Meet Ellen Dudley: Hacking The Way People Meet New People

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Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) interviews female founders about success stories, inspirations and motivations as women entrepreneurs.

By Kelly Hoey (Co-Founder & Managing Director, WIM)

Here’s a woman entrepreneur to watch: Ellen Dudley, co-founder of PeopleHunt.me.

The self-proclaimed “hackergirl” invents technology to hack the way people meet new people. Women Innovate Mobile talks with Ellen about entrepreneurship:

Who inspires you?

Ellen Dudley: Great tennis players, Brené Brown (TED talks), Sharon Salzberg (Meditation teacher), Iain Banks (Sci-fi author), Esther Dyson (angel investor), and my family, of course.

Why are you an entrepreneur?

Ellen Dudley: Because I enjoy spending my days making my vision for the world come true, not someone else’s.

Where do you see your company in the next five years?

Ellen Dudley: On the cover of Time Magazine. :) PeopleHunt is like a real time search engine for people, that returns a person, not lists of people. In five years, I want it to be a service that people expect when they are surrounded by people to get them face-to-face with who they should be meeting, instantly.

How is your company different from your competitors?

Ellen Dudley: We’re compared to technology that enables you to see who is around you and message them, so called “people discovery”, but it’s not the same as technology created to instigate real world conversations. We believe that technology should be running in the background and enriching our experiences, not sucking us into our devices, so everything we build has the end goal of bringing the right people, face-to-face.

What was a defining moment in your career?

Ellen Dudley: After leaving my well paid job in a recession, it was probably when we raised money for the first time. It taught me how much desire and effort is required to get the things I want in life. It enabled us to come to New York and learn how to build a really huge company.

What is your next step with your company, your career?

Ellen Dudley: To keep improving the product, to keep building partnerships for distribution to reach a million users in the next 6-8 months, and to close a seed round so we can stay in the US.

How did you finance your business when it was at the early stage?

Ellen Dudley: Self-funded and then Government VC.

When was the best time of your life?

Ellen Dudley: Living in Mexico when I was 23 was possibly one of the best years. It was also one of the hardest. I was teaching English to these high flying executives, speaking a new language and traveling all over Mexico. I learned a lot about myself and made incredible friendships.

Describe a time you failed. What did you learn from that experience?

Ellen Dudley: The first iPhone app we built was called PassAndPoll – it was a location based multiple-choice-question app. You would answer a question in your location, and then pass your phone to the person next to you, oftentimes a stranger, and the answers would get aggregated so you could start to see patterns. It was designed to spark interesting conversations between new people in places. It was a pretty neat idea, but it failed because we made one huge leap of faith – that people would pass their iPhones to strangers, and surprise, surprise, they wouldn’t. I got some sense of how long you should work on an idea before killing it, but not how to stop having crazy ideas :)

What do you do fun?

Ellen Dudley: I love to explore new places on my bike and try not to get lost.

What is your favorite mobile app?

Ellen Dudley: Evernote!

What do you do to help focus?

Ellen Dudley: I write down the two things I want to get done by the end of the day, then I put on my headphones with a music playlist from songza, and I get started.

Cool Kid or Nerd in High school?

Ellen Dudley: Both :)

Any words of advice for up & coming entrepreneurs who are trying to get their products noticed?

Ellen Dudley: Try lots of little things. Experiment at first. Then hone in on the one thing you feel is the most enjoyable, or is getting the most traction and put all of your energy into it.

This was originally posted at Women Innovate Mobile.

About the guest blogger: Kelly Hoey is Co-Founder and Managing Director of Women Innovate Mobile, the first accelerator program for women founded (or co-founded) startups focused on mobile technology or mobile applications. She sits on the Women’s Advisory Board for mobile and social gaming company, Stone Creek Entertainment and the startup advisory boards of Lion’esque Style and The Levo League. She is a business strategic and connector. Follow her on Twitter at @jkhoey.