Perseverance is Key: Alumnus Daniil Matskevich

Alumnus Daniil Matskevich graduated from JCU in 2019 with a B.A. in Marketing. In early 2021, Daniil and JCU alumnus Kassym Kabylgali founded Squares, a platform that “helps users find and rent all types of spaces for a day or an hour.” In that same year, Daniil and his business partner Kassym were featured in Forbes “30 Under 30 Kazakhstan.”

From right: Daniil Matskevich and Kassym Kabylgali
From right: Daniil Matskevich and Kassym Kabylgali

Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in Almaty, Kazakhstan, but I’m currently located in Austin, Texas, where I am working on expanding our startup into international markets. My journey to Rome and John Cabot University began in 2015 when I decided to pursue my Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing. I had learned about JCU from friends, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to study at an American university while also living in the heart of Rome and immersing myself in the Italian culture and language.

How’s life after graduation?
Life has been quite exciting since my graduation in 2019. For a while, I worked for an Italian marketing agency where I initially started as an intern in 2018. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many plans in 2020, and I had to return to Kazakhstan. However, this unexpected turn of events is what led to the development and growth of our startup today.

Congratulations on being featured in Forbes “30 Under 30 Kazakhstan.” Tell us about this achievement and what it means to you.
Thank you! Being recognized in Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for Kazakhstan in 2021 was a significant achievement for both me and my business partner, Kassym Kabylgali. It’s an incredibly prestigious and globally recognized list that has opened numerous doors for us and provided invaluable networking opportunities. This recognition highlights our outstanding entrepreneurial skills and innovative ideas, and it motivates us to continue pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve.

Tell us about your company.
Squares is a dynamic marketplace where businesses and individuals can discover and rent venues for various occasions. We facilitate connections, creativity, and productivity by providing access to a wide range of spaces. Our latest feature, Squares Pass, offers members access to over 200 workspaces within a city.

The idea for Squares emerged during my time as a marketing director at an agency in Kazakhstan. I observed the challenges our social media managers faced in finding suitable locations for client photoshoots, including prominent brands like Danone and Philip Morris. To address this problem, I delved deeper into the issue and conceptualized Squares, which officially launched in early 2021.

Currently, we have over 1,500 venues available across 17 cities on our platform. Our expansion efforts are directed towards international markets, with a particular focus on the Caucasus region. Additionally, we are in the testing phase for the U.S. market, and we hope to make our services available there soon.

How did JCU prepare you for starting your own business? What was one class and/or professor that impacted you the most and why?
John Cabot University played a pivotal role in preparing me for entrepreneurship. As a marketing major, I also had the opportunity to take numerous classes related to business, and all of this knowledge has been directly applicable to building and running my own business. While it’s difficult to single out one professor as they were all excellent and knowledgeable, I can’t deny the impact of my core marketing professor, Alessandro Signorini, who provided invaluable insights and guidance.

What lessons have you learned from starting your own business?
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from starting my own business is to never give up. Entrepreneurship can be a challenging journey filled with ups and downs, but perseverance is key. Additionally, I’ve learned the importance of not overthinking things. Getting started is often the most challenging part of starting a business, and it’s easy to get caught up in overanalyzing every detail.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
I would advise anyone looking to start their own business to prepare for an emotional rollercoaster, sleepless nights, and a lot of stress. Entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s not without its challenges. Surround yourself with a supportive network, stay focused on your goals, and be prepared to adapt and learn from your experiences.

What are your plans for the future?
Our plans for the future involve expanding further into different international markets. We’re excited about the potential to bring Squares to more countries, and we’re hopeful that we’ll soon be able to offer our services in Italy. We’re continuously innovating and have some exciting updates planned for the fall, including new features that will enhance the user experience on our platform.