Payment processing company Swipely is announcing a $12 million series B today. That’s a nice chunk of change for any company, but it’s particularly nice for one based in the not-so-techy-hot-bed of Rhode Island. For investor Josh Kopelman, the underdog location is part of what made the deal attractive…at least to him.
Angus Davis is kicking off Swipely ‘s weekly management meeting, and he wants to hear just one thing: Quick wins. “Matt?” Davis gestures at the startup’s VP of sales, Matt Oley, who doesn’t miss a beat. The sales team is on track to meet this month’s goal, Oley reports. “Raise the goal!” Davis shouts hoarsely. The five department heads laugh.
Swipely, a startup that allows local businesses to manage customer loyalty programs using credit card purchase data, is announcing new features, so those businesses can measure the impact that their online efforts have on in-store sales. First, there’s a new capability called Campaign Insights. Founder and CEO Angus Davis said it’s built on the analytics capabilities that Swipely launched last year, except it applies those customer-tracking and segmentation tools to determine whether a company’s online and offline marketing efforts are successful.
Angus Davis was an early employee at Netscape and an entrepreneur who co-founded Tellme Networks, which sold to Microsoft for $800 million. Now he’s at it again with payment processing start-up Swipely, and he offered to share his secret — and why he loves being located in a city (Providence) not often touted as a tech epicenter.
“Rhode Island is a great place to live, but isn’t known for having many high growth tech companies,” he told me in an email. “I hope to change that. I am originally from Rhode Island, and a after spending over a decade in the tech field in Silicon Valley, when I returned to Rhode Island I wanted to bring back a bit of the Silicon Valley spark. Providence is ideally located between Boston and New York, and we have some great institutions of higher ed here.”
As for what’s made him so successful, Davis shared a number of thoughts.
“I am fond of the phrase, ‘If you don’t ask, the answer is always no,’” he wrote. “I was lucky to begin my career as the youngest employee at Netscape in 1996 and learn from wonderful mentors.”
Surrounding yourself with those kinds of smart people makes it easier to continue learning.
When Sandy struck the East Coast, Providence was largely spared. But Swipely, a startup based in the Rhode Island city, had a different problem: The storm wiped out its chance to sell its payments service to businesses up and down the Northeast Corridor, where it had focused its salespeople's efforts.
That didn't stop Angus Davis, the company's CEO and cofounder. Swipely had already built tools to automate the time-consuming process of calling on local businesses. It used those to switch gears in real time.
"Within an hour, we had created a list of 1,200 merchants in the Atlanta area," Davis recalls. Software displayed everything from Yelp reviews of the business to local weather conditions. Instead of losing momentum in the post-Sandy chaos, Davis says his company built a "beachhead" in the southeastern U.S.
Less than a year ago, Swipely launched a payments service that replaces a business's existing credit-card processing with a more sophisticated, Internet-linked payments service. (It was a big change from Swipely's initial notion of encouraging consumers to share their purchases with friends.) Nothing changes at the cash register, where clerks swipe cards as usual; Swipely promises to match or beat the fees merchants pay to accept cards. What merchants get in return are online dashboards and marketing tools tied to the transaction data Swipely tracks—a sort of Google Analytics for retail.
This year, Providence-based Swipely expanded from providing a card-linked customer loyalty service to becoming a full-blown payments processor — and one that can offer payments data to merchants in a way legacy processors can't.
The venture-backed firm is now seeing $12 million a month in sales processed through its system, up from $4 million a month in September. Swipely is targeting merchants which are seeing $500,000 to $3 million per year in sales volume.
Swipely began life as a way for consumers to share their credit card purchases, similar to Blippy and Facebook’s controversial Beacon feature. Then, Swipely switched it up and worked to help deliver deals and loyalty points to consumers. Now, the Providence, RI company started by former TellMe founder Angus Davis is finding its groove as a merchant-facing service that processes card payments and delivers data analytics and marketing tools.
Angus Davis thinks Swipely can help independent restaurateurs and retailers give their customers an experience as personal as at an Apple Store. It starts with processing payments, then collecting and analyzing data about each and every transaction, and, finally, equipping business owners with the data and marketing strategies to build and win back loyal customers. Davis made headlines in 2007 when Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) bought his fast-growing voice-recognition business Tellme for nearly $1 billion, at the time the Seattle behemoth’s largest-ever purchase of a private company.
Three months ago, Swipely launched our revenue management platform to help local merchants accept payments, track customers and grow revenue. Today, I am proud to announce Swipely is managing $1,000,000 in sales each week on behalf of our local merchant partners.
Introduction to Swipely: Accept Payments, Track Customers & Grow Revenue
Once a service for simply sharing purchases, Swipely is contining its evolution into a credit-card based loyalty program for small businesses with a set of new merchant tools it announced Tuesday.
The company first launched as a way to share your credit card purchases with your friends, but when that idea (as deployed by Swipely and others) failed to take off, Swipely shifted its focus to helping merchants with their loyalty programs. Today, it's launching the Main Street Marketing Manager, which includes the existing loyalty tools as well as more detailed analytics and a way to launch campaigns that target lapsed customers.
Small businesses are looking at an increasing number of digital loyalty programs, which replace the traditional paper punch card and help merchants reward their repeat customers.
“We don't think people want to share their purchases. Period,” says Angus Davis, founder and CEO of Swipely, a purchasing-sharing startup similar to Blippy. That no longer is the case. Effective immediately.
Our guest on Octane this week is Angus Davis! Angus is a serial entrepreneur, who spent many years in the Bay Area as an early employee of Netscape and then he co-founded Tellme Networks, which was acquired by Microsoft for ~$800M. As a native of Rhode Island, he is now working on his latest startup (this time based in Providence) called Swipely.
It's always thrilling when somebody looks at the Way Things Have Always Been Done, and then asks: Why?
Providence, Rhode Island-based Swipely, like a Blippy without the prices, has made its transaction tracking service available to the public today, officially leaving private beta.
Flaunt every purchase online, for the world to see? Who would do that? For one: A guy whose last idea, Tellme, sold to Microsoft for $800 million.
After high school Angus Davis skipped college for Silicon Valley, where he signed on at Netscape as the Web browser's youngest employee. He and his former boss, Mike McCue, bailed Netscape in 1999 to start Tellme, which helped users search for information using phones. They sold the company to Microsoft in 2007 for $800 million. Last year when Davis left the world’s largest software maker he was searching for another big idea. He found it in his wallet.
The over-sharing movement gets a new player today with the debut of Swipely, another site that allows people to publish information and start conversations about their everyday purchases.
While it's easy to rag on Blippy for their controversial model (making credit card transactions social), and their security slip-ups (making credit card numbers social), it's hard to deny that there is something compelling behind the idea. If there weren't, no one would use the service. Enter Swipely, a service that also aims to make your purchases more social. But rather than focus on the money, they focus on the transactions themselves.
Received $7.5M Series A Funding
Participation Index Ventures, eujrmoq, First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital, SV Angel, Keith Rabois, Anton Commissaris, Lee Hower, Charles Moldow, Emil Michael, Angus Davis
Mark Brooks wants the whole Web to know that he spent $41 on an iPad case at an Apple store, $24 eating at an Applebee's, and $6,450 at a Florida plastic surgery clinic for nose work.
The social buying site Blippy is part of what one might call the Internet's “Too Much Information Movement,” which I write about in Friday's paper.
Received $125k Angel Funding
Received $875k Angel Funding
Participation First Round Capital, Angus Davis