Editor’s note: WRAL TechWire asked a number of Triangle area thought leaders to discuss the possible implications of Epic Games’ lawsuit against Apple and the battle over mandatory fees charged by Apple’s app store. Scot Wingo, co-founder of ChannelAdvisor which ended up becoming partners with huge ecommerce service providers Amazon and eBay rather than competitors, and now CEO of startup Get Spiffy, speaks from personal experience about challenging “BIG TECH.” Wingo also is an angle investor.

MORRISVILLE – The first company I worked with (as an employee) was a 30-person startup and picked a legal fight with Microsoft. They spent millions on it and ended up ‘winning’, but got $1 from the jury.  As a small company, it doesn’t make any logical sense business-wise to me to pick a fight with a 800lb gorilla.

That company was Bristol Technology.

Therefore, I’ve always taken the tack to try and partner with the big guys.

How can we help you grow and support your initiatives?

By definition, even with very nimble big companies, a startup should be able to be faster and ‘stay in front.’

Get Spiffy photo

Scot Wingo

That doesn’t mean what Epic is doing is ‘wrong’, and I understand their principle argument, but it’s also created an existential threat to the company’s existence going forward.

I’ve never been in a position to want to make or make that level of a risk/reward decision.

On intellectual property

Intellectual property [IP] protection is interesting in the land of startups.  I run into these folks all the time that feel like they have a patent on something, therefore they have a golden ticket.

In my experience, if you have to choose, execution leads more to success than the ‘patent golden ticket.’

Here’s the problem, to get a patent is call it $20-100k  to defend/enforce a patent against a very large competitor is $500,000-$5 million.

At ChannelAdvisor and Spiffy, I’ve taken a dual pronged approach:

  • Some selective IP protections (patents)
  • Execute like crazy.

If there was a pie chart it would be 98% execution 2% IP protection.

Many startups, especially with technical founders, I run into, flip this.

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