“Closing a Series A in excess of $1 Million in funding during the holiday season is a timely milestone for a company building the world’s first retention marketing platform for retailers” says Matt Williamson, CEO of Windsor Circle, Inc., a Durham-based technology start-up founded in 2011.
RTP-based Triangle Angel Partners (TAP) was the newest funding group to join existing investors, including Idea Fund Partners and Bruce Boehm, formerly of US Venture Partners, in Windsor Circle’s Series A funding round, which includes $685,000 of funds recently raised, plus the conversion of a Convertible Note of $405,000.
“We look for seed and early-stage companies that are poised to grow, are not overly capital intensive, and have a product demonstrating success through early revenue traction” remarks Rich Harris, President of TAP, of the investment. “Windsor Circle shows great promise in all these areas.” TAP’s investment of over $150,000 as part of the Series A represents the fund’s second investment since launching in late 2011.
For a start-up like Windsor Circle, the path to success requires more than just capital: “We were thrilled to have TAP close out the Series A – as a group of investors with backgrounds managing successful companies, the rigor of their due diligence process underscored their expertise, which is just as important as the capital they’ve invested” reflects Williamson.
Lister Delgado, Managing Partner at Idea Fund Partners, holds a board seat on Windsor Circle. “We originally invested in Windsor Circle for its team and idea” notes Delgado. “The ongoing growth in eCommerce is also creating real pain points among the million-plus online retailers whose competitiveness depends on connecting, analyzing, and acting upon the data that often gets locked in various platforms.” Idea Fund Partners has invested in both Windsor Circle’s Seed and Series A Rounds.
“Our Seed Round of $350,000 was over-subscribed, raised pre-product and pre-revenue,” stated Williamson. “We had a great starting team, with all four founders going a year without salary to allow us to put those funds to use bringing on additional engineers to get the product to market.”
Windsor Circle launched its initial product in August 2011: a set of pre-packaged integrations between leading eCommerce platforms, including Magento, Yahoo Stores and BigCommerce, and leading email marketing software, such as ExactTarget, MailChimp, and WhatCounts. “By December 2011, we had 10 customers and had proven that our software could give retailers of all sizes the same personalization and targeting capabilities that the world’s top online retailers use to drive revenue and long term customer retention,” said Williamson.
Hobson Brown, co-founder of Criquet Shirts, a Windsor Circle client, says of the product: “We were blown away… In the past,this sort of database marketing would take tens of thousands of dollars and months to accomplish. We did it with Windsor Circle for a fraction of the cost and literally overnight.” Other clients include IR500 Shopper’s Choice, Spangler Candy (maker of Dum Dums), Moonstruck Chocolate and Bonobos.
Williamson began fundraising in earnest in 2012 for a Series A. “During the fundraising process, it was clear that there was a crunch going on. Many VC firms are at the end of their fund’s life, and are themselves out trying to raise money for the next one. Economic uncertainty is keeping some investors sitting on their cash.”
Existing inside investors first backed the company with a convertible note of $405,000, while Williamson pitched to over 50 Venture Capitalists and investors across the country. “In late summer, we were excited to receive our first term sheet for a $2.4M investment – and ended up turning it down. It wasn’t on the terms we were looking for.” By this point, Windsor Circle had signed its 50th customer, and was funding more of its operating needs with customer revenue.
Williamson continued fundraising, and by November, existing investors including Idea Fund Partners committed additional capital to the Series A, which was capped off by a new investor group, Triangle Angle Partners, as the round closed in December 2012. The new capital, totaling $685,000, combined with the conversion of the Convertible Note into Series A stock, closes the Series A in excess of $1 million. To date, the company has raised over $1.4M.
TAP member Craig Stone explains some of the dynamics making it harder for entrepreneurs to find their 2nd or 3rd round of funding: “We think that accelerators, individual angels, etc. are doing a great job providing seed funding to startups. The next round of funding is a lot harder to raise, and only the companies that make meaningful progress with their seed money are able to raise their first significant round of funding. We watched Windsor Circle over a nine-month period and liked the progress that they made.”
Windsor Circle has expanded its original product to include a full Retail Analytics suite, which gives retailers real-time insights into their customer’s purchase behavior, helping them track important stats like Average Order Value, Customer Lifetime Value, and number of Repeat Buyers.
“Our goal is to help retailers double their repeat buyers”, notes Williamson. Windsor Circle’s recently released 2012 Holiday Retail Report, which analyzed hundreds of millions of transactions from its clients, found that the lifetime value of a repeat buyer is nearly 5x that of a one-time shopper.
Most importantly, the retention marketing software, which gives retailers the data and insights to set up automated retention marketing emails, triggered product recommendation emails, and marketing campaigns to highly targeted customer segments, is working. “During the 5-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday from 2011 to 2012, we helped our clients grow revenue from repeat buyers by over 49%.”