It all started with Journalism.
Born to journalist parents, Susan Akbarpour dove into journalism right after finishing her undergrad and a short stint of running businesses that her late parents left behind from when she was 19 to 22. Susan became the first female journalist at one of the oldest and most famous newspaper in Iran after the revolution. Her first assignment was writing a cooking column. But, her cooking column was just a flash in the pan. Within a few weeks, she hustled her way to become an investigative reporter, overcoming a patriarchal system that had a hard time accepting a woman in such a position.
After moving up the ranks as an editor and special correspondent, obtaining the first independent journalism license in the country and winning a national award for the best interview of the year, Susan went to the US to find her American dream, practice better journalism and start her own publication. Eventually, she woke up from the dream when she found herself in a void. Her publication was subsisting off press releases and letting advertisements and the entertainment-crazed audience diminishes its editorial standards. It was not only her fledgling publication that was suffering, as audience and journalist disengagement led even the most prominent US media institutions to a hole, which to her was worse than censorship. The power of truly disruptive content was neither appreciated, needed nor sensed.
Susan then drifted from the world of journalism to that of technology and business, where disruption holds a higher value. But “Content and Creativity” have always had prominent places in everything she has done, from planning technology conferences, to management consulting, to marketing and PR, to making investment, to sitting in multiple boards and to starting her latest venture, a software company with a flagship product called mCart. mCart converges the media with commerce, making the role of online push advertising—the kiss of death to conventional media advertising strategies—less prevalent.
Susan is also a partner at Candou Ventures, a founding member and on the board of directors at IMA International Executive Council and VOMax Corporation, an advisory board member to Trustroot, a member of Stanford Business School Alumni Association and Stanford Women on Boards, a prestige member of Watermark (a nonprofit organization that is a community of executive women), and a contributing writer to Forbes.
Throughout her journey as an entrepreneur, journalist, publisher, investor, board member, community advocate and political fundraiser, Susan has received multiple media, community and business awards, spoken at over 50 conferences, and is frequently featured in mainstream media outlets such as Business Journal, Stanford Magazine, ABC News and Fox Business, among others.
From Vision to Reality
Working as a journalist, Susan loved being on the cutting edge of the news and serving people important information, although she spent most of her time designing and marketing software in the world of tech these days. With the mCart, she is creating a cutting-edge solution that lets consumers, retailers and producers share information on a unified platform. She asserts, “I may not be creating as much content anymore, but now I’m helping built a platform to help consumers, advertisers and content creators leverage and monetize content in a transparent and frictionless way!”
Susan also advises and invests in many other startups that are aligned with her vision for building a more engaged and “cross-pollinated” world.
When Susan attended Stanford Graduate Business School for an MS in management, she researched how a connected, contextual, and consumer-centric commerce platform could empower consumers to buy more efficiently, advertisers to track their marketing dollars to sales dollars and media to monetize the content in a more honorable way. This research directly led to the founding of Mavatar Technologies, a company that will make her vision a reality. Susan serves as CEO at Mavatar Technologies.
An Omnichannel Commerce Platform
Mavatar is a leading player in capturing, tracking and monetizing omnichannel data. The company provides a suite of turnkey solutions:
- Omnichannel marketplace
- Shop-able content publishing
- AI & Blockchain-based affiliate
- Data-driven CRM as-a-service
The all-in-one platform can be operated by content platforms, agencies, malls, CPGs and procurement sites. Mavatar’s innovative and consumer-centric solutions bring unprecedented efficiency to the entire commerce ecosystem and close the gap between online and offline shopping, sales and advertising.
In addition, the mCart platform is very diverse and has multiple applications for different types of the users and customers. According to Susan, platforms are typically very difficult to explain as they have multiple constituencies with different sets of needs and objectives. Finding the right messages that resonate with everyone doesn’t happen overnight, but a message that is relaying “win-win situation” can be a good start. This is usually a common message for most of the platforms.
The mCart message for users and customers is, “Making the world around us shop-able.” mCarts can be placed behind Hollywood movies, TV shows, magazine articles, billboards, social posts and even one’s living room, turning them all into money making machines.
