During his toast at Windsor Circle’s
open house, co-founder and CEO Matt Williamson
had a tone of gratitude and hope for the future. After an incredible two years of fundraising and product building, in 2015, the company has converted capital into more than 75 employees and a new office, dozens of new customers and profits.
And momentum is gaining.
The Durham startup is a relatively young marketing software operation, specializing in e-commerce. The company helps more than 300 e-commerce customers deliver the right marketing messages to customers, specifically through email marketing. Its customizable and responsive templates in addition to algorithms that segment different types of purchasers
help retailers keep customers buying.
The December 1 open house was in celebration of Windsor Circle’s new office at 212 West Main Street in the heart of downtown Durham. Located on the fourth and fifth floors of a building American Underground is refurbishing for growing startups
, the space is full of open office space, corn-hole rooms, a massive kitchen and meeting area (yet somehow, no ping pong tables). The windows look down on some of the busier and more picturesque areas of Downtown Durham.
Walking in, one of the first things i noticed (besides that everyone was wearing green pants) was the noise of music and conversation. This was no middle school dance. The floors and hallways were packed, the people excited and chatty, and the DJ pumping sound into both floors. Dozens of kids jutted and played between large groups of Windsor Circle employees and friends shooting the breeze in the office, and all involved were not hesitant to sample liberally the four different breweries and cideries providing drinks for the event.
While I was able to meet many senior employees, veterans since the company’s inception, many employees that I met were brand new. Jocelyn Kline, one of the first I ended up chatting with, had only been there a month. This trend continued. Even without looking at fundraising statistics or the growing number of new hires over the past few months, it’s easy to tell the company is both young and in an incredible stage of growth.
“We literally started off with six desks in a room”, Williamson told the crowd.
In its earliest stages, the startup was housed by another Durham company at no charge. Now, Windsor Circle has finally reached the point where it can do the same for another local company.
A lot of the momentum began in April 2014, when Williamson won Google Demo Day in Silicon Valley along with $100,000 from AOL co-founder Steve Case.
The company has put the money to work since that point, gradually adding to its management team and support staff and until the recent move, expanding in its former space in American Underground @Main to take up most of the first floor.
Growing the team
Andrew Pearson, head of marketing and one of the initial investors, described the support staff at Windsor Circle as the “beating heart” of the company. These are the people that make sure clients have everything they need through launch with Windsor Circle and then continuously throughout their time as a client. The company used some of the funding to bring on new support team members like Jocelyn, who I mentioned before.
While they’ve focused on client acquisition and product testing, another major investment was “tripling the engineering team, and building out a product team” in the words of Williamson. This meant hiring quite a few user interface and front end developers to create a product that could both execute technically-powerful campaigns, while at the same time having responsive and attractive designs. Since the skeleton had already been put together, it was time to put some meat on the product.
Another important addition to the team was senior data scientist Gabi Huiber. After asking Pearson about the algorithms that governed the “smart” behavior of Windsor Circle’s email marketing systems, he told me I was better off tracking down Gabi. Gabi joined in April 2015, but advanced statistics and analytics have become an extremely interesting and important part of the company.
Pearson describes it as “the brain” of new company efforts.
Gabi is excited about his new role about the company, and it shows. In a nearly hour-long conversation, he went on about everything from how to identify repeat customers by studying variance in purchase times of a product, the merits of machine learning algorithms versus plain old human made ones and how to use statistical testing to sell yourselves to clients. While the data science operation at Windsor is still young, if Gabi is any indication of its approach to analytics-driven marketing, other marketing agencies and data scientists should keep an eye on the company.
Grown-up office space
Finally, the company invested in a new work space. Located in the Trust Building—reportedly the tallest office building
in the state at the time of its construction in 1905 and one of Durham’s first “skyscrapers”—Windsor Circle’s floors top three floors that will soon house the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, American Underground’s newest coworking space, a kids' Beatmaking Lab and Runaway’s flagship clothing store and gallery. Despite some serious internal renovations, the facade still looks much as the same as it did in the early 1900s.
While the folks at Windsor Circle might be known for their characteristic bright green pants, their office space itself is largely void of fluorescent greens. It’s actually a pretty tastefully designed space. When I sat down with Williamson, he described the company as an open place, where the “safety to be who you are” is a key tenet. It’s a place where asking how many paychecks are left in the budget during a company meeting is both allowed and responded to with an honest answer (A critical question for a still venture-backed company).
The floorplan is inspired by this. High ceilings, large communal work spaces, and a total lack of cubicles are some of the defining features of the space.
One of the most interesting elements here is what they call the “scotch room”, a wood paneled and almost Mad Men-esque 1970s-style meeting room. Whenever an important meeting is called in the room (at a reasonable hour), a single finger of scotch is required to be drunk.
Both multinational companies like L’Oreal and small local businesses like monogrammed jewelry maker Moon and Lola
have placed their faith in Windsor Circle, and its client list topped 300 at the beginning of December.
Things at the open house seem to point towards growth and expansion. The new and young employees, renovated space and new ideas being implemented all show a company hitting a major growth stage.