After collapsing at work having obtained her dream job at a publishing company in London, Michelle Gallen found herself having to rebuild her life.
She had contracted encephalitis, a rare brain virus with an 80% survival rate. The next five years of her life was spent rebooting and relearning how to walk, talk and re-master the basics.
By the time Michelle was 30 years old she had managed to rebuild her career, having worked on and led major e-learning and multimedia projects for the BBC, Macromedia and other organisations.
In 2005 she left her job and setup a successful e-learning consulting business. Three years later she established www.talkirish.com, which has grown to become the world’s largest social network for teachers, speakers and learners of the endangered Irish language.
Michelle, now a member of the British Council’s TN2020 international network of future leaders and influencers, went on to found Shhmooze with Mehdi El Gueddari. The conference and event-aiding app launched in Belfast in November 2010 and in London in January 2011.
Below 10×10 Labs questions the talented and inspirational entrepreneur about her latest venture…
Can you tell me about Shhmooze and its features?
Shhmooze is a smart, simple way to network at conferences and meetups.
We integrate with Meetup and Eventbrite and add events so you can see what’s on. We analyse tons of real-time data from social networks to detect who’s attending. We enrich profiles with information from places like LinkedIn and show you who you’re already connected to – making it easy to get conversations started.
We also help you make new connections. Need a UX designer? Shhmooze can show you every UX designer in the room. Shhmooze helps you make smart connections so you can have fantastic conversations at events of all shapes and sizes!
How did you come up with the idea for Shhmooze?
Face to face Networking Sucks. It’s hard work and exhausting and most of us are rubbish at it. But who you know and who knows about you really matters in business.
The Shhmooze co-founders LOVE attending events but suck at networking. So we built Shhmooze to make it easy to discover what’s on where and who’s there!
How have you funded Shhmooze to date?
We got here with sweat equity, our savings and by selling our car. We also raised over 100k in grant funding.
What is the revenue model?
Freemium model similar to LinkedIn – most people use Shhmooze for free and always will. But we’re building some powerful features for professional networkers who can pay a small subscription fee to use them.
Have you experienced any set backs in the startup process and if so how have you overcome them?
Seems to me that every month there’s something to celebrate, but every week there is a setback. Things don’t always go as you would like. So I’m with Bob Parsons who says “When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think.”
What does the future hold for Shhmooze?
We’re launching lots of new features over the next few months. We’re raising an angel round. We’re expanding our team. We want to change the world by helping professional meet the right person when they’ve got those fleeting but invaluable face-to-face chances.
What is your advice to new tech start-ups from your experience?
You want it? You build it. And build the best you can.
Michelle was interviewed by Corinne Campbell of 10x10labs