Meural: Showcasing Visual Art via Its Own Medium
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The real question is - how does one estimate Mona Lisa’s worth? Out of all viable markets and industries nowadays, visual artistry seems to be getting the least attention.
So, while most artists have their respective platforms to showcase their work on, visual artists were somewhat left out. Making amends on the market and empowering the impact of visual art was a benevolent challenge taken on by Vladimir Vukicevic and Jerry Hu when creating Meural.
Meural is proof of a blend of art, design, and technology that makes top-notch artistry universally accessible. Meural’s unique approach of expertly curated artworks has resulted in the creation of a dynamic library, containing more than 30.000 art pieces.
Nurturing the idea of bringing Mona Lisa and many other classics to anyone’s home, here’s how Vladimir and Jerry turned Meural into a three-billion-dollar art giant! Read more here:
An Idea Comes to Life
Vladimir Vukicevic was born on 29 April 1979, in Serbia. Ever since his earliest days, Vladimir had been interested in the creation of things.
At the age of 6, he moved to the US with his family. The life of a first-generation immigrant child is not always easy. He was introduced to a whole new environment, new language, and new friends - a tough start for a six-year-old kid.
Jerry Hu, on the other hand, a Chinese-born American citizen, shared a similar childhood to Vladimir. At roughly the same age, Jerry’s family had moved to the United States.
Jerry had always been prone to art and visual representation. As he grew up in San Francisco, throughout his high school education, he had spent most of his time at the Fine Arts Museums of SF.
Vladimir Vukicevic and Jerry Hu’s paths crossed during their freshman year in NYU in 2003, where Vladimir was an economics, management, and philosophy major, while Jerry was majoring in economics and marketing. Brought together, partially by fate and partially by business inclination, Vladimir and Jerry would soon become more than just college peers and buddies.
The Foundation of Meural
Before Vladimir created Meural, he first tested the business waters with the creation of RocketHub - a crowdfunding startup meant to help creative minds worldwide.
Thanks to this startup, Vladimir was immediately able to encounter a gap within the artist scene.
The realization that visual artists are underrepresented and the lack of respective platforms on the market soon gave Vladimir a whole new business idea.
When Meural was first considered as a platform, Vladimir had both art and affordability in mind. Yes, art has always been embraced by a widespread community.
However, not everybody had the money to spend on classic art pieces, and not everybody would settle for a simple wall poster. Luckily, Vladimir’s new project, Meural, would offer a solution as a jumping rope for both hurdles.
Sometime in 2013, Vladimir presented his Meural idea to Jerry from a macro perspective. Looking at the whole picture, Jerry liked it, and eagerly offered his input on how to further boost the platform. Waves of brainstorming later, Meural was founded in August 2014, in NYC.
The Meural Canvas
Starting a business can sound scary as there is always the possibility of failure. Risks aside, Meural also had to worry about creating an in-demand product that’ll stick on the market.
Fortunately, Jerry was well-aware of the principles behind creating a fabulous product and even once stated, 'The best way to establish demand for something is to have it available for purchase.'
As for taking the additional steps towards success, Vladimir and Jerry adopted a simple philosophy: work, test, repeat. One of the first things Vladimir and Jerry did was to gather as much client feedback as possible.
Their designated product, the so-called Meural Canvas, was built with the help of built-in TrueArt technology. It delivers an art-viewing experience for all its users and offers technological enhancements that make the product not just unique but incredibly competitive as well.
A Helping Hand
The main challenge in funding Meural was to convince potential investors of the magnitude of the project and its practicality, accessibility, and digitality.
In February 2015, the idea finally caught on and so, the first funding came - an Angel Round worth $750K. Meural has had 3 more rounds of funding in the coming years - four in total - and has raised a total of $9.3 million.
All in all, the company is funded by 8 investors, the latest of which took place in 2017, from a Series A round.
Keeping Meural Sharp and Shiny
The Meural platform allows its users to display over 30,000 curated artworks. At the same time, their system can be voice and gesture-controlled, in addition to the web and the phone application. How cool is that?
Regarding the artworks, Meural’s CEO, Vladimir, noted that they are building the database individually - by conducting countless interviews and holding meetings with different museums and galleries to encourage them to showcase their work on Meural.
However, Meural does not only contain classic art pieces. Rather, it features contemporary art from upcoming artists that have signed contracts with the platform. In essence, Meural was designed to be the platform for visual artists.
Meural mainly generates revenue by selling the Meural Canvas in two main sizes - 16”x24” for $399.95 and 19”x29”, for $499.95. Along with it, the company also offers its Meural Frame - 13.5”x7.5” - for $299.95.
Moreover, there is a Meural Membership subscription, paid monthly for $8.95/m or annually, for $29.95/y. Once subscribed, the platform allows its users to access the ever-expanding library of artworks.
Meural started testing retail channels in late 2016 and realized that users loved the physical experience of their digital canvas. With that in mind, Meural took its products to stores across the country and trusted the business strategy to earn them juicy profits.
Meural, Powered by NETGEAR
However, the road of Meural becoming an art giant was not a straight line. During the series B round in 2018, Jerry and Vladimir realized that they had reached a critical point at the company. Their two main challenges were capital and distribution.
In August 2018, one of the two of the greatest investors stepped in, and Meural was acquired by NETGEAR. For Meural, that meant obtaining access to an already well-established brick and mortar retail system, including distribution and capital.
But that was not the only challenge that was imposed upon Meural. Vladimir and Jerry had a difficult time obtaining the collection of artworks as well.
Meural, being the new and still inexperienced platform, generated artists who were unwilling to showcase their work on the platform. However, partnering up with the right institutions, such as renowned museums and a variety of organizations, saved the day. Their current partners include 1000 Museums, Con Artists, Sedition, Bridgeman, and Eyes on Walls.
Whilst encountering artists earlier skeptical of their platform, Meural’s founders were exposed to a new challenge - copyright. Even though it took them almost two years to find a way to solve the issue, their copyright initiative resulted in success as they partnered with the Artists Rights Society.
After working a year on the transition of Meural to NETGEAR, the co-founders of Meural, Jerry Hu and Vladimir Vukicevic co-founded a new company, in 2019, called Better & Better, where they are both still actively part of. Essentially, Better & Better is a consumer products company devoted to making better products for the customers and for the planet.
With headquarters in NYC, today, Meural has a total of 27 employees and mainly operates in the US. Although the company does not offer international shipping at this time, going outside US borders might easily turn into a ripe company ambition.
Presently, the company does not have any large future plans disclosed, however, it’s doubtful that the two investors will stop at what they had already created.
Without Vladimir and Jerry’s admiration for art, fine visuals, and the power of accessibility, Meural would have become any other ordinary brand. But, thanks to their willingness, innovation, and ambitions, Jerry and Vladimir allowed Meural to give quality artistry a place to thrive and therefore proved that - 'Earth’ without 'art’ is just - 'Eh’!