Tag: Susan Strausberg

FBombs, The Startup Week Panel on Failure

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Chris J. Snook,  9WSearch’s Susan Strausberg, Denver area Entrepreneur Gabriella Krista Morgan, co-founder of P2BInvestor and Denver Management Consultant Allen W. Duck, photo by Susan Lahey

Chris J. Snook, 9WSearch’s Susan Strausberg, Denver area Entrepreneur Gabriella Krista Morgan, co-founder of P2BInvestor and Denver Management Consultant Allen W. Duck, photo by Susan Lahey

In a panel dedicated to failure in starting up a business, the audience seemed to be most focused on one thing—the risks inherent in picking a co-founder.

Panelists shared stories about enormous, botched business deals thanks to people they trusted, horrible lawsuits, embezzlement, and then the more common scenarios of just having to work through a challenging decision with a co-founder…or greet an ex-co-founder amicably when you run into him or her.

Fort Collins, Colorado, entrepreneur, investor and speaker Chris J. Snook moderated the panel that included 9WSearch’s Susan Strausberg, Denver area management consultant Allen W. Duck and Denver entrepreneur Gabriella Krista Morgan, co-founder of P2BInvestor.

The Ugly Breakups

Snook told about a publishing company he started with a co-founder who, one night, sent Snook a drunken email, saying he wanted out of the business. When the co-founder had a change of heart, Snook welcomed him back. Several months later Snook was served with a lawsuit, filed by his co-founder, alleging numerous breaches and illegalities.

Snook felt suddenly under siege. “We had 42 authors,” he said, “I had no idea if any of them were in on it, no idea if he was setting up shop. He didn’t really ask for anything,” but Snook bought his way out of the suit with roughly a quarter of a million dollars. “I was blown away, and it was shocking and hurtful, and it happens.”

Others told of business deals that went awry. Duck told a story about buying a financial planning company and keeping the seller on for the last three years before retirement.

“Within six months it was pretty clear things weren’t going according to plan,” he said. He flew up to the company—which was in Connecticut—and the seller told him he wanted to leave. Next thing he knew, he learned that the seller had been embezzling from the company and had started another company where he was re-signing all his original clients. Ducks company won a judgment against the man but it took three years to bring to trial. The day of the trial, Duck was meeting with the lawyer who was looking over papers and suddenly went white. It turned out the seller had declared bankruptcy.

“For us, it was a pointed battle. We needed to win this,” Duck said. But the company almost went broke doing it. “The judiciary works very well,” he said. “But it works really slowly, and you can go out of money quickly in pursuit of vengeance. You have to be very astute.”

When she ran Edgar Online, Strausberg said, MarketWatch offered the buy the company. Everybody was in favor of the deal and Strausberg empowered her CFO and president to handle it. Meanwhile, as she had amicable phone chats over a bottle of wine with Larry Kramer, founder of MarketWatch, her underlings were unraveling the deal without her knowledge. It died over the terms of the president’s contract. That wasn’t a co-founder issue though. Strausberg’s co-founder has always been her husband, Marc Strausberg.

Even when there’s no malintent, co-founders sometimes have to part ways over differences in vision.

One advantage to having her father as her co-founder, Morgan said, creates a level of trust and also a bond that has to be preserved. So it causes them to work through issues more carefully than they might if they were less connected.

But if things do go wrong, Duck said, “You will never get chastised for holding the moral high ground.” Disparaging previous founders only reflects badly on you.

The Biggest Mistake

Unfortunately, the entrepreneurs said, you rarely see a mistake as it’s happening. It’s only in retrospect. Morgan wishes she had spent less time raising funding and more effort getting to revenue. Duck had taken a subsidiary of a Finnish company from near bankruptcy to such financial success that it was supporting the parent company, by changing the culture and marketing tactics to those that would appeal more to Americans. One day parent company executives called and told him they needed $1 million to pay down debt. Duck believed the returns would be better if they kept the money in the company. When he told them so, they hung up on him.

