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Monarq: Station Houston Member
Photo: Katya Horner
“I spent 10 years on Wall Street,” says Diana Murakhovskaya, co-founder of Monarq. “It was a pretty toxic environment.” Murakhovskaya worked in commodities trading; her business partner Irene Ryabaya was an oil trader. Frustrated with the dynamics of Wall Street, they created an app designed to connect like-minded women business owners with each other.

Monarq was born.

After launching, they went around the world to conferences and hackathons and realized a few things pretty quickly: first, they liked being able to mentor other people; second, they saw a gap in funding and business advice for start-ups. They shifted their focus.

Today, Monarq is a business incubator, focusing on helping women grow their startups through capital, mentoring and business planning. Currently with a cohort in New York City, Monarq recently expanded to Houston, and is seeking its next round of candidates.

“Usually, the businesses in our cohort have a technology component,” says Murakhovskaya. “They’ve made a prototype, they have a founder working full-time. We connect them with investors and help them get to the next level.” Companies that have shown a demonstrated path to revenue generation and are ready for a round of seed funding in six to 12 months are also typical.

Monarq’s incubator is a six-month boot camp, where business founders receive advising, can network with other women-led companies, and get connected to influencers and experts who provide invaluable assistance as they continue to build their brands. The next cohort is expected to launch here in January and interested business founders can apply at monarqincubator.com.

“Our first cohort has made amazing progress,” says Murakhovskaya. “We have the ability to put these companies in front of investors and provide them with a foundation to grow. So often with any start-up, but sometimes more so with women-led companies, there’s a lack of access to capital. We work to fix that.”

Giving women networks the need to succeed is paramount to Murakhovskaya’s mission. And Murakhovskaya believes that women-led businesses are a solid investment. “Research shows that women-led companies are often more diverse that other start-ups, and they also out-perform other start-ups in terms of revenue building and customer growth. They have a higher ROI than their male-led counterparts.”

She also feels that women are often poorly marketed to as consumers, and women-led companies are uniquely primed to address that challenge. That doesn’t mean that every company Monarq works with is all-female, but they are all led by women.

Murakhovskaya thinks Houston is ripe for Monarq’s incubator. She cites the city’s educated population and broad wealth available as examples. But, having relocated here and spending time as a Houstonian, she also sees the city’s can-do spirit as a strong foundation for a place that can be a start-up showplace. “Houston has all the building blocks for success,” she says. 
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