Designity: Realizing an American Dream



Sailun Tires

While you first meet Shahrouz Varshabi, you wouldn’t know that he’s the founder and CEO of Designity, a fast-growing collaborative artistic neighborhood. The down-to-earth New York Metropolis-based entrepreneur is an artist at coronary heart, a dreamer, and a disrupter of outdated methods.

From being a taxi driver again in Iran to strolling the bustling streets of New York Metropolis, right here is how an Iranian immigrant bootstrapped a profitable on-demand artistic service from the bottom up.

A Visionary

Shahrouz’s entrepreneurial journey started within the early days of his faculty profession. He was simply shy of twenty when he began a publishing firm of his personal in Iran. Figuring out that there was an enormous hole out there for partaking instructional instruments for kids, Shahrouz’s sights have been set on creating methods to make studying enjoyable. So he created two characters— a pen and an eraser, symbols of creation and correction– and by no means dreamed that they’d develop to be as in style as they finally turned.

Shahrouz began the corporate with one ebook and was in a position to develop into 32 completely different instructional classes like math, science, vocabulary, and extra inside three years. Because the publishing firm grew, alternatives got here knocking. The day that Shahrouz graduated from faculty together with his Bachelor’s diploma in graphic design, his publishing firm was acquired.

After getting his toes moist on the planet of entrepreneurship, Shahrouz wished to do extra. He wished to create one thing larger and extra impactful, to totally understand what he was able to. Of 1 factor he was sure: he wanted to be in the precise place to develop, and that place was not Iran. It was the US of America

“America is simply too nice for small desires.”

– Ronald Reagan

An American dream

Though Shahrouz had an uncle in the US, no felony historical past, and a clear file, transferring right here wasn’t as straightforward as getting a visa and hopping on a airplane. He needed to go the scholar visa route by making use of for his grasp’s diploma and studying the English language.

On February eleventh, 2011, together with his acceptance from Parsons College of the Arts and an honest grasp of the language, Shahrouz stepped off of a airplane in New York Metropolis and his American journey formally started.

Whereas it was a transformative time in his life, it was under no circumstances straightforward. The battle between the US and Iran prompted the Iranian Rial to plummet by almost 400%. This meant that, though the acquisition of the publishing firm gave him a head begin, all the cash that he had hoped to reside off of disappeared, seemingly in a single day. 

With no cash, a grueling college schedule, and the excessive price of dwelling in New York Metropolis, Shahrouz wanted a technique to make cash, and quick. As an alternative of selecting up the outdated taxi keys, he selected to place his graphic design and administration abilities to good use. Over time, he constructed a small ebook of purchasers and outsourced the design work to his classmates. The revenue wasn’t a lot, nevertheless it put him by way of college and planted the seed for an concept that will change his life ceaselessly.

After three years of exhausting work and dedication, after strolling the stage on commencement day, one factor stood out to him:

What now?

He graduated from among the finest design faculties on the planet, however what was the purpose of all of that if nobody was keen to rent him? What was the purpose if the one tasks he might get have been ones that hardly coated the sunshine invoice?

What he realized was that his fancy Grasp’s diploma meant little or no within the design world. What firms wished was expertise, and many it. Disenchanted, he left his diploma on the Parson’s admission workplace and by no means appeared again.

The launching pad

As an Iranian immigrant with an expiring pupil visa, he wanted a design job that will tackle the issues of turning a pupil visa into a piece visa. After many functions and sleepless nights, he lastly obtained the reply he was ready for. An honest job that coated the hire.

An honest job with an honest lawyer who would handle all the things.

For 2 years, Shahrouz put his entrepreneurial desires on the backburner. He labored exhausting and discovered new abilities alongside the best way, however he knew that this job wasn’t what he wished to do together with his life; it was solely a stepping stone, albeit a protracted one.

Because the visa deadline loomed, he thought he had all of it discovered. He would get his work visa, put in one other yr, and eventually begin that enterprise.

It was April 2nd, the day after the visa expiration date. “We have to speak,” the e-mail from HR mentioned. One million worst-case situations ran by way of Shahrouz’s thoughts, however nothing ready him for what they mentioned when he sat down in that workplace, palms sweating, coronary heart palpitating.

