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Design thinking platform, MURAL, gets US$23 million in Series A

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)

Contxto MURAL—a web interface solution partially from Argentina (more on that later)—has announced that it has secured US$23 million in a Series A round led by Radian Capital. Other venture capitalists that participated include Gradient Ventures—Google’s AI-focused venture group—, and Endeavor Catalyst.

The company’s Argentinean co-founder and CEO, Mariano Suarez-Battan, now plans to board a three-pronged development strategy with the newfound cash. 

First, there will be some serious team expansion. If all goes well, by the end of 2020, they will be looking to double their size. This fast aggressive growth will be coupled with efficiency measures with the intention to provide a faster and better core product.

In between the above two prongs, the third approach will expand its remote outreach to facilitate UX (user experience) on the ground.

You may wonder why MURAL can afford to have such a generous shopping list on its first financing round. Well, unlike many other overly ambitious companies (cough, Uber, cough), this startup managed to tether all its previous fast growth on its own hard-earned cash and a relatively small amount of previously raised capital—US$ 2 million.

Indeed, MURAL announced it had managed to become cash-flow positive for most of 2019.

Now, VCs have vouched for this successful approach. “As enterprise brands recognize the power of design to build better products that enable them to become more customer-centric, we’ve seen huge adoption of visual collaboration techniques like design thinking, lean, and agile,” said Weston Gaddy, Partner and co-founder at Radian Capital.

The writing on the wall

The ethos behind MURAL is surprisingly complex. It is easy to say it is “a digital whiteboard”, as its CEO has done in the past, but it is tough to know exactly what that entails.

In the end, beyond all the talk about design thinking and the creative economy, MURAL is all about its practicalities.

It is a non-linear, remote, digital workspace for collaborative teams. In plain English, that means that its “dumbed-down” (the CEO’s words again) interface allows for complexity in planning meetings and projects in real-time across time zones and disciplines. 

Overall, it is a platform that reduces travel costs and inefficiencies while stimulating creative cooperation. The interface even has an extensive “icebreakers” section, in case you were worried they weren’t serious enough about fun.

The MURAL came to be nine years ago. A little later, in 2014, it completed the IDEO Startup in Residence program, and it hasn’t looked back since.

The startup is now working globally with over 3,700 customers, including some pretty big hitters—40 percent of Fortune 100 global enterprises.

From Latam to the world, remotely

It would make sense that the folks at MURAL—self-anointed “Muralists”—would be sprinkled liberally across the world. And indeed they are. There are currently over one hundred Muralists working across six time zones.

However, the distribution is not random. 

Take Mariano Suarez-Battan, the Argentinian-born, US-based CEO. Even his name is a metaphor for his global lifestyle; the hyphenated double-barreled name, the lack of an accent on “Suárez” which I had to resist “correcting.”

The rejigged name should be an indication that the startup’s headquarters are to be found in the United States—namely, in that startup-tech hub, San Francisco. 

And yet, MURAL’s development operations are in Suarez-Battan’s native Buenos Aires. In fact, a quick look at the rapidly expanding list of jobs on offer at the scaleup shows that a large chunk of the Series A money will be going to the Southern Cone in the form salaries. 16 out of 20 job offers are going to the Argentina base.

So, in the end, Suarez-Battan has not abandoned his Argentinean roots. That and the cheap Argentine peso can’t hurt.

Wanna hear more? We recommend you listen to the following podcast episode: Tres exits en Brasil e inversiones pequeñas pero seguras. You can find the time stamp available in the description.

-AG

Alejandro González Ormerod
Historian, writer, and editor from Mexico City. He was a book publisher, academic, and cheesemonger before joining Contxto. Still deciding on which Latin American country to visit next; food and fun are the main criteria.

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