Wingspan Launches New Venture Studio in Utah
Wingspan is a new venture studio applying a hybrid approach to invest $1 million to $2 million into startups. It acts as an institutional co-founder of the startup and takes an active role in the startup by providing a full team—product strategy, design, engineering, marketing, finance, HR, and recruiting, which consists of 75% of the investment; the remaining 25% of the investment is in the form of cash into the company.
For this hybrid venture studio-model of investment, Wingspan plans to take a minority stake in each startup in which it invests.
“As an institutional co-founder, we aim to build 25-30 great companies over the next decade,” says Josh Little, Managing Partner of Wingspan. “We are positioning ourselves as an institutional co-founder as compared to an institutional investor that invests capital in a startup, whereas an institutional co-founder puts capital in, AND an entire team in place: design, engineering, recruiting, marketing, etc.”
A key attribute of Wingspan is its close partnership with software development outsourcing firm, Tech9. Founded in 2015, in Lehi, Utah, Tech9 is well-established as an outsource company. In 2016, the company set up development centers in India. It currently employs 150 engineers there. In 2019, Tech9 added development centers in Latin America—Costa Rica, Colombia and Mexico. It now has over 100 engineers in those three countries and 280 engineers total. The company’s administrative and operations center is based in Lehi.
“The best and brightest of Tech9’s 280 designers, engineers, and project managers across the globe will be working with Wingspan’s co-founders to build ventures faster than they thought was ever possible,” says Nick Stice, CEO of Tech9 and also Wingspan’s Managing Partner, along with Little.
Tech9’s foundation is built on two principles: experience and retention. Tech9’s pool of engineers has on average ten years of experience. “The best engineers are the ones that you don't have to teach,” observed Stice. “Especially if somebody is outsourcing to you, you don't want them to feel like they are paying for somebody else to train an engineer for your project.”
Tech9 boasts a retention rate of 95% for its engineers which is well above the industry average. “We’re not dealing with unknowns here,” said Stice. “We have been working with these engineers for years. They know how to get things done.”
Stice says it manages to keep top talent because they have optimized their processes and systems over years of the team working together on dozens of software projects. “Members of our team can work on hot startups, and now gain equity in them. And yes, we'll invest capital in them as well.” said Stice.
Stice says the ideal Tech9 customer is one that sees the relationship as a permanent fixture in their company. “Companies bring us in as the experts who know how to form and run teams, and retain the people in the teams for a long time,” said Stice.
He continued, "It's not uncommon to have 100% turnover on an outsourced engineering team over the course of two and a half years. But with Tech9 it is the opposite. We are seeing close to a 100% retention rate over a project that has been going on for two and a half years. Customers appreciate the stability and consistency that our high retention rate provides.”
Tech9’s list of customers include Larry H Miller Group, Acima, Prestige Auto Group, Flashlight Learning and many others.
Tech9 is the source of Wingspan’s initial funding.
Little said that Wingspan differentiates itself vis a vis other hybrid studio-type venture funds in that it emphasizes its highly experienced and stable pool of engineering, design and project management talent. He also mentioned, “our strong emphasis on product strategy, engineering, and navigating product market fit, which is built into the DNA of our partnership, is a key strength.”
Wingspan’s launch includes the announcement of two initial investments–an acquisition of video messaging app, Volley, that enables flexible face-to-face communication between individuals, groups, and teams, and a partnership with Tactic, a hybrid workplace management app.
“Volley and Tactic are great first ventures as both already have significant traction with fanatical user bases. We’re also actively recruiting a co-founder for our third venture, a tech infrastructure company in stealth mode,” said Little.
Wingspan plans to raise a fund in the next 18-24 months once they’ve demonstrated a robust portfolio with significant traction. It plans to invest in and build 25-30 startups over the next decade.
For more information visit Wingspan Studios here.