Single people have Tinder, Match and Coffee Meets Bagel. Now, small businesses (SMBs) have a matchmaker, too: SwipeSum, a marketplace whose goal is to pair them with the best credit card processing solution for their unique business needs, at the best price on the market.
As the startup sets up shop in St. Louis, it is offering that matchmaking service for free to local businesses as it chips away at a $2.5 million seed round (that’s on top of $300,000 in angel investments).
The idea, according to Michael Seaman, SwipeSum CEO, is to provide an experience and service similar to what Kayak offers for travel, except in the payments space. The platform essentially pits credit card processors against each other and lets the merchant decide which package and price it likes the best.
It’s a disruptive approach that could, if it takes off, really shake things up for traditional processors.
Starting and running a small business is no small feat, Seaman said in an interview with PYMNTS. POS, electronic payment acceptance and integration are essential to the business, but complicated, and it’s not always easy to find a processor who can make them all dance in time.
As a result of this complexity, he said, most SMBs simply don’t have the time or bandwidth to find the best processor for their unique needs, and that’s why many of them end up paying more for payments processing than they should.
It’s a problem that Seaman founded SwipeSum to solve on behalf of SMBs, enabling them to save time finding the right solution while saving money on processing fees, which can then be reinvested back into other areas of the business.
Kayak for Payments
Seaman paints a picture of a restaurant with multiple locations. This business needs POS hardware and software that not only enable transactions at each location, but connect to a central hub that the business owner can use for reporting and business planning.
That restaurant may also do catering, a function that the restaurant owner manages as a separate line of business via invoicing and through QuickBooks, and may even have a food truck that needs a mobile POS solution of its own that communicates with the central hub.
When a merchant decides to check out SwipeSum, the process starts with an online consultation from the SwipeSum website. Then, the site curates a network of credit card processing companies and adjacent products that could be a good fit to deliver a holistic solution.
Now, when the business owner sits down to do his research, he is only seeing the best possible options for what he needs. He chooses the one he wants, and SwipeSum makes the introduction – just like on Kayak, Seaman said.
Merchants can also come to SwipeSum for services like quarterly audits, chargeback solutions, point of sale solutions and finding places where they could save on interchange fees. This, said Seaman, is where the company makes its money, not from the marketplace.
Instead, the business model relies on paid services and referral commissions (similar to how Kayak and other travel websites work) to generate profits. That’s why it’s able to give its matchmaking service away for free to St. Louis businesses, Seaman explained.
SwipeSum Sets up Shop in St. Louis
When Seaman helped found SwipeSum in 2016, the executive team was spread out across the country. At the time, the founding members were all working full-time corporate jobs. But when the marketplace started to gain traction, it was time to move SwipeSum off the back burner.
Seaman said the company first looked where every tech startup looks: Silicon Valley. They soon learned, however, that there was opportunity to be had in St. Louis.
First of all, there was affordable real estate there, and lots of it.
There were also incentives for startups to move to the city. For example, Arch Grants offers $50,000 grants to area startups to help create jobs and revenue for the city. That sort of program isn’t always available in bigger cities, Seaman noted. Plus, he said, the St. Louis area has some of the best schools in the country for hiring tech talent, including Washington University and St. Louis University.
Seaman further noted that St. Louis is going through rapid growth and change – he called it a “young blood revolution” – where certain parts of town offer a cheaper cost of living, thus attracting young, artistic types who are transforming the city into a hip and trendy place to live.
Trends like co-working spaces, typically more popular on the coasts, have made themselves at home there – and now, tech startups (also once relegated to the coasts) are starting to see this “heartland” city as home, as well.
“You don’t have to be in the Bay Area, and you don’t have to stress about taking on venture capital,” Seaman said. “You have a longer runway to get started. It’s a perfect place for startups.”
A Warm(ish) Welcome
SwipeSum was able to generate some media buzz as soon as it got to town. The budding startup hub was eager to hear about a company with L.A. roots coming to town. The press attention garnered some investment interest, Seaman said, but the company wasn’t getting any traction with local businesses who could actually benefit from the platform.
Seaman said SwipeSum soon learned that the answer won’t be a marketing gimmick (as much as he enjoys making comical, viral videos to promote the company on social media). That’s why he said the company is offering free services to St. Louis businesses – it’s giving back to the local business community in exchange for their support.
The free service campaign will be ongoing until further notice, so SwipeSum can keep a running tally of how much it’s saved for local businesses and use that hook to generate further business leads.
There are consultancies that do what SwipeSum does, Seaman is quick to admit. There are experts and websites that offer something comparable to its marketplace. There is competition in the space, said Seaman, but not directly in terms of platform and services.
Seaman noted that what the company did differently was to emphasize execution to help businesses find the best solution quickly and holistically, with further help just a click or tap away if needed.
Because of its unique and early positioning in the market, Seaman said, SwipeSum has been able to gain traction with early partners – and with big ones. It is now working to build awareness through individual marketing.
In the next year, Seaman hopes to expand SwipeSum’s team and offerings, as well as to accelerate the delivery of recommendations. Right now, he said, it can take a few hours to deliver multiple offers for one holistic solution for an entire business – and in this day and age, greater speed and convenience are the keys to staying ahead of the competition.