BY SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
Entrepreneurship is not an age-based activity, Susan Strausberg, co-founder of 9W Search, made that clear at the Entrepreneur in Residence Speaker Series Tuesday.
Many successful CEOs today are over 50. It’s not connected to gender, although Strausberg did point out that, statistically, companies run by women CEOs generally perform better than those run by men. And it has nothing to do with whether or not you’re a parent.
In response to a question about juggling family and work responsibilities she said: “I was never meant to be a stay-at-home mom. We could afford to have really, really good help to take care of our children…the person who took care of my children was not doing menial work. She was doing half of my job. Of course, you can’t do everything.”
Being an entrepreneur is about seeing and seizing on opportunities.
Strausberg, a serial entrepreneur, is best known for founding EDGAR Online, Inc. a leading provider of interactive business and financial data, largely culled from SEC filings, in 1995 and taking it public in 1999. She recently moved to Austin and launched 9W Search Inc., a sophisticated financial search engine primarily for mobile users. She’s known as a pioneer in the democratization of financial information. Entrepreneur in Residence Laura Kilcrease interviewed Strausberg for the University of Texas Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship speaker series at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.
Strausberg does believe it’s crucial to have a good partner. Hers has been her husband, Marc Strausberg who co-founded both EDGAR Online and 9W Search with her. Prior to founding EDGAR, her entrepreneurial ventures included Internet Financial Network (IFN), an EDGAR-based financial information vendor that was acquired by America Online, a division of Time Warner, Inc. In the 1970s she co-founded a publishing company specializing in custom-made textbooks for the college market and was involved with film development, co-producing a documentary about Kansas City Jazz called “The Last of the Blue Devils” and “It Came from Hollywood,” a Paramount Pictures film.
In founding EDGAR Online, Strausberg said, they had few competitors at first, so new was the Internet. But they recognized it as promising to be a key delivery vehicle in the future. Collaborating, however, with financial information companies who both could be sources of information and potential competitors required both a willingness to “open the kimono” and at the same time be “switchilant,” ready for collaborator to become a competitor.
In 1999, EDGAR went public, raising $34 million because, as Strausberg pointed out “We couldn’t turn down the money. It was 1999, you didn’t NOT go public if you could.”
At the time, she said, “I felt we should be public. It made sense to me. I also liked the fact that we always knew what we were worth, our valuation was behind us.” At the same time, she said, running a small public company was “excruciatingly hard because it’s a tremendous distraction. It’s very expensive to be public. You’re paying the same amount for Sarbanes (Oxley regulatory costs such as insurance and audit costs) as a multi-billion dollar company. Now the world is more M&A. We’re going more that direction than being public.”
She wasn’t cut out for the corporate life, she found, and left her position as CEO in 2007. A non-compete agreement kept her from considering another venture involving financial information until she and her husband had an “epiphany” regarding the marriage of the mobile market and the standardization of data sets. 9W Search promises to give “the right answer” to any financial question, like Google for the financial world.
Currently they’re getting ready to roll out a free service of 9W Search for “anyone with an edu address.”
When asked why she’s an entrepreneur, Strausberg responds: “I can’t help it. Moth to a flame. If I see an opportunity that can benefit from our skills, then I go for it. I try to find things that are big gaps in the market, where an audience is underserved and where our skills apply.”
In this We Are Austin Tech video, Strausberg shares her thoughts on the opportunities for 9W Search in Austin.