Today we’d like to introduce you to Daniel Arango.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I studied Architecture at the Pontific Xavierian University of Bogota, and obtained the Colombian Society of Architects (SCA) license in 2000. After a 3-year term at a major residential design firm, and only a few months after getting married, I succumbed to the impulse of quitting my position as a junior designer and pursue the dream of becoming a business owner. With a couple of former classmates, who were empowered by the energy of the youth and the anxiety of unemployment, we put our computers, desks, task chairs and a coffee machine in the trunk of my Mazda and brought it all to a tiny subleased room in a shared old house that ended up being one of the first architectural visualization studios in Colombia: Verki Estudio. The coffee machine was a great asset, because our entrepreneurial adventure started with a marathon of sleepless nights struggling to process 3D renderings in obsolete computers and carrying out design charrettes that tended to evolve into philosophical discussions. But ad lib philosophical discussions do not pay your bills, so eventually both of my partners decided to leave in the seek of new and more profitable horizons.
So there I was, back to the starting point, alone, scared and with a newborn to feed, but with no option but to keep fighting for something I profoundly believed in. I decided to dip into my little savings and borrow some money to invest in computers and a couple of employees. Having recently obtained a Master Degree in Marketing, my wife Andrea joined me as a Commercial Manager, a huge game changer for what by then we started referring to as a company. All the efforts and perseverance finally seemed to pay back, because a year later we moved to a space in an actual office building in the north of Bogota. We kept hiring people to accommodate the workload, and by the end of 2007 we found ourselves leading a team of 8 that we decided to rename as Morpholab: the laboratory of shape.
The financial challenges of a more ambitious productive model forced us to expand our operations abroad, so we started providing visualization and design services to a few architecture firms in Argentina, Mexico and the United States, until the owner of one of these firms, a (by then) small Houston-based interior design company that we were introduced to through an all-time friend and colleague, offered me a full-time position as a designer and 3D artist. Being offered a one in a lifetime chance full of professional and familiar opportunities at a moment when we were running our own business at full throttle brought us to a terrible crossroads: should we bring our entrepreneurial dream to an end and follow the white rabbit? Well long story short, we did. But we tried not to kill the dream in the process.
In the summer of 2008, and upon obtaining the legal paperwork, I established in Houston and started working for my sponsor, while my wife remained in Bogota for a few long months setting up the transition to a new phase of Morpholab and our personal lives. We decided to keep the Bogota office up and running while gradually moving most of the operation to Houston, a slow process that we completed in 2012. After eight years full of effort, learning and professional growth, and with the satisfaction of having humbly contributed to turn a 12-employee boutique interior design firm into a middle size well positioned architectural company with offices in three different cities of the US, by early 2016 I decided to terminate my full time contract with my employer and switch back to a contractor relationship. This step provided me with the time necessary to return my attention to Morpholab and focus on its rebirth as a provider of a full range of consulting services for the architecture and construction industries, with offices in Houston and Bogota, and performing business in several countries.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
In our particular case, pursuing the dream of becoming business owners has not been an easy task by any means. The lack of a starting capital to invest in a convenient facility, equipment, staff and a solid marketing campaign, in addition to the uncertainties of an industry highly vulnerable to the economic fluctuations, were the main struggles that we had to deal with during our early years as a company. The distressful and at times frustrating journey of establishing as an immigrant in a new country, raising kids with no relatives close by and with very little friend support, have added a load of emotional strain to the challenge.
Please tell us about Morpholab.
Morpholab is an Architecture Studio based in Houston, Texas, that provides a wide array of consulting services for the architecture and construction industries, including design, CAD/BIM, field verification and documentation, architectural translation (English-Spanish), lighting analysis, photometric calculations and 3D renderings and animations. We act as our client’s external allies, allowing them to cut labor and operation costs, increase their efficiency and focus on their core business.
Our team has a collective experience of more than a million square feet of architectural and interior design for residential and commercial projects. Our visualization division provides three-dimensional graphic and multimedia aids with different degrees of realism to fit any goal and budget. Our experience with hundreds of clients in several countries allows us to supply excellent quality with fast turnaround times, competitive prices and a 100% personalized service. Working with us means interacting directly with a knowledgeable team of professionals a phone call away.
We are not a random internet overseas company; we are a Houston-based studio founded in 2008 and backed up by a team of architects, interior designers and 3D artists that work in its client’s language, time zone, industry standards and local codes and regulations. We are always open to meet with local clients and video conference with remote customers.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over, I would pay further attention to the marketing component of the business from day one. The merely technical profile of the 3 original members did not generate enough opportunity for business development and growth and ended up compromising the stability of a fun but financially unviable endeavor. I wish I had grown marketing consciousness and skills at an earlier stage to prevent that collective potential to go to waste. That is something that makes me feel bad about my startup as a leader.