Bob Rosenschein, CEO and Founder of Answers.com shares his insights into how a name affects a business, changing from a subscription to a free model, how necessity drives entrepreneurship, and what truly drives users online.
Interview conducted by Nathan C. Kaiser on Thursday, July 13, 2006 in Jerusalem, Israel.
That’s a great question. In fact, we license it typically. Some of it is free. The majority of it is purchased, and we will reformat it and put it in one place. So, let me give you a simple example. Look up a famous personality, an actor, actress or company. What we do is bring the information from many different places. So, I will look up ?Seattle.? The first thing our site provides is that Seattle has a population of 571,000. Now we press Encyclopedia, then it continues with Friday?s weather forecast for Seattle. The local time in Seattle is 10:15 am. The geography, dictionary and Wikipedia for what we received is integrated. It?s a one page look. In this case, it?s five or six different reference sources and one easy-to-use page. So, our goal is to quickly give you an ?everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-Seattle? page, so you can search and blog all kinds of stuff and really make it easy to do. But the idea is to give you a super reference page, or reference page on steroids as some of our users call it. Just to help you get smarter when you are subject to one. So if you are looking up a person, it actually gets a little bit more sophisticated. If you look up ?Bill Gates? in one source, he may be known as Bill Gates, and in another source he might be known as Gates, William Henry the III. At a third place, he will be called Gates, Bill. Lexically, those are all different. Our users don’t even notice it but it?s very, very pretty. However, they do benefit from it, but they don’t think about the fact that this person has different names at different places. Sometimes you will get surprises. In the middle of a demo I looked up ?Jennifer Lopez? and found that there were different meanings for the word Jennifer Lopez. We all think of the famous actress and singer, but it?s also an investment term.
Absolutely. It was a a gamble at that time but it did work out.
But I mean in terms of companies such as A9 and others they are just offering, they are really just a gateway to your content, they are not storing it they are not hosting it, they are just providing access to it from answers.com?
It?s kind of corny, but first and foremost I look for integrity, teamwork, talent, and technical competence. Creative thinking. I like people who think out of the box to resolve situations. I look for people who are good communicators, that get along with their teammates. I treat every individual with dignity and respect. My philosophy about employees is that there are three things that really keep an employee on the team. The first is reasonable pay. Second is a good atmosphere and, importantly, an atmosphere they can grow in. The third thing is fun. I can probably count the individuals one hand that have resigned from the company, though sometimes turnover is not a bad thing. You can also bring in new blood, which is good. So as we have grown, we are trying to mix it up but in general very few people have left the company and it?s because we have high level of dedication.