Is He The Future of Design Collaboration? 1200 Customers and $3m in Revenues Say Yes!

Mariano Suarez-Battan

In Episode #738, Nathan interviews Mariano Suarez-Battan. He’s the founder and CEO of MURAL, a digital whiteboard for exploring complex challenges visually. Global 2000 companies like IBM, Intuit, Steelcase, and Autodesk have deployed MURAL at scale to enhance collaboration in their digital workplace. A former startup in residence at IDEO, Mariano also founded Three Melons, a game studio that designed and published online games like Bola, which was acquired by Playdom and Disney in 2010.

Famous Five:

  • Favorite Book? – Purple Cow
  • What CEO do you follow? – Aaron Lewis
  • Favorite online tool? — LinkedIn
  • How many hours of sleep do you get?— 8
  • If you could let your 20-year old self, know one thing, what would it be? – To trust in your gut always

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 02:12 – Bola has created games for large brands like Lego
  • 02:23 – Back then, the social games industry was moving fast with Zynga, Playfirst and Playdom
    • 02:31 – Mariano thought that, strategically, it made sense to grow bigger with those companies
    • 02:45 – It was also a great decision, financially and professionally
  • 03:00 – Mariano started Bola in Argentina
  • 03:24 – Acquisition price was with stock and equity
    • 04:12 – The cash was $4-5M
    • 04:26 – $600K was the payback for the investors
  • 04:44 – MURAL was a startup in residence in IDEO
    • 05:03 – IDEO brought in Collaborative Fund as a funder for MURAL
    • 05:10 – MURAL’s vision is to make every designer share their design thinking globally
    • 05:36 – IDEO was like an incubator
    • 05:49 – Prior to IDEO, MURAL has raised closed to $1M
    • 05:59 – Collaborative Fund invested money on MURAL while IDEO made MURAL known to big companies like IBM
    • 06:33 – Some of IDEO’s DNA are in MURAL
  • 07:00 – MURAL’s pricing
    • 07:02 – $12 per member per month and billed annually, $16 billed monthly
    • 07:10 – The pricing on the website is for online customers
  • 07:23 – A quarter of their customers are online and the rest are enterprise costumers
  • 07:46 – MURAL is a SaaS business
  • 08:22 – MURAL has over 40K active users monthly
  • 08:58 – MURAL has no free plan but has introduced a free education plan to help kids
  • 11:00 – MRR is around $280K
  • 11:11 – Average ARR
  • 12:06 – Currently, MURAL has raised a total of $2.4M
  • 12:16 – Team size is 35
    • 12:45 – Most are in product development and engineering
    • 12:55 – Office is located in San Francisco
  • 13:30 – Gross monthly churn
  • 14:17 – Some of the customers are entrepreneurs selling to multiple departments
  • 15:23 – MURAL churn on online customers is quite high
  • 15:38 – Average cost per new customer
    • 15:55 – One of MURAL’s new customer is from an event they’ve sponsored
    • 16:04 – The cost of the sponsorship with other expenses was $3K
    • 16:29 – What Mariano does is split up general cost with the number of new customers
  • 16:50 – Gross margin is around 85%
  • 18:45 – The Famous Five

3 Key Points:

  1. The investment in your company doesn’t always need to be cash.
  2. Before going into an acquisition or partnership, go on a vacation and think about it with a clear head.
  3. Having different revenue sources leads to different churn sources—focus on where churn is the least.

Resources Mentioned:

  • The Top Inbox – The site Nathan uses to schedule emails to be sent later, set reminders in inbox, track opens, and follow-up with email sequences
  • GetLatka – Database of all B2B SaaS companies who have been on my show including their revenue, CAC, churn, ARPU and more
  • Klipfolio – Track your business performance across all departments for FREE
  • Hotjar – Nathan uses Hotjar to track what you’re doing on this site. He gets a video of each user visit like where they clicked and scrolled to make the site a better experience
  • Acuity Scheduling – Nathan uses Acuity to schedule his podcast interviews and appointments
  • Simplero – The easiest way to start and sell your course
  • Host Gator– The site Nathan uses to buy his domain names and hosting for the cheapest price possible
  • Audible– Nathan uses Audible when he’s driving from Austin to San Antonio (1.5-hour drive) to listen to audio books
  • Show Notes provided by Mallard Creatives