloguettes!
We’ve also launched a series of all-women hackathons in NY and Arizona with a mission to bring more women into tech and startups. SheHacks has been an amazing collaborative event to inspire women to bring to life ideas they are passionate about. We couldn’t have done it without some amazing partners including Trello, Spotify, Google, MeltMedia, Axosoft and so many others rallying behind the movement.
What are 3 of the most important lessons you have learned during your Monarq process?
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 your instinct and make decisions quickly so you can iterate and move forward. You have to learn to be patient, more so than ever before, with users, developers, your partner and with yourself.
Any parting words of advice for people trying to get into the app industry?
We love this quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.” Building an app or any company is a really hard thing to do and you have to be open to a lot of work and be quite driven. However, once we committed, we received an amazing outpour of support from a lot of great people, women in particular!