Fran Hauser ― venture capital investor, digital media veteran and passionate advocate for young women in business ― serves as a shining testament to Teddy Roosevelt’s famous advice to “keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”
From the Girl Scouts to International Women’s Day, the YWCA to Advertising Age, Hauser has amassed countless business, leadership and mentoring accolades. She has funded the PBS documentary Half the Sky, appeared on CNBC’s Power Pitch and served as board chair of GlobalGiving.
From Moviefone to Millennials
Yet Hauser began her storied career helping out in the family business, attending a commuter college and working for two accounting firms. She counts her happy family life, long marriage and “two darling boys” among her greatest life achievements. And after rising to the top of the digital media field, she has found her next career challenge partnering with a young venture capitalist still in his 20’s.
CMSWire sat down with Fran Hauser to discuss the twists and turns of her extraordinary career, what she loves about working in venture capital and her ongoing passion for “connecting people and inspiring change.”
Sobel: After graduating from Pace University with a BBA and an MBA, you worked as an accountant at both PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young before beginning your digital media career at Moviefone. You credit accounting as the best mistake you could have made. Can you tell us why?
Hauser: As the daughter of Italian immigrants who were both artisans, I was exposed to business at a very young age because I basically managed my parents’ businesses for them. In fact, I started doing invoicing for my dad when I was in first grade. I was the first in my family to go to college so I decided to go to a hometown school and major in accounting because those were practical choices.
I stayed in accounting for seven years, including my time as Director of Finance for Coca-Cola Enterprises’ New York division. I loved the work but was itching to get more exposure to other functions like sales and marketing because I knew I wanted to run a business someday.
Then out of the blue I got a call from Moviefone, took the position and ended up running Moviefone as a division of AOL. In hindsight, going to a digital media company to capitalize on the launch of the commercial Internet was one of the best moves I could have made.
Sobel: From AOL, you moved to Time Inc. where you held a variety of positions including President of its Style & Entertainment Group. Those were interesting years for Time Inc. What were some of your most memorable projects?
Hauser: Time Inc. was a sister company of AOL and I loved the brands over there. I think I’m proudest of building People.com into one of Time Inc.’s biggest and most profitable businesses and leading deals with tech companies like Flipboard and Facebook.
Essentially, I had the opportunity to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to a legacy, multi-billion dollar company. I loved getting to know tech startups and figuring out how Time Inc. could best partner with them. I saw startups making big decisions based on my advice and that realization led me to start angel investing four years ago.
Sobel: You surprised the media world when you joined Rothenberg Ventures, which describes itself as the “fastest growing Millennial venture firm.” Can you tell us more?
Hauser: I met Mike Rothenberg through my angel investing network. At the time, he was still at Harvard Business School and working on launching his fund. I invested in it and then joined him a year later as partner. I’m surrounded by Millennials ― including Mike― and I love their energy, openness and drive.
I also love having the chance to mentor and advise our entrepreneurs. At a time when only six percent of venture capital partners are women and just 11 percent of venture-backed companies are founded by women, it’s critical that we take an active role in bringing more female leadership into the VC industry. Mike understands that and it’s part of what makes us such strong partners.
Sobel: Your decision to join Rothenberg Ventures was actually the subject of a Harvard Business School case. You got to present your story and watch students debate your decision. What was that like?
Hauser: The case study was an incredible experience. I had the opportunity to address the class and received a lot of support for my decision to leave media and enter the VC space. That said, there was some debate over why I decided to go to a startup VC― particularly one run by a 29-year-old man.
Some of the women in the class thought I should have started my own fund, while others felt that going to a more established fund would have been a better call.
I was able to explain that starting my own fund didn’t make sense for me because I have two young children and fundraising is extremely taxing. What’s more, I had never worked in venture capital and needed to learn. Bottom line, though, I admired Mike’s hustle, grit and access to deal flow. Going with someone I trusted and knew felt like the smartest choice for me and it has worked out great so far.
Sobel: Mentorship has been very important to you throughout your career. Now you’ve invested in and are working with, Levo League, an online career coaching and mentoring network for young women. Can you share your passion?
Hauser: Being known for mentoring smart, young women all over the world and empowering them to succeed is my true passion.
It comes from seeing how much of an impact my own mentors such as Ann Moore and Martha Nelson have had on me and my career, but it’s also a powerful way to get more female representation into venture capital, entrepreneurship and the C-Suite. It helps everyone to see what’s possible for the future and it’s my way of paying it forward.