Charlotte startup SignUpGenius lands majority investment

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Capping one of the biggest under-the-radar success stories in the Charlotte startup world, SignUpGenius has signed a deal to sell a majority stake in the company.

SignUpGenius helps schools, nonprofits and other organizations around the country manage events and volunteers. For example, a youth soccer team might use the site to schedule which parents bring snacks for each game or a business might create a sign up for corporate training sessions.

Many people around Charlotte use the service, but few of them might realize the company employs about 30 at its headquarters in Ballantyne Corporate Park.

It will now be part of the portfolio of the growth equity arm of Providence Equity Partners, which specializes in middle-market software companies. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The deal is a huge milestone for the bootstrapped company.

The company has grown rapidly since its founding in 2008. SignUpGenius grew revenue by 63 percent last year and posted a 16 percent growth in unique visitors, to 66 million.

The company was previously solely co-owned by CEO Dan Rutledge and Charlotte entrepreneur Michael Vadini. Rutledge and his wife, Angel, who is COO and CMO, started looking for a strategic investor about a year ago. In Providence, they’ve landed one with experience with similar companies.

A good analogy is Blackboard, the site schools and universities use to manage assignments. Providence acquired the company in 2011 in a deal valuing it at $1.6 billion and grew it to own about 80 percent of the market. In 2015, the company explored a sale for about $3.5 billion.

Providence Equity also is an investor in Hulu and Topgolf.

“We said to the team, ‘We have become a big-time company and we need to partner with big-time companies,'” Dan Rutledge said. “We’ve done a great job on our own, but more people at the table who are at that quality level is going to be good for us.”

As the company pursued investment, it also fleshed out its leadership team. SignUpGenius hired its first chief financial officer (Jeff Richek) earlier this year and added a chief business development officer (Chris Lucas) as well.

What comes next?

The Rutledges will remain managers of the company and will sit down with Providence in early August to flesh out the next steps.

Growth will likely come in SignUpGenius’s paid offerings, including premium versions for institutional clients. Dan Rutledge said the company also wants to move into the payments space in a bigger way.

“We feel like we’ve done a good job of getting it to this point and have a lot of plans for the future,” Dan Rutledge said. “We’re looking to see if we can accelerate our vision a little faster.”

 

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Andrew Dunn
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