Several days later, he said, there were six Finns in his office. “Finns don’t leave Finland,” he joked. “Ever. No one wants to see them and they don’t leave.”

Duck was let go and eighteen months later, the company was closed.

“It had become so personal for me…” he said. “If I could take that decision back, if I had humbly sent them the million dollars, that company would still be in Colorado. That haunts me. It was nothing more than ego that precluded me from making the different choice. Thirty five people lost their jobs, and they didn’t need to.”

Ultimately though, he said “The biggest fuckup for any business is to procrastinate. Everybody has seen the S curve of a company’s life cycle. If you procrastinate you limit the creativity of the organization to a point where it stagnates, boils back to inactivity…making a bad decision and then having to change course is better than not making a decision.”

9W Search creates a financial search site for mobile users

Susan Strausberg, CEO and co-founder of 9W Search in Austin

Susan Strausberg knows how to dig into financial information and make it accessible to the masses.
She founded Edgar Online in 1995, grew the company to 200 employees, took it public in 1999 and then left in 2007 to pursue other passions.
Two years ago, Strausberg and her husband, Marc, moved from New York to Austin and created a startup called 9W Search, a sophisticated financial search engine primarily for mobile users.
“We’re enabling a huge underserved market to access financial information in the easiest possible way,” Strausberg said during a recent interview and meeting at Lola Savannah coffeehouse in Austin. 9W provides key company information, five years of financial data, people information for each company, a live stock quote as well as footnotes to financial statements.
To illustrate the ease of use, Strausberg showed off 9W Search’s capabilities on her iPad. She compared the financial results of three companies: Rackspace, Dell and IBM. 9W Search’s database contains information on approximately 12,000 US public companies. The tool gave real-time financial results in an easy to understand format. It culled and compiled data like revenue per employee, market capitalization, share price, earnings and more.
What differentiates 9W Search from other financial search engines is its ability to pull select metrics that Strausberg has deemed extremely valuable from vast and incomprehensible amounts of online data. She has selected the metrics based on her years of experience in working with financial data.
9W Search has the ability to sort through all the data because of a new data standard, extensible Business Reporting Language, known as XBRL. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has mandated that companies provide financial statement information in this format which vastly improves the transparency of reported data. Strausberg’s former company, EDGAR Online, played a key role in making the data interactive by creating “sets of definitions, or taxonomies, to enable the automatic extraction and exchange of data. Interactive data taxonomies can be applied — much like bar codes are applied to merchandise — to allow computers to recognize that data and feed it into analytical tools,” according to the SEC.
“Most financial information companies have hand-keyed their data.,” Strausberg said. “This new technology changes the way we can take data and turn it into actionable information.”
That’s the sweet spot for 9W Search.
“9W Search identifies a manageable set of key financial items from the thousands of different data points that are important in accessing a company’s financial picture,” Strausberg said. “We democratize access to financial information and make it usable for the average person.”
Who wants access to this information?
“People who need to see a picture of the market at given moment in time, ” Strausberg said.
Sales people, potential employees researching a company, students, companies, analysts, private
wealth managers, individuals, nonprofit organizations, real estate agents, anyone who needs to
do financial research, she said.
“Data equals information, equals knowledge, equals power,” Strausberg said. “If anything, there is too much data, she said. “It’s difficult to do competitive analysis and complete research easily with most financial search sites. 9W Search culls the gems from the ocean of data and arms our users with actionable information.”
And what exactly does 9W Search mean? It’s an old Vaudeville joke, Strausberg said.
Here’s a version:
“9W is the answer to a question.What is the question?”
Q: “Herr Wagner, does your name begin with a V?”
A: “Nein, W!”
9W Search has four employees currently and is seeking $600,000 in funding to further develop and market its product, Strausberg said. The company has a pilot test of the search engine available on its website. 9W Search plans to first provide a free version and subsequently charge for later releases.

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