The Rising Tide of the Triangle Startup Ecosystem, Grepbeat.com’s Pete McEntegart
Pete McEntegart, managing editor of Grepbeat.com has had quite the windy career path, starting as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs, then going back to college, then writing at Sports Illustrated – if you ever read SI.com in the 2000’s, Pete was the guy who wrote The Ten Spot, which was a daily column on 10 funny things in sports that day. During his time there, he was rudely interrupted by a six-month trial of the Tyco CEO and CFO who were accused of embezzling millions from the company – and he wrote about it for Time Magazine. He then went out to LA to be a film and sitcom writer, and then to Chicago where he co-founded a company called CharacTour, which is kind of like a Netflix algorithm that tells you what shows and movies you should be watching. That ended up not working out, and so in July of 2018, he started working for Bronto founder Joe Colopy’s passion project, Grepbeat.com, which is an online publication that supports the tech startups in the Triangle. On the show today, Pete talks about lessons learned in his windy path, what he sees from successful entrepreneurs, and what’s different about the Triangle ecosystem.
Such an interesting guy, and the only one of our guests so far who has a Wikipedia page.
Subscribe to Grepbeat’s twice-a-week newsletter at Grepbeat.com.
And be sure to read his article in Time, One Angry Man, about his time as a Tyco trial juror.
Hustle Unlimited is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and hustler himself, Donald Thompson.
Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.
Jason Gillikin, Producer of Hustle Unlimited, Earfluence.com CEO:
Welcome to the Hustle Unlimited Podcast with serial entrepreneur Donald Thompson! You are listening to episode 9 of season 2. Today we talk to a guy who worked at Goldman Sachs, wrote for Sports Illustrated, was involved with one of the most high profile trials of the 2000’s, wrote sitcoms in LA, co-founded a technology startup in Chicago, and is now the person startups in the Triangle want to talk to when they’re looking for a little publicity. I’m Jason Gillikin, producer of Hustle Unlimited and CEO of the Earfluence Podcast Network.
On today’s show, Pete McEntegart, managing editor of Grepbeat.com has had quite the windy career path, starting as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs, then going back to college, then writing at Sports Illustrated – if you ever read SI.com in the 2000’s, Pete was the guy who wrote The Ten Spot, which was a daily column on 10 funny things in sports that day. During his time there, he was rudely interrupted by a six-month trial of the Tyco CEO and CFO who were accused of embezzling millions from the company – and he wrote about it for Time Magazine. He then went out to LA to be a film and sitcom writer, and then to Chicago where he co-founded a company called CharacTour, which is kind of like a Netflix algorithm that tells you what shows and movies you should be watching. That ended up not working out, and so in July of 2018, he started working for Bronto founder Joe Colopy’s passion project, Grepbeat.com, which is an online publication that supports the tech startups in the Triangle. On the show today, Pete talks about lessons learned in his windy path, what he sees from successful entrepreneurs, and what’s different about the Triangle ecosystem.
Such an interesting guy, and the only one of our guests so far who has a Wikipedia page.
But don’t forget, if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to this show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. That way, when we have new episodes with the hustlers of the world who are making their communities a better place, you will be the first to know.
So let’s get started. Here’s Walk West CEO, investor, speaker, mentor, advisor, and all around hustler himself, host of the Hustle Unlimited Podcast, Donald Thompson.
Donald Thompson, Host of Hustle Unlimited, WalkWest.com CEO:
Alright guys, welcome to another episode of Hustle Unlimited. I’m your host Donald Thompson. And I got a good friend of mine, Pete McEntegart. Pete, tell me a little bit about Grepbeat, help our audience understand kind of what you’re doing today, what Grepbeat is, what the name means, and let’s talk about kind of your view on working with and writing about entrepreneurs.
Pete McEntegart, Managing Editor, Grepbeat.com:
Right. So grep is a Linux command, meaning a sort of parse data for key terms, key phrases. The conceit being we sit through the news and just bring you the relevant and interesting parts. And Joe Colopy, his background is in tech and you know, he’s a programmer as well. That was his idea. He really actually wanted to call it The Grep. He couldn’t get the domain and so Grepbeat it is. Actually, when I first sat down and uh, we got together on it, it was clear that we were both serious about whether this might happen. I said, alright, question number one, how wed are you to the name? And the answer was fairly wed. So it’s like, all right, well let’s move on to how much you want to pay me. Um, so it’s like, I’m not gonna die on that Hill, but yeah, so that’s, that’s where the name is from.
