Wednesday, March 14, 2001
Interview with Louise Wannier, Founder of Enfish
Pasadena-based Enfish (www.enfish.com) is launching its Enfish Onespace Version 3, desktop workspace today, and I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit with Louise Wannier, Chairman and CEO of Enfish about the product and the company.
The Enfish Onespace product organizes information on PCs, including emails, documents, schedules, contacts, and web searches. Louise was also one of the founders of Gemstar.
BK: What's Enfish all about, and can you tell us a little about your Onespace product?
LW: Enfish is focused on trying to create products and services that make it easier to work with information and hopefully, finally, have our computers do some of the work for us enabling us to save time, and work a little smarter. When we think about how PC's were originally designed, they were focused on applications. But people think in words, by subject, by person, by company, by what they are working on and make connections between related information and thoughts. Why can't our computers help us work more like the way we think?
Enfish Onespace is the second of a family of products based on our patented "Dex" technology which automatically organizes and connects related information (indexing and cross-referencing all the information in your emails, documents, web bookmarks, contacts, tasks, appointments, notes, etc.) and even connecting you to related information on the internet, automatically keeping the "Dex" up to date as new information comes in.
Enfish Onespace effectively becomes your live-in workspace, it sits on top of your current applications and email programs and gives you a much easier way to find information, and work on everything you need to get done. It installs itself, and doesn't move, copy, or in any way change the information or files you have. Every user is anonymous, and their information remains completely private on their desktop. At the moment, Enfish works with Windows PC's and integrates with most PC formats (office docs, email programs). The Enfish platform will be expanded to work with other formats based on demand. One of the most useful parts of Enfish Onespace is that it creates pages for all the people and companies you have on your PC, or in your contacts, so that you can see all of the related information in one place (hence the name Onespace). Now if you have lots of email newsletters you subscribe to, you don't have to worry if you didn't get around to reading them all---if they contain relevant information, the email will appear---automatically cross-referenced to the topic you are working on. You can then take the appropriate action--view it, copy, paste, reply, forward, etc. all from one place.
For those of us who (may admit) to being disorganized, Enfish Onespace is a godsend. It means that you don't have to spend time organizing your emails and putting them in folders, etc. You will simply be able to quickly find and work with the information you need in seconds.
BK: How did you start Enfish, and what's the history behind the company?
LW: I started Enfish to address the need of using technology to simplify life. It was the outgrowth of three projects of three people with similar approaches to the information problem. We were way too early, but then, this is a tough problem to solve. We started working on this in 1993 before the internet exploded. Life got interesting and we spent a lot of time working with users to understand how to build a solution that would work, given that everyone thinks about their information quite differently.
BK: You say you started too early--what do you mean, and how did you sustain the company in the interim?
LW: I mean that we envisioned the future before it was "here". We saw the deluge of information coming from the internet before people were even regularly using email. We were able to sustain, because we were building a sophisticated patented solution and have had good backing from a committed group of private investors who also understood our vision, plus me. Lotus Notes took 6 years before it started having any impact on the market. Since then---it has been enormous.
BK: I understand you were behind the early marketing success of Gemstar/VCRPlus+. How did you go from Gemstar to Enfish?
LW: Enfish is actually the outgrowth of some ideas that I was working on when I started my first company, in Sweden of all places. I call myself the "accidental entrepreneur" because I went to Sweden and found myself building a company--it was called Skillware/Interaktiv Video--and we created custom-developed interactive learning software for large swedish companies (SKF, Ericsson, etc.). When I came back to the States in '89, I ended up helping to start Gemstar. I was one of the six main founders of Gemstar. It was a huge success and I learned a lot about building a highly successful company.
BK: Where is Enfish in its stage of development? i.e. funding, profitability,etc.
LW: We are privately held, so we don't discuss financials. But we have attracted funding from Intel Capital (they found us), as well as several other VCs. We have raised over $20 million to date.
BK: What are your hopes for the company? I assume an IPO in the future, but any additional rounds, etc?
LW: IPO or merger are the typical realisation opportunities. We are focused on building a profitable business.
BK: I notice you are starting to co-brand your software with others, what's your strategy with this, and how do you decide who to co-brand your product with?
LW: We are focused on building strategic alliances with all the companies who are also part of solving the information problem for business professionals and companies (from small/medium sized businesses to the large enterprise). Enfish offers a unique solution for the individual user trying to leverage the enormous amount of information and resources we now have at our fingertips, thanks to the internet. We are focused on building partnerships with those who have synergistic products so that the combined product will be even more valuable for the end-user. As a result, we are targeting to integrate with corporate knowledge management and ebusiness/CRM solutions.
Franklin Covey and Enfish are very suitable partners because our missions and vision are so aligned. FC is focused on improving the effectiveness of the individual and companies, as is Enfish. FC has wonderful training and organization leadership methodologies; Enfish has great technology for simplifying the computing lives of many.
BK: What do you think is the most challenging thing that your company currently faces? Does the economy play a factor?
LW: The biggest challenge facing us is getting everything done to meet the enormous number of opportunities we are currently seeing from the market. I think that the economy has caused everyone to focus on real business, business that will make a substantive difference in productivity and enabling business to be more effective in the internet age. This has actually helped enfish. Companies value the substantial benefit that we are offering.
BK: Finally, as a serial entrepreneur, what do you think is the most
LW: This isn't a short answer. But in the interest of short answers, I have a quick summary----People (understand yourself and what you are capable of, and hire a great team who can build the pieces that you can't), Product (focus on what the market needs, and making a substantitive solution for your customers that they are happy to pay for, and delight them), Money (always crucial, find it), Marketing (focus on whole marketing---understanding what the market needs, and then building demand for the products and services you are offering) and the magical, my favorite---lots of Perseverence! Keep trying. Don't take No for an answer unless you realize that the answer should be No. There is always another way.