One evening Kristin McDonnell and a group of friends were showing off their latest mobile phone gadgets when their conversation veered toward a laundry list of things the women wished their phones could do.
"I thought my phone should be doing more, so I said, 'Why don't we create a company that makes software experiences that are useful to us?'" she explains.
So McDonnell (McC85) created LimeLife with several partners who had all worked for entertainment software companies, including colleagues who had previously worked with her at video game–maker Electronic Arts.
LimeLife is a women-focused company that develops digital entertainment experiences that consumers can enjoy through the web or their mobile phones. From celebrity news to shopping to games to horoscopes, LimeLife strives to become a woman's "on-the-go best friend," says McDonnell, and to offer "everything from shopping advice to music recommendations, and even a quick laugh when you need it."
McDonnell had extensive management experience in startup environments in the digital media and gaming industries. She also credits Northwestern for preparing her well for the business world.
"I found it great that I could take classes from Kellogg professors" while studying engineering, McDonnell says.
"That gave me a good dual perspective — how to read balance sheets and solve problems through computer programming," says McDonnell.
Her involvement in extracurricular activities also exposed her to an entrepreneurial mindset. She was doing business development for the campus humor magazine, Rubber Teeth. She was president of Delta Delta Delta sorority, an experience that taught her to be a CEO and to lead a large team through specific roles and responsibilities. And as a vice president of the Associated Student Government, McDonnell learned to negotiate and work with an external body — the University administration — an experience that now comes in handy working with venture firms.
"People ask, 'How did you have the courage to start your own company?' For me it was very natural. I was the first employee of a systems consulting firm in Chicago. There were initially four employees total — that gave me my initial taste.
"I've seen how companies grow from being very small to being very large, how they get sold and how they restructure. I've been part of the initial public offering process, from sharing a one-room office and one phone to going to an IPO. When you have a picture in your mind of what success looks like, you know how it is going to happen."
She envisions that LimeLife will be a major media brand that resonates with women through web and mobile technologies that will make women's lives easier and more fun. LimeLife launched a web-based portal this summer and aspires to be the one-stop-shop for all of women's digital entertainment needs. — S.A.