Louise Mensch, the outspoken conservative member of UK parliament who launched topic-focused Twitter rival Menshn in June, this morning announced that she was stepping down from government so that she can relocate to New York to focus more on family life, and put more effort into her new startup in the lead-up to the U.S. presidential elections.
Update: Mensh co-founder Luke Bozier confirms to us that, in fact, the move will help the site build its profile in the U.S. as it gears up for a version 2 launch next week, including a mobile web site optimized for iOS, Android and BlackBerry. “Menshn will continue in force!” he wrote in an email exchange. “We hope to build stronger partnerships in America, which was always our primary goal in launching the platform. Luckily with digital companies, geography is less important, and so Louise’s move to New York isn’t going to hinder development at all.” [original story continues below]
Mensch last year married Peter Mensch, the manager of the band Metallica. She has three children from a previous marriage. The news was first broken by her local constituency newspaper, the Northamptonshire Telegraph, which cast the decision as being made primarily for family reasons, and only secondarily for entrepreneurial ones.
“I am completely devastated. It’s been unbelievably difficult to manage family life,” Mensch told the newspaper.
But the mother-of-three, recently-married, startup-founder politico (oh yes, and author, too) is only turning her life down by one notch by taking out her MP role. Going to New York full-time will mean that she can also focus more on Menshn, the social networking site she founded along with ex-Labour digital strategist Luke Bozier. Since launching in June, initially only in the U.S., Menshn has picked up “just under 6,000 users” according to Bozier. Mensch is “now expected to concentrate on building the popularity of the site,” the newspaper said.
Mensch had been expected to stay on in her role as MP until the next scheduled election in 2015.
Before launching Menshn, Louise Mensch had developed a loyal (and often fractious) following on Twitter, where she was outspoken, often taking a conservative view, on lots of hot-button political topics like the London riots last year. Last year, she played a central role in the high profile questioning of figures from News Corp that were getting questioned over the company’s role in hacking mobile phones to get stories — and again used Twitter to her advantage to fan the flames of that story.
She’s still very active on Twitter (over 100k followers; nearly 23k tweets) but, as she told TechCrunch in June, she also finds it frustrating for all the extra noise.
Hence the concept of Menshn, a topic-based social network in which all “menshn’s” are posted into topic categories. Similar to Twitter, updates have a character limit (180 in Menshn’s case). Instead of eggs for photo-less avatars, users get portraits or busts of famous political figures — a throwback to the original concept of the site to focus around political discussion, although these days that seems to have become somewhat nosier, with the topics list widened out to all sorts of other areas like Facebook, Mars, and celebs.