FishbowlNY Conducts ‘Exit Interview’ with Founder Laurel Touby

LaurelTouby.jpgOur sister blog conducted an “exit interview” with our “mother,” as FishbowlNY‘s Amanda Ernst spoke with founder Laurel Touby prior to her departure, with husband and BusinessWeek media columnist Jon Fine, on a six-month sabbatical, during which they will travel the globe.

Touby founded in 1994 and launched the Website in 1996, eventually selling it to Jupitermedia (now WebMediaBrands) for $23 million in July 2007 and inking a two-year pact to remain with the company. She became a contractor for WebMediaBrands when that agreement expired, and she is now taking a break.

Highlights from Touby’s conversation with Ernst:

I just feel like I’ve really gone balls to the wall for so many years and I just wanted a break, a real serious break, so I could come back fresh and renewed with new ideas and a new vision from this travel around the world. Who knows what that vision will be?

I’ve been looking forward to taking an extended break because I haven’t taken a real vacation since I started the company in 1994. I really have been going full-speed ahead, always worried, always kind of logged in at home. Even if I was away from the office or “on vacation,” I was always doing work constantly just like anyone who is tethered electronically to their job. Only this was my responsibility and I felt very much like it was a child in many ways. You feel this maternal feeling towards this company that you’ve started, especially as a woman. And especially as a woman with no other children.

I think the thing I’m most proud of is the fact that we’ve outlasted almost every other Internet company that started at the same time that we did. When you look back at the hundreds or thousands of Internet companies that were around when we started in 1994, there’s not many of them left. There was Nerve and AOL, but The Knot wasn’t there, Google wasn’t there, YouTube didn’t exist. I wish you could take a snapshot of the Web and see what was there at the time and what is still there. There’s not a lot that’s survived.

mediabistro and I have not parted ways completely. I still have a place there when I come back and I’m still considered a part of a staff, even though I’m on sabbatical officially. When I come back I’ll probably go in two days a week. My husband and I have started a blog,, and I’m considering this trip a palate cleanser between courses.

I have very few minor regrets, like giving away stock early on during the life of the company without valuing it very highly. There was one consultant that I worked with in the early days who promised me all kinds of help and in exchange I gave him stock. In the end, when we sold, that stock was worth tens of thousands of dollars and I’m really regretful that I gave it away and that I didn’t demand that he do the work he promised. So, there are a couple that are monetary that I regret, but overall I feel we had a really successful company and still do.

(Photo by Jon Fine)