“I’m so sorry however we missed the visa expiration date.”

The phrases have been out earlier than he might cease them, “I give up.” 

There was no backup plan, no safety blanket. He was on his personal and he wanted to determine what to do. Quick. 

What he didn’t know was that the material of his future was already ironed out. He did that himself whereas being a artful design pupil at Parsons.

Design + Neighborhood

In 2015, there was no such factor as a digital design platform that catered to rising creatives. Particularly one which was wholly distant. Certain, there have been saturated freelance marketplaces the place designers can be fortunate to land a gig that paid them a dwelling wage. After all, there have been loads of artistic companies, however getting your foot within the door meant that you just needed to have 5 years of design expertise and the portfolio to show it.

There was loads of design expertise in Shahrouz’s graduating class, recent and new views with stellar portfolios. The varsity system didn’t put together them for commencement, by no means advised them that except you knew somebody who knew somebody, getting your profession began was going to be tougher than any coding class.

What if there was a design platform that primarily labored with design college students to offer them real-world design expertise? What if there was a technique to give these gifted designers an actual shot on the planet with out the freelance marketplaces and unanswered emails?

It was time to begin his true American dream.


With hardly any funds and no assist, he needed to construct a enterprise from seemingly nothing. The American buyers wouldn’t give him cash as a result of they didn’t belief him, being from Iran. It was simply Shahrouz, his accomplice, and a imaginative and prescient that fueled Designity’s early days.

That and Airbnb’ing his condominium and dwelling on a sofa for six months with a purpose to construct the primary collaborative artistic neighborhood, Designity..

If he wasn’t going to get assist from buyers to launch the platform, then he must provide you with a technique to promote the thought of Designity to potential purchasers. It took a yr of exhausting work, late nights, and out-of-the-box pondering, however finally, Designity started to sail by itself, even with out these thousands and thousands of {dollars} in capital.

Scholar customers flocked to the platform, and so did purchasers who have been bored with paying astronomical company charges however wished the identical high quality of labor. Designity grew so quick, that inside two years, that they had so as to add artistic administrators to assist supervise these rising creatives and supply strategic route and steerage for purchasers.

From a dream in a smoky Iranian taxi to a quickly rising on-line platform, Designity wasn’t only a imaginative and prescient anymore, it was a tangible actuality.  2018 was considered one of many “Mama, I made it” moments when Designity lastly obtained that spherical of funding, and it got here from an sudden place– Audible.

On the shut of 2019, the expansion confirmed no indicators of slowing.

The pandemic

In 2020, loads of American companies have been compelled to both shutter their doorways or fully remodel in a single day to assist a fully-remote mannequin. Quite a lot of firms downsized, together with these glittering artistic companies. A few of the first to go have been the designers.

For Designity, 2020 was one other groundbreaking yr, as these creatives who have been let go flocked to the totally distant platform. The place many individuals anticipated the design work to dry up together with the companies, the design requests solely grew.

Entrepreneurs have been caught at residence, their go-to companies have been shuttered, and the freelance market was extra saturated than ever. So, they turned to Designity.

Visions for the long run

Now, Designity is residence to 69 staff. From artistic administrators to copywriters, from senior digital entrepreneurs to rising designers. The imaginative and prescient was to create a protected area for rising designers to unfold their wings and achieve real-world expertise. The imaginative and prescient going ahead is to create a future-proof design platform that caters to a variety of consumer wants.

Designity has been on the forefront of improvements within the area by embracing cryptocurrency as a type of cost, carrying purchasers into the NFT area, and selling a world the place artists perceive the ability of blockchain and digital possession.

Full Circle

Shahrouz steps off the airplane. He’s simply landed in NYC after attending an NFT convention in Minneapolis. He takes an Uber again residence. There’s an empty area on the wall the place his diploma from Parsons ought to be, and the keys to that outdated taxi are within the high drawer of his desk: two reminders of what it took to get right here.

He turns his Oculus on and leans again in his chair. “Hey, guys!” he says, waving on the group that he constructed to launch the world of design into the long run.

For extra go to Designity’s web site.

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