And so it does have a tech focus. So we don’t cover life sciences. It’s definitely on the tech software in broad terms. Really in practice it ends up being kind of anything, not life sciences or biotech. Like what is, you know, Mati Energy. That’s not really a tech company, but like, but it’s that people drink it right at the start up here to start up. Right. And like, so it’s, you know, the startup community, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s very much Joe’s vision exit event for my time. But you’re probably familiar with that site and that went away, I guess October of 2017 around that period. And so that’s what you have felt that there was a space and kind of a need for something to step in and try to tell the stories of, especially early stage tech startups and trying to with other people, we’ll try to lift this startup ecosystem.
Yup. In this area. When you think about the folks that you’re covering, what are some of the more interesting companies our listeners might not have heard of that you think are doing great, that are doing interesting stuff that you’ve had fun covering?
Well of course they should go to Grepbeat.com. Check it out. But um, you know, I was trying to think about this a little bit on the way over. And one is the really early startups from students or people right out of school. I’d say two, two of our three most read stories are startups from students are ones that have just graduated and they must have huge social media following. One that was a woman who makes sudsy kind of dehydrated shampoo, particularly when you travel. So yeah, that’s sort of a dehydrated ball. So this is not a problem that I have often. I don’t travel a lot of shampoo, but apparently it’s a common, I’ve heard that some people have where their shampoo will kind of bust in their, in their, in their luggage.
Yup. And another company that’s smart parking, essentially. VadePark. But that guy was a UNC student, I think he was like a junior. He already has a company that’s like a $10 million revenue company in sort of India and the U S. So this is like his second thing. It’s like what
Why’s he going to college?
Right. Exactly. You know, just to pay the bills. Wants that degree. So young people that are really killing it. So I definitely like writing about the real recent graduate, even students to me, it’s amazing what some of them are doing. And then on the other hand you have kind of this serial entrepreneurs, the Scot Wingo’s, the Jesse Lipson’s, he was one of the first stories I wrote. Right. He’s doing Real Magic, Levitate is the product. Yeah. And they just, they just raised money Series A.
I came here without something. I was looking for something new and I was hoping to stay and ideally plan out, it would be somewhere in the startup ecosystem, whether at a startup or at a VC. I may, I didn’t know there was only like three VCs or all two man shops, the early ether or just somewhere in that world. And so I was basically just networking with everyone and just people were very friendly and open and willing to meet with you. I felt that very quickly. I knew more people than I did in my entire time in Chicago. Cause when I got to Chicago I was already super head down on a startup. It was like, I’m not, you know, networking like unless I think it’s gonna be, you know, potential investor, like I don’t have time for anything to meet anyone and talk to anyone.
But for two months when all you’re doing is having coffee with people, you can meet a lot of people. And then I was fortunate. Then I got this thing where now, those are the people that I need to talk to. And fortunately I already knew some of them and I definitely give or I feel, you know, the people who were nice to me when I, when I was nobody, I didn’t have any platform that could potentially help them and was just, they were purely helping me, I definitely try and call them out. Tim McLaughlin was one of those people, so I always give him some, some love in the newsletter. But yeah, I have found that the ecosystem here, people are very willing to help and that’s one of the biggest assets of this community.
And I believe the same thing. When Tim was here and talking with us from the kind of, the voice of the VC, one of the things he talked about in the RTP ecosystem is that openness, that friendliness and somebody else winning doesn’t mean you lose, right? If we all win and create a great ecosystem, it’s better for everybody involved. And I definitely share that. I’m going to rewind a little bit because I missed something that I think super interesting in my notes. You are on like for six months, a jury with Tyco, like a big…
Tyco 1 because there was a sequel.
Can you give a little background there? Cause that’s like super interesting.
Yeah, that would be several podcasts on it’s own sort of a web series. So yeah, I just showed up at jury duty and I get put on a case that lasted six months. So Tyco was – still is actually – a conglomerate in the sense that it owned a bunch of very different businesses that didn’t really fit together. I mean one ADT something people in the home security system is one of them. Tyco is like sort of like fire sprinklers and that. So they had a bunch of different businesses, didn’t really fit. But they were very inquisitive and they grew really fast and sort of the late 1990s and then the CEO and CFO got charged with essentially embezzling a lot of money from the company. And so that was the trial. I was on the jury they told us it might last like two and a half, three months.
