“Marca Labs” focuses on building tools that connect users with the creativity and experiences they yearn for.
“Marca Labs” ‘s flagship product “SparkUp”; consists of an integrated solutions – a web 2.0 platform, live metrics, consulting and on-going support that deliver timely intelligence and a direct route to turning fans and spectators into active participants.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mrs. ‘Chamorro’ regarding her start-up company “Marca Labs” and their product “SparkUp“;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Marca Labs” is all about?
At Marca Labs, we focus on building tools that connect users with the creativity and experiences they yearn for.
Some of our products are focused on the Nicaraguan market (where we are physically based), while others focus on the broader international market.
Both type of projects are highly interesting to us, being that we all feel part of this small country and the world at the same time.
2. When has “Marca Labs” been founded? And what stage is “Marca Labs” currently at?
The startup was founded in early 2012, with myself (Marcella Chamorro) and Johannus Vogel coming together to found Marca Labs.
We have changed our offerings and projects drastically over the past few months, and we are currently at different stages with different projects.
Some are live, while others are still in the stages of development.
3. What is “Marca Labs”’s business model and how does it work?
Our startup works on different types of projects, each monetized in a distinct way, so that we can secure our sustainability.
- corporate web design: This service allows us the constant cash flow to fund our more ambitious projects.
- online ticketing platform for Nicaragua: This service allows us to gain traffic and notoriety in Nicaragua, while monetizing through commissions.
- iPhone app: this allows us to maintain a small but constant cash flow by charging end users a small fee for downloading the app from the Apple App Store.
- creativity web app: While this is still in development, this will be offered as a freemium service for individuals and teams that are seeking more creative output.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
My co-founder and I met through mutual friends during high school.
We kept in touch a bit throughout college, but we reconnected in early 2012 to brainstorm a few ideas.
The rest of our team came together via Twitter and mutual connections.
We interviewed various programmers and designers, but, in the end, we always went with our gut.
The team members that seemed the most excited about our ideas and what we wanted to build ended up forming part of the team, in the end.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
We are focused on experimenting in different industries and market niches.
We want to figure out exactly what people need to lead more exhilarating and creative lives.
We want to serve users and end customers in the ways they need it most.
By being nimble enough to change and program and update our offerings or products at a whim, we are committed to offering new services and removing old ones — as long as users make the decisions for us through their behavior.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Marca Labs” achieved so far?
Our corporate web design growth is overwhelming.
We don’t have the capacity to attend every new lead that knocks at our door.
We are trying to limit the web design growth, so that we can focus on our own projects.
That said, we have managed to grow three different independent projects while not infusing funds out of our pockets. That is a huge milestone for us.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Marca Labs”’s competitive advantage over them?
Our competitors are all over the place!
We have local competition here in Nicaragua, and we have international competition all over the world.
Every project we offer has severe competition, but we seek to offer solutions for our users by curating our offerings -— by making sure that what we offer is useful to them, in a simple and exhilarating way.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
We constantly face cash flow issues, as well as all handling of administrative tasks.
We don’t specialize in accounting or legal issues, and outsourcing them has always been a problem.
Our main desire is to focus on what we enjoy and what we do best, so we continue to try out different outsourcing solutions so as to worry less about the tasks that don’t fall within our explicit expertise.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Incredible programming is difficult to combine with incredible design.
Putting the hard work into what features, what positions, and what *everything* needs to be included or excluded is essential.
The end user is always what matters most, and putting them on such a high pedestal is scary to most businesses.
The bottom line won’t survive without those end users, though.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We are passionate enough to see ideas through to the end, and we are constantly working on coming up with new add-on’s or fixes to our platforms.
We keep the user’s needs in mind at every step of the process.
Our users thus far have expressed their appreciation and loyalty due to this.
In addition, we are committed to making swift changes when necessary to stay afloat.
11. If “Marca Labs” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
Our goal is to build more products that allow users to be as creative as they want and to allow users in third-world countries to make online purchases more easily.
The online payment processing industry is still in its infancy in Latin America.
If we are able to focus on that, later on, we will feel fulfilled and exhilarated ourselves in solving that problem for millions.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Marca Labs” based on?
A passionate team that gets together to bring ideas to life is our dreamplace.
We chose to build several projects at once in order to let the team members each work on what they like best and what their expertise guides them to do.
We are a collaborative team, but we are understanding enough as a managing level that we allow each team member to do what they do best.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Users are eager to try new products, as long as they will help improve their lives in some way.
Most people are inundated with content on the web, but they yearn for ways to curate what is out there.
The needs are out there, but there is a severe lack of projects that focus on the user first (instead of monetary gain).
The public appreciates this new user-centric focus.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Keeping SparkUp live and working, without bugs, for all users at all times!
The technology piece will become more and more daunting as we gain more users, and that will be a huge challenge.
It is a welcome challenge, because we hope to have that many users where we are inundated with the need to scale. That will be a great moment.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Enhancing creativity and their overall experiences.
We have to focus on enhancing their lives in different ways in order to succeed.
We hope to make SparkUp specifically the place to go to when a creative idea strikes and the user needs help in implementing it.
We want to help bring creative ideas to life in whichever way we can.
16. How did customers/users find out about you?
Many users and customers in Nicaragua I am connected with personally via social networks.
In the US, I have made contacts via conferences such as SXSW and WDS.
I am an active blogger, and I attempt to reach out to bloggers and fellow techies as often as I can.
Also, my upcoming TEDx talk will help promote our work as a team.
17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?
Different projects have different customers.
Within Nicaragua, we target young and vibrant customers.
On a global scale for our international products, we target creative types and those are interested in self-transformation, for betterment, in other words.
We have very techie-type users in mind when we create our products because we create products and projects we ourselves (as techies) would use.
18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
Social networks help get the word out so much.
I also spend significant time writing content for online publications that drive traffic to our projects.
Our great design has helped get new users, being that design transmits a level of user respect that perhaps they are not used to.
That has worked to our advantage in launching our projects in the Nicaraguan market.
19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?
They have been highly receptive to our products and projects.
Our live chat features have helped make each customer transaction feel personalized.
We want to make sure our customers are tended to carefully.
If we do that right, our customers stick around and become loyal.
The rave reviews have not been lacking, and we are extremely lucky to count on their support.
20. How are you going to scale?
Hopefully, our online offerings will allow us to increase revenue without having to increase our team at the same rate.
We hope to grow within Nicaragua because we feel passionate about helping our native country’s talent.
When we reach the point of massive scale needed, we will possibly struggle to reach our needs within Nicaragua.
At that point, we will evaluate our situation and react accordingly.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
Users want to see SparkUp live! We are working on getting it out to the public as soon as possible.
This has been a challenge because our development and design team gets temporarily inundated with work for other projects, but we are working on improving the balance so that SparkUp gets the attention and time it deserves.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We are already international.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We hope to become big enough to help more people while still maintaining the incredible lifestyles we dream about.
The idea isn’t to grow so big that our personal lives suffer for it.
It may not be the usual business person’s view, but it is our dedication to our work and our lives that keep us grounded in our goals.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
We are not hiring, at the moment.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
We are currently not looking for funding.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Try and try hard. Plan and plan hard.
But most of all — ship, go live, and go for it NOW.
There is always more to do and more bugs to fix, but, in the end, the users can’t give feedback or enjoy a product that hasn’t yet been shipped.
Just think to yourself — you will figure it out.