For the past 22 years, NETGEAR has been internationally known and loved for our WiFi networking products, making peoples’ lives easier in their homes and businesses, and connecting them to what matters most.
NETGEAR has also continued to lead and innovate in all things smart-home. From our 2014 release of the sleek Arlo security cameras, which recently formed its own IPO, to our highly praised Orbi Mesh WiFi Systems – including the new Orbi Voice, our Amazon Alexa-enabled smart speaker we designed in partnership with the engineers at Harman Kardon – NETGEAR has the goal of making your online experiences seamless, so that you can have the smartest home in the neighborhood.
Most recently, we have been super excited to announce that NETGEAR just acquired art technology startup Meural. Meural is a digital canvas as well as a marketplace, kind of similar to the iPod and iTunes, but for art rather than music. We have been big fans, and have been investing in Meural since 2017, and are now eager to help take this to the next level.
I had the chance to chat with Meural’s two co-founders, Vladimir Vukicevic and Jerry Hu, to find out how and why this startup came about, and how this platform, which was described by Forbes as “The Met or MoMa on a hot date with Snapchat”, is affecting the art world.
Q: So, Vladimir and Jerry, tell me about how this partnership between you two started, and how Meural came into existence.
Vladimir: Jerry and I met as Freshmen in NYU in 2003, and have been friends ever since. A few years after graduating from college, I helped start a company called RocketHub, which was a crowd-funding platform that raised money for musicians, filmmakers, writers, directors, and fashion designers. I noticed there had been a digital revolution in the art world, bringing new channels of distribution to many creative disciplines, but visual art was largely being left behind.
People really love and want to own visual art, but usually that meant either being in the low-end poster market, or in the high-end auction house or art gallery world. We wanted to build an alternative option, that would allow anyone to discover and enjoy art, while providing working artists with a new revenue stream to support their livelihoods.
Jerry: I grew up in San Francisco, and all through high school, I was a docent for the Fine Arts Museums of SF, conducting the museum tours. I’ve always loved art, so in 2013, when Vlad and I were discussing the plight of emerging artists, as well as the difficulties of actually owning and displaying visual arts, we organically came up with the idea for a digital canvas that combines hardware and software, and ended up with something that we knew could really revolutionize the art world.
Q: Once you decided to get started, how did the concept for the actual design begin?
Vladimir: Well, for the first year and a half, we set up shop in an artist’s co-op in New York, and just worked on developing the best product possible. We hired our CTO, Or Baron, who is an electrical engineer, and we worked with artists in the community, getting daily feedback. Our time there was invaluable. Our first frame was actually designed and built in partnership with an amazing furniture designer. So really, Meural, the Canvas and the platform, was built on artist feedback.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the screen? It’s not a typical digital display.
Jerry: We knew we didn’t want to create something that looked like a TV or computer screen with art on it. So, in order to produce a canvas that would look and feel like a work of art in a museum, we developed something called TrueArt technology, which we’ve recently patented. It delivers an optimized art-viewing experience which includes our specialized, anti-glare matte display, ambient light sensors, and meta-tagged ultra high-def content. This technology is what differentiates the Meural Canvas from a TV screen, and allows us to preserve the artistic integrity of each piece of work.
Q: Speaking of the art itself, I know you have a team that works hard to curate pieces for the platform. Members can access not only traditional art, pieces from well-known artists like Van Gogh and Monet, but your team also commissions art from current and emerging artists. Why was that an important addition for you?
Vladimir: We started with the classics—sourcing archival-quality images of artwork that people already know and love. From there, we began building on our database with works from new and emerging artists. And most recently we’ve even begun commissioning work that has been created exclusively for the Meural platform. We were glad to learn that our users actively seek out contemporary work, because one of our primary goals was to create a new platform for artists to build their careers and reach a new audience.
Meural is like a gateway for art, where you start with something you already know, and then get exposed to more and more exciting pieces, until discovering new art becomes an addictive process.
Q: In addition to introducing new art, the Meural Canvas also allows you to display your own photography too. Is that a big draw for your members?
Vladimir: Definitely! People also view Meural as their personal canvas. They love displaying their own photography, alongside other art. There’s a lot of personal artwork being displayed on the Meural Canvas.
Q: So, what do you have on your Meural Canvas at home right now?
Vladimir: I’ve recently been loving these new commissions from artist Nacho Frades, which are exclusive to the Meural platform. We discovered Frades a few years ago, and he has become a favorite in our office.
Jerry: I’m currently a big fan of Utagawa Hiroshige—a master of the Japanese woodblock print.
Q: Now that Meural has joined NETGEAR, how do you envision its progress, moving ahead?
Jerry: We are really excited about what’s ahead. NETGEAR products are always best-in-class, and we’ve known this. We feel like NETGEAR and Meural are completely aligned in our view of quality. So, when Chris Genualdi reached out to us back in 2017 and told us that NETGEAR wanted to invest, we were really interested in the potential opportunity there. And when we were ready for our second round of funding, it seemed like the perfect time to actually move over. So now we are ‘Meural, Powered by NETGEAR’. NETGEAR has been a leader in their own industry for over 20 years; when they were really taken with our business and our product, we knew that with NETGEAR backing us, our members can be confident that we aren’t going anywhere.
Vladimir: We have a really exciting roadmap ahead now. Right now, we sell mostly online and through our partnership with b8ta stores across the country. We can’t wait to expand that distribution even further. We also know that we have built a truly stellar product, and we are so excited to introduce even more innovation. We want to add new and interesting components to it, and with NETGEAR empowering us, our vision is really going to come to life.