Livemocha’s New CEO, Michael Schutzler, on Company Challenges, Culture, and the Evolution of Social Networks

6/9/10Follow @gthuang

Michael Schutzler knows a few things about building online communities and profitable companies. The new CEO of Livemocha, the Bellevue, WA-based language-learning startup and online community, is perhaps best known for leading Classmates.com through its post-bubble growth phase to become a nationally recognized social-network brand, before its sale to United Online for $150 million in 2004. He was also a senior executive at RealNetworks and Monster.com before founding CEOSherpa (formerly called BlueSeven Partners), a Seattle-area business coaching firm.

I caught up with Schutzler yesterday to hear more about his new job at Livemocha. But in addition to the company story, I sought some deeper insights into what he has learned from studying and contributing to the evolution of social networks and digital media over the past decade—including his thoughts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Schutzler talked about the lessons he has learned from his previous companies, how he will apply them at Livemocha, and why he predicts his new company “will be making a lot of noise” in the future.

Here’s the transcript of our Q&A, conducted via e-mail:

Xconomy: What attracted you to Livemocha, and what do you see as the biggest challenges ahead?

Michael Schutzler: My parents are immigrants—so language fluency has always been a big part of my life. When I checked out the company, I immediately fell in love with the vision: Livemocha will not rest until every person on the planet speaks at least two languages fluently. Then I met the founders—Shirish Nadkarni & Krishnan Seshadrinathan—and really admired their intellect, passion, and skill. And on top of that, they are really classy professionals.

The biggest challenge in the near term is brilliantly serving the 6 million members we have. The biggest challenge in the coming years is reaching language learners on many different platforms—not just the website, but on the iPhone, Droid, at coffee shops. Everywhere.

X: What specific lessons do you take from your time at Classmates.com, Monster.com, and RealNetworks?

MS: Classmates taught me how the subscriber model works, and how it doesn’t. We were also among the first to apply a rigorous analytic discipline to online marketing—and in the process we built a highly profitable company. That will serve us well at Livemocha. Monster taught the world how to … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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