SwipeSum founders Michael and Steven Seaman share beers at Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. The scene is from a video the brothers produced to introduce their company to St. Louis. When Michael Seaman founded payment-software company SwipeSum in 2016, he couldn’t imagine building it anywhere but Southern California.
BY DAVID NICKLAUS FOR THE ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH. LINK HERE
SwipeSum founders Michael and Steven Seaman share beers at Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. The scene is from a video the brothers produced to introduce their company to St. Louis. When Michael Seaman founded payment-software company SwipeSum in 2016, he couldn’t imagine building it anywhere but Southern California. It’s where he lived, for one thing. The Los Angeles area had a vibrant startup culture and was home to large companies in the payments business. To him, L.A. was the natural place to start his company.His brother and co-founder, Stephen, concurred at first. When SwipeSum began signing up investors and customers, though, he began pushing back on his brother’s choice of location.
Why St. Louis? Stephen Seaman, 33, who had lived here for four years, knew about the city’s growing startup scene, and he knew whatever money SwipeSum raised would go farther here.“It got real when we got the first check from our first investor,” Stephen recalled. “Someone had trusted us with their hard-earned money, and we had better use it wisely.”Michael, 30, a former professional pole vaulter, continued to argue for L.A. until he visited St. Louis for the first time last fall. He quickly changed his mind.“The one thing I was really concerned about, and the reason the L.A startup tech scene is so successful, is the culture around it,” Michael Seaman said. “People work really hard, but they have fun doing it. I found out you have all the same stuff here.”SwipeSum is now based at the Industrious co-working space on Washington Avenue. Michael Seaman moved to St. Louis in January and found himself quickly invited to meetings with other tech startups, with potential investors and with Clearent, a Clayton-based credit-card processor.
After a few weeks here, Michael Seaman is convinced that the business will grow faster than if he had stayed in California. “We have pretty aggressive plans,” he said. “This move now looks like a no-brainer.”SwipeSum is seeking to raise $2.5 million in seed capital and getting ready to hire a sales staff. Stephen Seaman said he expected to hire the first employee soon and to have between 10 and 12 employees by the end of this year.
As SwipeSum recruits, the brothers hope to stand out by giving each employee a MacBook laptop and $2,000 annual vacation stipend.SwipeSum’s software lets merchants set up an auction in which credit-card processors bid for their business. Michael Seaman, who worked in the industry for several years, says he’s trying to bring transparency and cost savings to what is often a business’ second-largest expense, after labor.“The whole industry is built around hiding as much margin as possible,” he explains. “There’s no way for business owners, without a lot of research, to find the best holistic solution and best rate for their business.”To introduce their business to St. Louis, the brothers created a video in which they visit Busch Stadium, the Fox Theatre and other local attractions. The video starts with Michael saying, “I just moved to St. Louis from sunny California, and it’s (bleep) cold.”Later, he calls St. Louis “the most ideal spot to plant our roots” and says SwipeSum has “aspirations of being the most dynamic tech startup in St. Louis.”Michael Seaman says he was gratified to see the video get 10,000 views the day it was posted. As he’s finding out, St. Louis is the kind of town where everybody wants to meet, and ask if they can help, the new startup kid on the block.