Anyone who comes to mediabistro.com for media news, job postings or classes has Laurel Touby to thank. She started the company in 1994 as a series of media mixers, which led to the founding of a Web site in 1996 — before the dotcom bubble burst. Over the years, Touby navigated uncharted territory as a digital entrepreneur and Internet pioneer, obtaining funding from venture capitalists and eventually selling the company just over two years ago.
When she sold her baby to Jupitermedia (now WebMediaBrands) for $23 million in July 2007, Touby signed a two-year contract. When that ran out a couple of months ago, she became a contractor for the company. Although she stayed involved in the day to day of mediabistro.com, she also started planning her getaway with her husband, BusinessWeek media columnist Jon Fine.
Earlier this month, the couple announced something big: a six-month sabbatical that they plan to spend traveling the globe, visiting foreign countries, blogging and — not surprisingly if you know these two — doing a little work here and there. But not too much. That’s not the point after all.
“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,” Touby said. “Who knows what that vision will be.”
We couldn’t resist asking Touby a few parting questions as she headed out the door after 15 years at Mediabistro. In this exit interview of sorts — conducted via phone as Touby and Fine explored the Piedmont region in Italy one week after leaving New York — Touby opened up about her proudest moments, her regrets and her plans for the future.
“I have some ideas,” she said of her future plans. “But nothing has gelled yet.”
FishbowlNY: Why did you decide to take this sabbatical?
Laurel Touby: 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.