Talented entrepreneur Shirin Dehghan formed a pioneering software company which helped mobile networks handle the rush of phone traffic in the advent of 3G mobile internet. After a decade of remarkable growth at Arieso, when her software was used to support the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the London 2012 Olympics, she sold the business for $85 million. She has been acclaimed in several prestigious awards including European Entrepreneur of the Year.
Shirin was raised in Iran and emigrated to the UK with her family aged 14. She excelled in Mathematics and Physics as she mastered English as a second language and studied Electronics to Masters level at the University of Southampton. With a growing interest in mobile communications, she started her career at Multiple Access Communications Ltd and spent a further six years at the Southampton startup before she was offered a post as a Senior Member of Technical Staff at Vodafone in Newbury, Berkshire.
“I was one of the few engineers working on the early stages of third generation (3G) technology,” she says. “It was brand new and very exciting – we were shaping the future.” Shirin helped develop Vodafone’s business plan for rolling out and maintaining the 3G network and the experience inspired her to formulate a plan for a lucrative new startup. “The planning and engineering exercise wasn’t that sophisticated,” she explains. “I saw an opportunity to develop new software products which could be brought into the market for potential 3G operators.”
Shirin decided to leave Vodafone after four fruitful years at the company and started to pull together board members and the seed money required to get her startup company off the ground. Arieso was launched in 2002 with innovative new software in development to optimise 3G networks according to businesses’ key performance targets and their existing infrastructure.
“Our business case proved that using our software was 20% cheaper than using people to plan the networks,” she explains. “We faced competition though and – although we were growing – the first product didn’t dominate the market. We started thinking what we could do to change the game and decided to leave desktop planning and move to the enterprise software market, revolutionising the optimisation and maintenance of networks. We weren’t going to rely on predictions or drive testing, we would instead base a new platform off data which we got from the handsets. We left all the competition behind.”
Arieso soon turned high-profile early adopters into its first customers and the company expanded into new continents across the globe. “It was such an amazing experience,” Shirin says. “When I look back at that journey, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was 1,000 times harder than I thought when I started and it was 10,000 times more rewarding.” Arieso’s technology helped the South African mobile network prepare for the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and the British market cope with high demand during the London 2012 Olympics.
With revenues pushing $20m by 2013, Arieso was sold to optical communications manufacturer JDSU for $85m. Shirin continued to deliver record growth for the company for further year before deciding it was time to step away from the business.
Today, Shirin supports upcoming entrepreneurs as an Advisor through Dehghan Consultancy and is Chairwoman of customer engagement solutions company SceneSkope. Her experience at Arieso propelled her to receive several impressive sector awards including Business Woman of the Year, Best Woman in Mobile and European Entrepreneur of the Year 2013. “I enjoy seeing people succeed and like working with entrepreneurs who are driven and passionate,” she says.
Shirin wants to inject her enthusiasm to staff and student startup projects. “What I can bring as a mentor is experience,” she says. “I can pass on what I’ve learned from everything I’ve seen and done.” Shirin’s advice can cover the full lifecycle of a startup, from concept and early funding through to a sale strategy. You can get in touch with her using the contact form on this page.
“Future Worlds is trying to do something US universities have achieved and that’s very commendable,” she adds. “Southampton is the best university in the country for Electronics and Computer Science. If you can take that talent and enable it to flourish, then you are sowing good seeds for the future. There is a huge wealth of resources to be tapped into that I want to see being used.”