Investor Profile: Ted Cominos, Spyglass Management
"Successful companies are the result of many people's hard work and contributions. As an investor, I consider investment opportunities companies with 'teams' that exhibit both genuine team-chemistry and complementary skill sets. "
Hello Ted, thank you for participating. How long have you been investing in early-stage companies and how did you first get started?
Working with start-ups, particularly tech start-ups, has been a source of personal and professional fulfilment for the greater part of my career. Since 2005, I have been personally investing in early-stage companies (including Romanian early-stage companies) and organizing small investor clubs. I have been doing this for at least 16 years.
Looking ahead in early-stage investing, what are you most excited about? what keeps you up at night?
We get excited about innovations that have cross-border market appeal - where we can immediately see the prospects for rapid take-up of a new concept that fills a need or facilitates a demand in several markets. One of the most exciting aspects of early-stage investing is seeing a concept come to fruition. And, of course, the energy and dynamism that start-up ventures and their visionary management teams frequently emanate. 'YEPP Between Friends' generates that kind of energy and enthusiasm – bringing to market a mobile application that facilitates a demand that one can easily see will appeal to sports fans all over the world.
Do you have an investing thesis or a focus on any particular type of founder, business model or industry? Are there particular kinds of startup companies you steer away from?
Great ideas can come from anywhere, which is why we remain open in terms of innovative technology opportunities. That being said, we only take seriously ventures that are executed by a 'team' of leaders who can work together (personally and professionally) to achieve a common goal. We avoid start-ups led by a "single founder" - or where any one person seeks credit for an organization's genesis or success. Successful ventures, in our opinion, are the result of many people's hard work and contributions. We will take note of 'teams' that exhibit both genuine team-chemistry and complementary skill sets.
Where does your best deal flow come from?
Over two decades of advising in the technology, venture capital, and private equity sectors in Europe and the United States, I've helped to build an extensive network of individuals spanning professions, industries, and geographies. This network provides us with opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic. We have a particularly strong connection to Romania, which brings us back to its thriving tech entrepreneurial scene on a regular basis. Our best deal leads typically come from introductions made by colleagues who have established trusting relationships with us and the entrepreneurs behind a specific early-stage venture.
What do you think about the evolution of cross-border investing? Do you invest also in European companies, or do you focus solely on US startups?
Everything we do is cross-border, particularly between Europe and the United States. The link between the United States and Europe (including Romania) is already becoming stronger. We are increasingly encountering investors who are extremely comfortable with – and actively seeking – investment opportunities in Eastern Europe. Surprisingly, COVID-19 has accelerated this process. Meaningful relationships are now being formed in an ecosystem where travel constraints do not impede new relationship development or deal sourcing. For example, our most recent investment includes investors and a target company / management team with whom we have excellent trusted relationships...but we have never met 'IRL' (in real life). We believe that this method of meeting and interacting with cross-border business contacts will continue to boost the prospect of increased cross-border investment.
Spyglass decided recently to invest in YEPP. What were your main favorable points for this decision?
First, and most importantly, YEPP Interactive has an exceptional management 'team.' Great guys with a lot of experience and industry knowledge, as well as a contagious enthusiasm for their innovative sports betting app (Yepp Between Friends). Second, the app is well-positioned to capitalize on the (extremely) rapid digitization of the sports-betting industry. YEPP adds a distinctive twist to the landscape, appealing to sports fans who may or may not bet on sports. Rather than a sports fan betting against "the house" (a casino-like gaming company) where there is a clear financial winner and loser... YEPP, on the other hand, assists friends in placing wagers (both monetary and non-monetary) directly against one another on sporting events they are watching.
Effectively YEPP digitizes the long-standing tradition of friends placing small wagers on sporting events between rival teams. Furthermore, it is A.I. (Artificial Intelligence). Predictive - where a fan of, say, the Chicago Bears will be notified when their team is playing a rival team supported by a friend. Both will be prompted and made aware of the rival competition, and they will be encouraged to place a small wager on the outcome of the match. YEPP will facilitate and settle the wager, keep everyone up to date on scores and key results, and provide a 'live chat' venue for friendly banter and laughs. YEPP is a'social betting' app for 'between friends' use that is well-positioned for immediate uplift in the European and American markets and a diverse range of sports (e.g., football/soccer, basketball, baseball, American football, rugby, and so on). Furthermore, the digitized sports-betting sector is a rapidly evolving and highly acquisitive market, with YEPP leading the pack in the 'peer-to-peer' sports-wagering arena.
Why do you bet on YEPP? Did you know their team for long?
We were introduced to the YEPP management team by a long-trusted, common acquaintance... who (correctly) believed we would both be interested in collaborating. It didn't take long after meeting the team to realize they were 'winners' capable of carrying out a product development roadmap and an international market launch. The 'YEPP Between Friends' app was obvious from the start that it would improve an extremely common / frequent act amongst sports fans – the small wager 'between friends' on sports match outcomes. Primarily, we were sold on technology. However, as time passed, we grew to trust and respect the management team, which has become a significant part of what we are investing in.
What are YEPP’s main, medium-term objectives? How do you plan to support achieving them?
At this point in its development, YEPP Interactive's primary goals are to (1) advance its licensing with gaming regulators in multiple jurisdictions, and (2) enter collaborative "distribution" ventures with sporting organizations that have a sizeable sports-fan customer base. We are assisting the company by contributing significant financial resources for its growth and development, as well as several introductions to commercial relationships in the United States.
We’re excited to share a deal together. From your point of view, what’s SeedBlink’s role in the ecosystem?
We definitely recommend SeedBlink and admire what it (and its impressive management team) is doing to give individual investors more access to early-stage investment opportunities. We were thrilled to learn that YEPP had been successfully vetted by SeedBlink and presented to its investor base. We believe that 'quality attracts quality,' and that having the management teams of both organizations collaborate and align in terms of desired results benefits both enterprises. At this early stage in the company's life, SeedBlink is also assisting in raising the profile of YEPP.
If you could give entrepreneurs one piece of advice about working with you, what would it be?
'Don't be afraid to change your mind and change your course based on the latest information that comes your way – we encourage it.' We all start out in a certain direction, with an idea of how we expect things to turn out. As a result, even when confronted with new, contradictory data, we frequently stick to our original plans. We frequently do so out of fear of appearing rash or admitting to a mistake or oversight. Amazon promotes a corporate culture that encourages pivoting and changing course quickly in the face of the latest information, and not being afraid to be wrong. Such a successful organization can teach us all a thing or two. There has never been a 3–5-year business plan that went exactly as planned. As a result, both as investors and members of executive management, it is critical to encourage nimbleness, admitting mistakes and moving on quickly from them, and being willing to change your mind (often if necessary) when confronted with new data points along the way.
Thank you for sharing your views with us. Any final thoughts for our readers?
'Yepp Between Friends' is an innovative friend-to-friend sports betting app created by a talented management team. It is well positioned to benefit from the (exploding) digitization of the sports betting market. We encourage you to look – and be ready to share our excitement: Yepp Promotional Video 2020 - YouTube
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By Roxana Cicea
PublishedDecember 27, 2021