I was like, that seemed like the longest thing anyone could imagine. And it lasted six months and it ended in a mistrial. So we deliberated for 11 days, 11 or 12. So on the 12th day they just, when we were about two to get a verdict, they stopped us because one of the jurors had gotten like a threatening letter. If anyone does care though, you see what I wrote for Time the night of the mistrial. But there was a woman who was kind of a, she was like a 79 year old woman. She had been a lawyer, teacher, then a lawyer and she was at least early on sort of holding out for the defense. And then we sort of broke down in the middle and then we kind of broke her. But when we thought there might’ve been mistrial, people in the media in the audience said that they thought she made an okay sign the defense.
So then like she got named publicly and then even though we sort of got things sort of back on the rails the next week, she got the letter. And so they called a mistrial. It was not a hung jury time, very adamant about that because we would’ve gotten a verdict. But, uh, so they retried them and, uh, they were convicted on a, maybe like 21 and 22 counts. I was actually sort of, I’m not gonna say involved in the, I mean it was a very intense experience and the fact that we didn’t have a verdict at the end, I was pretty upset. And, uh, when you were part of the fabric of it, I mean, you want closure, right. For my life. And it was a big blaze of publicity, you know, we were, we were for a couple of days, a big story. I mean, I did like nine TV shows on one day I did Today and Good Morning America the same day.
By the end of the week, they were sort of tired of us when they realized that we didn’t resolve anything. But I mean, yeah, so after the trial ends, the fact that there would be a retrial both sides tried to talk to you and the defense lawyers. I was, I respect you have a job to do, but go read what I wrote on Time. They did it. Fundamentally so I’m not not helping you out. And then the DA’s, I was like, I came in, they brought in lunch. Like I’ll be here as long as you want. During the retrial in this CFO testified again the CEO, cause we’ll ask you, you did not testify in our case, he did testify a second time. But anyway, right. They sent me, said, Hey would you take a look if we send you a disc of what the CFO said this time to compare to what he said last time.
Tell us what you think is like, what do you think? I’d been waiting for a court date up all night, you know, Hey you should do this. You should do that. I don’t think they, it was a big embarrassment publicly to their office that they didn’t win the first time because in the media it seemed like so slam dunk, slam dunk, I’m, Oh, hang on, things are not that clear in there for various reasons. And they brought in someone new to kind of lead it and I don’t think he won anything to do with, you know, the first jury that they probably thought dropped the ball. We did not any. Right. So yeah, that’s a, yeah, it gets me very worked up.
What learning if anything that was super positive that it brings you to current day? Like sometimes we have experiences that are stand alone.
I would say right. In the very immediate aftermath, I felt like sort of dismayed about the jury system because this was a case where you had never been, there were two defendants so they could each have sets of lawyers, um, and sort of a tag team and they were very expensive. Their lawyers were on the whole better than the DA’s. I mean, they had some talented lawyers, but like these were big money and they just, you could tell that they had an incentive to just confuse things because if you’re just kind of like, I don’t know what the heck’s going on. I can’t send people to a prison if I don’t know which way is up. And some, to me it was like I felt some of the things I could see that they were just deliberately making it confusing and seeing that it was working on a lot of people in here. But I will say after I did a lot of reading on jury systems and part, I was trying to sell a book and then I felt a lot better because I do feel we did get there as a jury has kind of difficult as it was that without sort of the outside thing that as much issues as we had that we did get there, we were getting there and because we did ultimately listen to each other sort of.
No, I get it. So let me, let me ask you this. Now you’ve had all these various experiences. You were a part of a startup. What are some of the things that you’ve learned and seen that are consistent threads of the successful people that you talk to, both in sports and tech and different things? What are some of those consistent things that now the language of winners are the behaviors of the successful that you’ve seen?
Well, let me take this a few different ways. One thing I sort of felt that if I was ever going to do a tech startup again, I would need a technical cofounder, cause I’m not a technical person and I just think you need to have, if that’s not your skillset, you need a founder who is that person because it’s just, it didn’t really work with us. If, if there’s not someone who is all in, if you’re paying someone essentially to do the tech, then you know if you’re moving faster, it’s by definition you’re burning more like you need someone who is completely committed in the way that only a founder can be. Who can do that? Who, you know, who they can work a million hours for maybe nothing for a while. So that would be one thing. And uh, you know, at the time some investors would be like, well, we, you know, the fact that because they’re two of us, we were not, neither of us were technical people.
