George Friedman founded Stratfor in 1996 to bring readers and clients an incisive new approach to examining the world. Upon launching its online intelligence product three years later, the company leaped into public prominence with its groundbreaking coverage of the Kosovo War.
In the spring of 1999, as the crisis unfolded, analysts 6,000 miles away in Austin, Texas, diligently processed incoming information from the Balkans. Sleeping in shifts on the office floor for six weeks straight, Stratfor's team produced unparalleled analysis using its unique methodology.
The process of receiving and analyzing intelligence was not new for Stratfor, but it was during the Kosovo War that the company began posting its reports on the Web rather than through a newsletter emailed to friends of the firm. This online exposure allowed the company to reach a much broader audience — including many people in the Balkans, who responded with additional insights that Stratfor in turn analyzed to determine what was happening, why it was happening and what would happen next.
Word got out, and Stratfor's landmark coverage of Kosovo outpaced — and helped shape — the mainstream media's reporting on this distant, opaque conflict. By the time the war ended, Stratfor's readership and clientele had risen into the thousands, solely by word of mouth.
Stratfor's perspective challenged the dominant assumptions of the intelligence community and mainstream media. In the 1990s, most believed the Cold War had ushered in an era of peace and stability. In contrast, Friedman suggested that the Soviet Union's collapse had destroyed the global balance of power, setting into motion a series of clashes around the world. The Balkans embodied this reality.
Friedman knew that understanding geopolitics — how geography, economics, politics and technology intersect and shape international relations — was key to understanding the landscape left behind by the Cold War. He also recognized that geopolitical analysis fueled by intelligence would be enormously useful for companies and individuals seeking to comprehend this complex world.
The arrival of the digital age unleashed torrents of publicly available information from all corners of the globe, from news stories to government reports to social media. Friedman realized that an agile company like Stratfor could mine this open-source information for valuable insights and emerging patterns. Combined with intelligence gathered from the company's global network of human sources and analyzed within a geopolitical framework, these insights synced to form a larger picture.
Stratfor is not a collection of individual opinions or a platform for polemicists. Each report undergoes rigorous debate and is refined to a single "Stratfor perspective." Our Stratfor-trained intelligence analysts start with a flood of information, filter out the propaganda, unearth the emerging paradigms, challenge the axioms, reject the assumptions, reconcile the conflicting truths and produce penetrating, clear-eyed analyses.
Whether through custom projects or its subscription-based website, Stratfor makes its analysis available to clients and subscribers.
The Austin Advantage
The world turns on Washington's decisions, but the city itself tends to be insular and consumed by internal jockeying for power. Friedman believed that for Stratfor to be an outward-looking global company, it needed to cultivate fresh perspectives and preserve what the company calls "the art of being surprised." Austin, Texas, with its major university, robust tech sector and entrepreneurial-friendly environment, proved ideal.
The company recruits a dynamic, multinational mix of analysts with backgrounds in liberal arts, sciences, journalism, statistics, economics, counterterrorism and security to adopt and build upon this new framework of thinking.