Durham start-up Windsor Circle judges’ pick in Google competition

Apr. 02, 2014 @ 06:35 PM

At a competition for start-ups at Google Inc.’s campus in Mountain View, Calif., on Wednesday, a Durham tech start-up took home the top prize.

Durham-based Windsor Circle, a company behind web marketing software, was chosen as the judge’s favorite in a pitch competition hosted by the company’s entrepreneurship support program, Google for Entrepreneurs.

“The idea was to curate some of the best start-ups with the best entrepreneurs in regions around the country, and then to bring them to the best investors in Silicon Valley with the idea of shining a spotlight on the innovation that’s happening all around the country,” said Steve Case, a co-founder of AOL who was one of the competition judges.

In the competition, 10 companies from seven cities in Google’s new tech-hub network were selected to take part. The American Underground, a hub for entrepreneurs that got its start in the basement of the American Tobacco complex in downtown Durham, is part of the network. In addition to Windsor Circle, another Durham company, Automated Insights, also pitched on Wednesday.

At the end of the competition, Case announced he was personally giving each of the competitors $100,000. The three-person judging panel also included a general partner in Google Ventures, Google’s venture capital investment arm, and from another venture capital firm. The competition was held at Google Ventures’ offices on Google’s campus.

Wearing green pants on a stage in front of investors and other start-up leaders on Wednesday, Windsor Circle’s CEO and co-founder Matt Williamson had five minutes to give details on the Durham-based start-up.

The company helps e-commerce companies get customer data from their websites so they can use that information to directly market to those customers.

Williamson said existing customers make up about 41 percent of retail revenue for companies, and are valuable to them. But he said that directly marketing to them requires investment in technology and people to understand to whom to market, and how.

“Even if you could get all that data together, (the) average marketer doesn’t understand who to market to,” he said.

The company’s software compiles customer purchase history information from businesses’ sales websites, and then allows those businesses to directly market to customers who have already made purchases.

“We can predict exactly who’s going to return based on what (was) bought and when,” he said.

So far, Windsor Circle has raised $2.5 million in local investment, and is involved in a national investment round, Williamson said. According to information in the presentation, the company expects to take in about $2 million in revenue this year, but would only see costs of about $258,961.

In a prepared statement, Adam Klein, chief strategist for the American Underground, said Windsor Circle “came out on top” after competing with the best companies from start-ups around the country. Klein attended the pitch competition in California.

 “In addition to being a huge boost for Windsor Circle, this win sends an unmistakable signal to investors around the world that Durham and the Triangle are a hotbed of innovation and an unparalleled destination for smart investments,” Klein said.