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Featured on Nov 10, 2011

Michael Elmgreen

"I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man. - Jay-Z"


Mike serves as the Director of Business Development for Handshake. Handshake's customers are any business with sales reps, bringing their sales team's catalog, customer list and order form to the web, iPad and iPhone. Mike's work at Handshake builds on sales, business development and product evangelism experience at Microsoft, where he was responsible for growing Bing’s partnerships with large US advertisers and agencies. Mike is a University of Technology, Sydney graduate, holding Bachelor of Business (Management) and Bachelor of Laws degrees. He was mistakenly permitted entry into the United States from Australia by a deaf, blind and drunk immigration officer in 2007.

You worked on the legal side at Ada Evans Chambers and Hegarty & Elmgreen before switching course and joining Microsoft as a Search Media Strategist.  What lead to the major switch in career?

Once I finished law school and did the grad lawyer thing for a while, I decided that I was far more interested in being at the coal face of a business, making deals, instead of documenting them or litigating business arrangements gone wrong. There's something that is incredible exciting about being a real part of the creation of a product or service which will live or die by your decisions. That being said, learning the concepts and the skills that legal problem solving requires has proved very helpful over the years (particularly on that trip to Tijuana).

How often do you go back to Australia?  Is there anything in particular that you miss about Australia that you wish existed or was more popular here in New York?

I go back to Australia about once every 18 months or so, although recently I was back for a friend's bachelor party and wedding which took me from New York to Melbourne and Sydney twice in a single month. Apart from my family and friends back home, it's mainly Aussie food items. I miss the widespread availability of incredible Portuguese chicken burgers, which are served with this fiery hot chilli sauce. Oh, I also miss just an outstanding beef sausage. Not pork or chicken. Not a hot dog. A real sausage where the beef looks like it might have actually come from an animal.

Prior to joining the young startup Handshake you were an Account Executive at Microsoft.  How has the experience been transitioning from such a large corporation to a startup?

It is a very personal experience, part fear, part adrenalin. At a large, successful company (even in an emerging part of that company) you have a very comfortable, secure existence with many financial, structural and organizational supports which can help you succeed. You have the liberty of time and money. In a start-up, you are working to maintain a raw, lean operating environment where you are constantly reinvesting in the business. At the core of the start-up experience however, is a belief that your team has a real shot at building a very valuable business from scratch, when statistically the odds are stacked against you. It is incredible to see product planning and engineering decisions become a reality in a matter of days or weeks, and to see the impact of those very quickly on your customers.

Business Development