This section provides a background of the Fund’s sole General Partner, Scot Wingo.
Welcome! I’m Scot Wingo, GP for the Tweener Fund. Since I conceived of the Tweener fund and will be managing the investments, I thought it would be important for me to share my background with you.
I’m from a small town in South Carolina, called Aiken. The most unusual aspect of my youth was my father was a computer programmer (which was pretty unusual in the 60’s and 70s) and also an entrepreneur (extremely rare). We had a DEC VAX in my house growing up and my Dad took his dog to work which in hind-sight were quite unusual, but I didn’t know that at the time.
I got my undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering from the University of South Carolina and then came to the Triangle to get my Masters in Computer Engineering from NC State.
Graduating in 1992, I moved to Danbury, CT to work for a startup. After 3yrs, I decided three things:
- Snow is not for me. (brrr)
- I missed living in the Triangle area.
- I had a passion to start my own business.
Since 1995 I have started four startups;
- Stingray Software – 95-98 – Bootstrapped developer tool company. Grew to $12m ARR and sold to a public company called Rogue Wave Software.
- AuctionRover.com – 99-2000 – Venture-backed internet consumer company that provided an e-commerce on-line auction search engine. Acquired by Goto.com, who changed name to Overture and subseqently acquired by Yahoo!
- ChannelAdvisor – 2001-Present – Co-founder and CEO (thru ’15) and currently on board. ChannelAdvisor helps brands and retailers sell across the internet on channels such as marketplaces (eBay, Amazon, Alibaba, etc.) comparison shopping engines, and more. Took ChannelAdvisor public in May of 2013 (NYSE:ECOM). ChannelAdvisor is a > $100m ARR SaaS company with over 800 employees across the globe.
- Spiffy – 2015 – Current – Co-founder and CEO (current) – At Spiffy, I’m taking the digital trends that swept through the retail landscape and building a company to leverage those same trends and technologies to disrupt the car-care industry.
Contributions to the Triangle Startup Ecosystem
If you’re keeping track, I’ve been in the Triangle for ~26yrs. I’ve lived in Durham, Cary and now reside in Raleigh. In my first company, Stingray, I had several mentors I met via the NCSU entrepreneurship enthusiasts including Richard Holcomb, Walter Daniels, Chris Evans and Dr. Tom Miller. These folks were always available and asked nothing for their extremely valuable insights other than a commitment to keep paying it forward.
When folks move to the Triangle or outsiders ask about the culture of our startup ecosystem, that’s it in a nutshell – we help each other without hesitation. We’re always paying it forward. Other ecosystems are transactional – e.g. “Give me a quarter point of your equity and I’ll try and help out”. Not the Triangle.
I told this to the N+O (look in the media section) and I’ll repeat it here. A lot of successful startup founders have the mindset that we’re in a zero-sum game. So they climb the ladder of success, open the window and pull up the ladder. In the Triangle, we have a long history of generations of successful founders, climbing the window, opening the window and then throwing down more ladders to the next generation. That’s how we’ll make the Triangle one of the top startup ecosystems- by building it with our culture that may take longer, but we believe is superior to the alternative.
From 2000-2014, the bulk of my contributions to the ecosystem were largely encouraging students or executives at big companies like Lenovo, IBM, Cisco to take the entrepreneurial plunge. I’ve spoken numerous times at NCSU, UNC and Duke as well as worked closely with the CED to be an ambassador for entrepreneurship. My message in a nutshell: “Hey, if I can do this, anyone can!” and I still 100% believe this.
I also am an investor/advisor for the area’s three funds: Bull City Venture Partners, CoFounders Capital and IDEA Fund Partners. I have served on the boards of Spoonflower (exited), Automated Insights (exited), RepVue (active) and HipEcommerce (active).
The Triangle Tweener List is Born!
Between my time at ChannelAdvisor and Spiffy, I had some time to checkout the health of the ecosystem and what I noticed:
- Explosion of startups – Around that 2014-2016 timeframe, we had a huge breakthrough.
- Huge Influx of talent – At the same time, the number of connections from the NE and West Coast that had friends moving to the area mushroomed. I started keeping a re-usable list of companies in the Triangle over 50-100 people – later stage venture-back companies where I could point inbound executives to as opportunities.
- Top-heavy funnel – When you look at our ecosystem (this has gotten better but still a problem), to use some sales-person lingo, I think we have the classic ‘top heavy funnel’. For example, in 2015, we had on the order of 300-400 startups, but only 40-50 that were past the $1m ARR mark. We have a lot of activity, but not enough companies are making it out of the primordial startup soup to the next level. I’m a big believer that over the next decade we need more companies that go the IPO path (big exits are great, IPOs are better IMHO – we can argue this over coffee/beer sometime).
- Need for focus – Given the above trends, my belief was that as an ecosystem, we need to move our focus from the ‘creation’ part of the startup cycle to the ‘scale’ part of the life-cycle.
I had the idea to take that private ‘startup list’ I curated for inbound execs, clean it up, gussy it up and publish it. In my mind I think of it as a ‘goldilocks’ list – not too cold, not too hot kind of thing, but didn’t want to brand it that way, so borrowed the word Tweener and used it to describe the list.
The Tweener List
in 2015, I used typepad (an old school blogging platform) to publish the list. I was immediately shocked by the huge response to the list. I had to double my traffic allowance in the typepad site due to the popularity. In 2016, I was excited to get some help and hosting and editing from an online publication called ExitEvent. The 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 lists lived there. Unfortunately Exit Event closed down (content still exists inside of WRAL) and I moved the 2020 and 2021 Tweener lists to Medium.
The current 2021 Tweener List lives here and it has a ton of data at the top about the history if you are interested in digging into more. The most relevant to the Tweener Fund is this trend->
This table starts at 2017, back in 2015 there were about 50 Tweeners, so this list has grown 5X since inception.
Historical Tweener Lists
I’ve had requests from some potential investors to see the old Tweener lists to verify that I was early on in identifying many companies that have since had huge exits or become unicorns (Pendo/Bandwidth) or had huge exits (Spoonflower, Automated Insights, Bronto, Dude, InMotionNow, Maxpoint (IPO) and many many more, so here goes:
- 2015 lives here on WRAL – this is the OG, the formatting a little off, but content checks out.
- 2016 lives here
- 2017 lives here
- 2018 lives here
- 2019 lives here
- 2020 lives here
- 2021 lives here
Want to Learn More?
That’s my background in a nutshell. If you want to learn more:
- Podcast – About 5yrs ago I co-founded the top e-commerce/digital retail podcast called the Jason and Scot Show
- LinkedIn – I’m active on LI at https://www.linkedin.com/in/thescotwingo
- Twitter – You can find me at https://www.twitter.com/scotwingo