She was sort of finance and I was kind of finance creative, but I remember one investor said, you know, if there’s not a technical cofounder, I don’t invest in that. I was like, well that doesn’t seem right. That’s like, you know, I think like, wow, that makes a lot of sense. Like that’s what I would do if I was investing money and that’s what I would recommend to people if they were going to start a setup. Um, sure. Of a general through line of successful people. Some of it is just, I guess work ethic. I mean, that’s something you see with everyone, with, with athletes. I mean, even the ones you’re like, wow, they’re just really physically talented pro athletes. I mean, everyone’s real talented. So like what are the differences between the real, the real top ones? And almost always, it turns out they’re also the hardest workers.
They’re the ones who study the most, you know, kinda gets here. It’s about, in their case, taking care of their body. But actually that’s important for everyone. Probably can’t all get 12 hours of sleep like Tom Brady does, but uh, and has, you know, sleep layer or whatever he does, but that’s for him to compete in that sport at 40. That’s sort of what he needs to do. But yeah, work ethic and just kinda not stopping, probably being able to break things down into smaller chunks. So you’re sort of keep moving forward. One thing I have noticed about founders in talking to a lot of successful ones, that it seems like there’s sort of two kinds in sense that there’s one group that, and Joe falls into this and other people are for to sort of say some version of, you know, I always knew I wanted to run my own business.
I just kinda didn’t know what it would be. And so those were people that wanted to run their own thing and we’re sort of looking for the right idea. And then others who kind of thing, I’ve found this camp like unless it’s more like find something I’m really passionate about and then maybe like, well I think I’m also the best person to run this. You know, it’s like I’d never would have started that business or I haven’t ever started an email marketing business for example. Obviously Bronto is very successful and there’s, you know, MailChimp and lots of others and, but like I was not, I’m not passionate about email marketing. That might be a means to an end. But for me, and I think for, you know, another subset of founders, it’s like one of my really passionate about, and I can, I make that into a business, um, as opposed to, I know I want you to run something out and what’s fine, what I can do or what’s fine, what the market wants, you know, let customers tell me what to do.
It’s like, well, I don’t want to customers. I mean once you start something, well then you have to this thing, right? The thing you were passionate about, right? Yeah. Right. Or like at the start like I’m really interested in this and if the, and if the market tells me they want something slightly different, that’s fine. You know that. Then you got to respond. Then you have a business, but it isn’t in a field and that was for me when I was at Goldman, I’m still following sports all the time and I’m watching TV and movies cause those are passionate. You know, I’d be in the office, we get in and they’re like, Hey, did you see the game last night? You got in great conversation, sports conversation and be like, all right, let’s get back to work. It’s like, yeah, I just got excited about this conference.
I’m like, why can’t that be work? Got it. Yeah. That was one when I was a sports illustrated, one great thing about it was we had TVs on our desks. If someone walked by and you’re watching sports, you didn’t have to be like, Oh no, I can pretend you’re not watching sports. Even if, frankly it wasn’t what you were supposed to be doing. If you were supposed to be, you know, writing some other stewards or something else and you’re just watching it to watch it, you could be like, Hey, we’re watching sports Rollins sports. So you know, when I was as Sports Illustrated, I wasn’t falling oil and gas companies anymore. You know what I did at Goldman. That’s right. But like so like what are you passionate about? Sports and about entertainment and so that those are things I would do any, any way.
I would not follow finance, life and deathWithout making the amount of money I wouldn’t, I may not fall. I’m not sure whether now whether I’d be fallen startups all the time if I wasn’t doing this, but now I’ve been in that world for about eight years, so I’m not sure how inherently interested I am. I’d be interested in certain people. Sure. In lessons to learn. I definitely like reading leadership-y type books and I appreciate both the openness and the path because it’s just really interesting the way you’ve got. If you can show me a through line, like tell my mom cause that’s not sure. Yeah, she’s very concerned. Well, she’s happy I’m here though.
If you had a magic wand and let’s look at our macro environment as a country, if you had a magic wand, what would you change in the country?
