URC Profile

Elizabeth Charnock

Company: Cataphora
Year started: 2002
Industry: Computer Software
Offices: Menlo Park, CA; Ann Arbor, MI
Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA
Activity: Behavioral modeling and monitoring systems to meet the needs of Fortune 1000 companies and government customers
Annual Revenue: Historically $10M–$20M
Employees: 25
Attended: University of Michigan Honors Program
Degree: B.S., Theoretical Mathematics, 1987
Company website: Cataphora.com

“It’s not about content, it’s about context.”

Elizabeth Charnock, the founder and CEO of Cataphora Inc., has successfully done what virtually no Silicon Valley startup before her has been able to do: take a company from concept to profitability and a successful pre-IPO divestiture without a dime of investment money. The bootstrap startup, now in its 12th year, develops software technologies that provide large corporations and government agencies with the intelligence necessary to tackle Big Data for use in litigation and investigation. Cataphora’s patented behavioral modeling and monitoring technology helps to bring context to multiple sources of electronic data such as emails, documents, instant messages, phone logs, text messages and social networks.

Charnock grew the company from five employees in 2002 to about 100 before selling a business unit to Ernst & Young about a year ago. Today Cataphora has about 25 employees. The number is growing, as Cataphora recently opened a satellite office in Ann Arbor, with the help of a Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) grant that will help the company expand and hire 30 more employees over the next three years. Many of Cataphora’s employees are from the Ann Arbor area and the majority of the company’s clients are on the East Coast, leading to the decision to open a Michigan office.

Before starting Cataphora, Charnock was CEO and founder of Troba, an industry leading Customer Relationship Management software company that she sold in 2001.

“At the end of the day, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror.”

After earning a bachelor’s of science degree in Theoretical Mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1987, Charnock began her career at Unisys in Plymouth, MI, where she built and ran an experimental human factors laboratory. She later moved to California and, following stints with international high-tech companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, Charnock decided to venture out on her own and create her own startup company, which she saw as a “a rite of passage” in Silicon Valley.

By ignoring the Silicon Valley mindset of the “quick flip” and instead creating a place where she would want to work for the long term, Charnock was able to create jobs and provide secure futures for Cataphora’s employees. She attained success through her unwavering determination to take risks and press on despite the doubters, economic uncertainty and other obstacles.

Photo credit: Steve Roberts