Arcbazar, a crowd-sourced architecture site, recently participated in MassChallenge 2011. I met with founder Imdat As at last week’s Venture Cafe, where he talked about bringing the competitive style of in-class projects to clients online.

Find his answers to all five questions below, if you prefer reading over listening.

1. When did you start arcbazar and what did you do before?

Let me start with the second part of your question first. I am trained as an architect and have been teaching architecture as an assistant professor since graduation. For the last couple of years I’ve worked as a practicing architect here in Cambridge.

The idea of a competition engine for architectural design projects came in the spring of 2010. Since then, we built the company, formed the core team and developed our platform. In the spring of 2011, we launched arcbazar’s beta version and so far we’ve had great traction and registered hundreds of users.

2. What are you working on right now?

Ever since we launched our beta version, we are doing a lot of optimization work, e.g. optimizing our business structure, our client acquisition model, our webpage, technology, features and all marketing efforts.

3. Did someone (or something) inspire you to start Arcbazar?

Not someone in particular, but studio culture in architecture schools in general has been always inspiring to me; there is always excitement, some drama and competition. In the studio, professors introduce particular design challenges and students develop different solutions for that particular design problem. Often these challenges are hypothetical projects, but sometimes they can be real architectural competitions. In my experience students get very excited with competitions for three reasons.

  1. They can deal with real world design problems
  2. They have a prospect to win awards
  3. It is a path for recognition, which is a way to distinguish themselves from their peers

At arcbazar, we have a business model that facilitates such competitions and offers young architects to unlock their design potential. At the same time, offers clients an easy and affordable way to get distinctive design solutions. Competitions usually produce the best solution to any given problem.


4. Have you used mentors or been a mentor to another business?

We’re stationed in a very privileged location in the US. Cambridge has great people–entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers, innovators, etc.–that form a deep and broad start-up ecosystem. Since we are located in Cambridge, we came across great mentors and advisors, who help us on various aspects of our venture. In the last couple of months we build our advisory board to tap into these resources. Some of our mentors and advisors are actively involved in many start-up accelerator programs, such as MassChallenge, Techstars and IBM SmartCamp. We feel very privileged to have their help while we are navigating in the wavy waters of the start-up ecosystem. I believe building a strong advisory board is very important for any start-up company.

5. What’s the best business advice you’ve heard or would give to someone else?

We are a very young start-up company, so anything I will say will probably sound presumptuous, but there’s a famous saying by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, “The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.”

It may sound like a cliché, but believing in your idea, building up a dedicated and self-motivated team, and being persistent in pursuing your goals is very important. The path of any start-up company has a lot of ups and downs and it’s easy to get discouraged and lose track of your core objectives, but no wind can help a ship that doesn’t know its course. Therefore my advice is to believe in your idea, build up a motivated team, and be persistent in pursuing your goals.