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“Jan Eddy fits the bill for the ‘Seize the Day,’ which embodies innovation and perseverance in the face of adversity,” said E. Kelly Fitzsimmons, chairwoman of the conference. “She is leader in
Eddy’s story of uncovering opportunities and building them into successes is uniquely triumphant. It starts with founding and building Wingra Technologies, an e-mail-related software company, from the ground and selling it eight years later. After its acquisition, Wingra’s $17 million stock value fell by two-thirds. With a clear vision for the company and the courage to take on the challenge, Eddy bought back Wingra Technologies a little over a year later and agreed to take on the debt the company had accumulated. In three short years, Eddy pulled the company out of its tailspin and sold it to Quest Software, which has since expanded the business.
One of the first women entrepreneurs in
RP: Deciding to buy back Wingra was a big turning point in your career. How did the buy back take place?
JE: Well, I gave my first offer to rebuy Wingra after four months of it being sold. By then, I understood the market better and the parent company’s strengths. I saw that the parent company didn’t take on the challenges the market posed and didn’t focus on the market base that Wingra was going after. I didn’t feel they could pay enough attention to Wingra and grew increasingly concerned that the parent company was going to get delisted, leaving Wingra shut down. I had always had a lot of faith in the product and the people and knew if we went of on our own we could be successful.
So, over the course of six months, I made four buyback offers. In the end, I took on most of the debt as part of the purchase price. I met with investors, who were once our strategic partners but now Wingra’s competitors due to the acquisition, and explained the situation and together wrote out contracts to extend the terms.
RP: How has the tech industry changed from when you launched Wingra Tech?
JE: Oh, the changes are dramatic. I’ve been involved in the technology investment marketplace for 20 to 30 years. First and foremost, the access to capital (has changed). We are still working in
The understanding of high technology and its role in economic development has changed, too. Technology’s role is more clearly understood and articulated now. Earlier, no one really understood what we did and people didn’t look at it as a business industry. Back in the 80s the prominence of tech companies in research parks, the venture money and the investment in
Being an entrepreneur is no longer a dirty word.
RP: Jan, you put a large emphasis on community involvement, which is seen through your involvement in many business, non-profit and economic development efforts. Why do you find it so important to give back?
I guess in every aspect of my career, after I’ve gone through a process and look back at what I’ve done I say ‘It shouldn’t have been that difficult.’ I then analyze why it was so difficult and try to make it easier for others who have to follow.
What I want to do is help match entrepreneurs and venture capitalists because the process used to be so inefficient. It’s important to make sure businesses can find the capital, mentoring and education they need.
And, I encourage entrepreneurial folks because there are so many more naysayers than there are supporters and it’s really important to encourage people.
RP: You’ve experienced a lot. What is your biggest lesson learned?
Well, this is a tough question. I’d say my biggest ‘lesson learned’ is knowing when you have to put your dukes up and fight, knowing when to be persistent and fight against the odds versus knowing when you have to let go of something and move on. They’re tough decisions to make and sometimes it’s your gut that tells you more than anything what the right decision is.
RP: What’s next for Wingra Tech?
Well, as you know, it’s no longer Wingra. It’s now part of Quest Software. Quest is investing in the
RP: Well, then, what’s next for Jan Eddy?
I will continue to be involved in the community, through my work as a member of boards of directors. I also work with some start-ups and some established businesses. I do mentoring, primarily to female entrepreneurs. And my husband and I have been fortunate enough that we can participate in some charitable work as well.
RP: Congratulations on winning the 2007 “Seize the Day” award. We look forward to seeing you at the Entrepreneurs’ Conference. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, I don’t think any one person alone achieves what I have. A cast of thousands are involved in my story; from those that I’ve been fortunate to work with, to my family that has sacrificed and supported me. I really want to thank the investors who took a chance with me. I came in with no college education and no track record and they believed in and supported me. I hope they continue to do for others what they did for me.
The “Seize the Day” award is selected by the Entrepreneurs’ Conference steering committee and given by the Wisconsin Technology Council and the