Ah man, I don’t want to get political, uh, that’s difficult. Polarizing this era obviously, but, Hmm. But if I’m waving a magic wand…well I guess, see I prefer things to be less. I mean, yes, I prefer there’d be a different president. And in 2020, I’ll tell, I’ll just throw it, throw that out there. But some of it is, you know, we talked a little, uh, well you mentioned before Tim McLoughlin saying, you know, in this area, just because someone wins, that doesn’t mean someone else loses that this isn’t zero sum. I feel like things have become in this country very zero-sum. I mean, I think the person in the White House now, that’s literally his world view. That’s why his view on trade is, you know, it’s, it’s not we have imports. It’s because you know they’re taking from us.
It’s like, well, or there’s immigrants while I, if they’re coming, getting something that must be taken away from us. There’s no concept of like well make that could be growing the pie and so maybe your percentage is smaller. I mean that’s something that I think in startups you do certain learn or I dunno from watching Shark Tank, it’s sort of like, it’s like, well do you want to give up, you know this investment, you’re going to have less equity. You have to give up something. But are these people that can help you grow the pie and so that your percentage might be a little smaller but there’s going to be more for everyone with the value is high, the values is going to be increased and just, you know, as a community, I feel like this is a community, the startup ecosystem in particular where people are trying to help because it is true that I think people feel that a rising tide will lift all boats.
If there’s, you know, the more capital there is locally, well that’s good for the people here, but that also means is that there’s big exits locally. If that money flows to some of the local capital investors, well then they can return to their LPs and then they can raise a bigger fund. Having a unicorn or two here, you know, if Pendo has an IPO or you know, Red Hat gets sold, well then people will have money and they can invest here locally and that will be good for everyone. Nationally there’s less of a sense of national community that maybe there has been at some points, not this like, Oh, things were always so great before and now they’re terrible. But just – it’d be great if there was more of a sense of community as a nation and the way that even the startup ecosystem could be sort of a guide for that, that someone getting something that it’s not zero sum that we can grow the pie that anyone gaining is not at your expense, but that by bringing new people in and helping lift them up, that it kind of lifts us all.
I mean I think that’s a powerful way to end the episode because I think the startup ecosystem can be a guide to a better type of behavior. And that mindset is not really political. It’s just a different point of view that if we create more value everybody can win. And I really like that as kind of a culmination of our discussion because that’s a, that’s a point of view that is openness and supporting. And the more that we all can drive that, the more that it becomes the status quo versus the verbal food fights of our day. And so, you know, we’re all looking for more partners that kind of believe that same thing. And then we can kind of rise up behind the scenes even if that’s not what’s being covered.
And that’s – at Grepbeat, I mean, you know, we’re a journalistic entity, but we’re not, we’re not trying to blow the lid off, you know, the latest scandal. I mean, don’t tell my professors at Columbia this because they would not agree with anything I’m about to say, but I think we’re, you know, not necessarily booster-ish, but we are trying to actively help this community, the startup community. That’s Joe’s vision and that’s what we try to do. You know, we’re trying to tell the stories of the early stage startups and try to get them out there, help them because that’s good for everyone.
That’s awesome. Well listen, thank you so much. And Pete, we are glad that you spent time with us, and continued success with Grepbeat and we hope you’ll be a friend of the show and then we’ll stay in touch with all the different things we’re doing. And so thanks so much for hanging out with us.
Yeah, sure. Be sure get my newsletter. It’s a, it’s wildly entertaining. I’m told.
That was Pete McEntegart from Grepbeat.com. You can subscribe to his twice-a-week newsletter at well, Grepbeat.com. Follow along on twitter AT Grepbeat. And in the shownotes, we’ll link the article that Pete wrote for Time Magazine about the Tyco case which is called One Angry Man.
Thanks Pete for coming on the show and supporting the local startup community. It’s so true like he said that a rising tide lifts all boats and we’re seeing that so much in this area.
This episode was edited and produced by me, Jason Gillikin, for Earfluence. For more on the Earflucence Podcast Network, visit Earfluence.com or check us out on social media, we’re AT EarfluenceMedia.
Intro and outro music for this episode is “You Can’t Stop Me” from Jensen Reed. You can find more of his music at JensenReed.com.
Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time on Hustle Unlimited.