Women Entrepreneurs: Michelle Darby, CEO of Roomzilla
Michelle Darby knows what it’s like to be in a male dominated industry. She was a student in electrical engineering, a member on a men’s sports team in college, and a software programmer. Now, Darby is the founder and CEO of Roomzilla.
According to their website, Roomzilla “is a cloud-based dynamic solution for managing conference room reservations…it provides quick and real-time access to availability information [and] simplifies the process of booking a resource, whether planning weeks ahead or hosting an impromptu meeting.”
The business and software was realized at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), a building that houses more startups than anywhere else in the world and eventually became Roomzilla’s first client. “The CIC is a great community. I really love being a part of it and having it as my home base, “ said Darby.
Having a background in engineering and product development, Darby took on many roles to help shape Roomzilla. She was brought on to build the software and now finds herself taking on more of a marketing and business role. Darby enjoyed the opportunity to help create the product and then talk to her customers so as to get a more holistic look at the business.
“Sales and marketing are definitely very different than programming,” said Darby, “With coding everything is very quantifiable. Two, or four, or eight hours later it either works or it doesn’t. With business and marketing, things are much less quantifiable on whether or not something works.”
Even though Darby may not be able to look at metrics as to why her business tactics work or not, she did have an idea on what helps some succeed in startups, “I think things like networking and making a connection is always important. And that boils down to empathy – stopping and actually making meaningful connections, not just rapidly handing out business cards and collecting as many as you can. The meaningful connections are the ones that really come through.”
Darby also said that it’s important to keep learning. “It’s how I survived on the programming side of things and it carried over to how I tried to approach learning the business side of things.” said Darby, “You need to be constantly consuming information and trying to learn from it and adapt to how you do things.”
For others trying to get their product off the ground Darby said, “It’s important to listen to your customers and your users. Get feedback.”
Roomzilla was formed in March of this year and now has about 10 – 15 clients, MIT being one of them. Exponential TechSpace, the edtech-focused co-working space that houses EdTech Times, is also another Roomzilla client.
While Darby has been in startups long enough now to give suggestions, she started with the aid of other women, “The women that are already in the tech community in Boston are pretty good about reaching out to each other and supporting each other and I think it’s a pretty strong network.” Said Darby, “They take their time to support the younger women entrepreneurs that are around, which meant a lot to me.”
As for right now Darby gets to see her product grow in the hands of the CIC where she says she is a user of her own software. She has many plans for Roomzilla (Google calendar integration may be in its future) and hopes to grow the company in the next couple of months.
Check out the Roomzilla website for more information on Michelle Darby’s work.
Michelle is a current graduate student at Emerson College and an intern at Boston's public radio station. She enjoys exploring the world of educational technology and writing about the ever-changing sector and its potential.