The value created by this platform might be saving time and money removing middlemen and back-office excess costs, obtaining accurate data, or creating new revenue models for different constituencies of the mCart ecosystem. In today’s complex world, the job of an innovator is not creating point solutions anymore. The company has to devise a cross-pollinated and easy-to-use platform, integrating multiple solutions that can solve complex and interrelated problems. It’s hard and time consuming to relay the message of a platform. One has to be patient, creative and knowledgeable to finance the slow adoption rate and help the entire ecosystem “cross the chasm” in a timely manner.
Creation of a Successful Platform
Susan strives for the mCart platform to become an industry standard for user-generated advertising and content monetization. This is no easy task, as the modern consumer’s experience is fragmented and has many steps along the path to purchase.
It has taken eight years for her company to build and market the mCart platform so that it gives consumers a streamlined shopping experience, gives retailers an intuitive platform for managing their inventory, sales and advertising, and gives content creators a transparent means of tracking their influence to sales dollars. Susan believes that through trial and error, and over 2 million hours of brainwork across her team, Mavatar has successfully created a platform that accurately encapsulates the modern retail and media landscape. Once the solid pipeline of an effective, transparent and adaptive network is built, fueling it with users’ trust and adoption doesn’t seem that hard.
Making the Way Out to Serve the Mission
Initially, Mavatar Technologies had trouble getting VC investment, as its vision of a unified retail and media ecosystem didn’t fit with their models. The company also had trouble getting retailers to get on board with its idea to reward micro, macro and mega influencers for the purchases they drove because retailers were worried about whether it’d be too logistically expensive to directly deal with millions of influencers and micropayments. However, these initial setbacks led to the development of mCart’s most innovative features, including the blockchain-based attribution tracking system and the mCart token to facilitate micropayments. mCart tokens also helped the company raise money via an initial coin offering (ICO) private sale, and thus it didn’t need VC funding and could use the token to initially reward the early adopter influencers to create a “Network Effect,” “Cross the Chasm”, and prove the system to retailers.
However, Mavatar had to pause its well-received ICO, as the regulatory environment for cryptocurrencies has not yet been established. The US federal agencies have neither fulfilled their duty to define utility tokens, like that of the mCart, nor created a framework to identify legitimate technologies and companies while protecting ICO investors from shady crypto-hucksters.
Susan’s recent mission has been drafting a blueprint to help US regulators create the necessary rules to regulate ICOs before billions of dollars of investment and thousands of valuable intellectual properties leave the borders to conduct ICOs or and release tokens in countries with friendlier regulatory environments. Her campaign started with her presentation at the 36th monetary and trade conference at Drexel University. The university is now in the process of publishing a paper based on her presentation. She is also currently working on creating a coalition with a number of her alma mater’s (Stanford GSB) scholars and alumni, along with those of MIT, Drexel and other universities, to present a model for defining utility tokens to the SEC and other federal agencies.
She also has a laser focus in investment in “blockchain infrastructure” ventures via Candou Ventures, an investment firm at which she is a partner.
Illuminating Budding Entrepreneurs
According to Susan, entrepreneurs need to know how to power through setbacks to pursue their vision. This is especially true if the vision is particularly disruptive because established interests won’t want to see their industry and legacy technologies antiquated and because investors will be hesitant to invest in a product they don’t understand.
Susan believes that the first step of starting a startup is, well, “starting” it. She says, “Over time, it’s natural to build an emotional connection to your startup. It’s like your baby. But, don’t be afraid of chopping off your baby leg if you see cancer spreading and deteriorating the business. Bad apples, politics, bureaucracy, recreating wheels, over-managing and overthinking are the ingredients of failure. Cut them off and cauterize the wound as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a better day without them even if you have to carry a crutch for a while.”
Susan adds, “You should also live and work each day as if it’s your first and last day of business. Don’t worry about so many things you can’t or you might not need to control. Focus on things that matter and that you can finish today. Face the bottleneck when you have to. Sometimes the fear of bad news is more of a showstopper than the bad news itself. Tomorrow is already a better day if you don’t waste today worrying about it.”
URLs: mavatar.com, mcart.io