Providence-based Swipely recently moved to a bigger office in the center of Rhode Island’s capital city. The building that now houses the company’s offices is actually right across the street from Providence City Hall (supposedly, the building served as the base for the FBI allowing them to keep a close eye on infamous mayor Buddy Cianci).
It’s no coincidence that Swipely founder and chief executive Angus Davis located his company’s new office in the heart of Providence. Davis, who was Netscape’s youngest employee when he joined the web browser company at age eighteen in 1996, is a native of The Ocean State. He also has some pretty strong feelings about the state of Rhode Island’s economic development these days.
After working at Netscape, Davis went on to start his own company in Moutain View, CA.
“I went on to build TellMe over the course of ten years to its acquisition by Microsoft (for a hefty sum), that’s when I decided to come home to my native New England,” Davis told me recently.
Swipely has a suite of software solutions for point-of-sales systems that aim to make life easier for local merchants. The company offers a variety of business tools for its customers that make payments, analytics, and marketing simpler.
“Our ambition,” Davis said, “is to build an operating system for local commerce.”
Davis said that this quarter, ending at the end of this month, will mark the seventh straight quarter in which Swipely has grown its “top-line run rate” on the business by 50 percent or more. Additionally, he said that Swipely has over 80 employees today; they started last year with fewer than 30 employees.
“A lot of what is on the road map for Swipely is informed by that growth,” Davis said. “We are experiencing a period of hyper growth where we are having more and more customers, but we are providing the customers we already have with more and more value through our products and services.”
When I asked Davis about what was next for Swipely and if IPO plans were on the horizon, he said, “Our ambition is to build a large durable business for the long haul. I try not to think about what the exit or end is, because very few companies who do that create value for their customers, for their employees, and for their investors.”
Angus Davis’ Rhode Island
Swipely’s home state has been garnering negative headlines for the way it is trying to build economic growth. First, there was the calamity of the government’s investment in Curt Shilling’s 38 Studios. More recently, it was a pension reform story that showed that the state hasn’t learned much from its past mistakes.
Davis himself told me that, “Rhode Island is anything but a bastion for business growth and entrepreneurship.” For example, Davis said that the Ocean State is the worst in the country right now for unemployment. “There are fewer people with jobs in Rhode Island than when the supposed recovery began years ago. While other northeastern states have largely benefited from the recovery, Rhode Island hasn’t,” he said.
“Rhode Island has suffered from weak leadership and a climate that has been bad for business,” David added, “and it has suffered with things like a weak education system that has undermined the state’s ability to thrive over the long haul.”
Davis said that he cares about the economic health of the state not only as the chief executive of Swipely, but as a native Rhode Islander who wants his kids to grow up in the state and have the opportunity to become successful.
“In the words of Steve Jobs,” Davis said, “We want to make a dent in the universe, and for [Swipely], we’re trying to do our part to try and fuel entrepreneurship and opportunity in Rhode Island.”
We are part of a growing cadre of businesses thriving in Rhode Island,” he stated, “which proves that the state isn’t backed into always being regarded as bad for business.”
“My hope,” Davis said, “is that Swipely grows into a large, independent, durable business with hundreds of employees some day down the line. If those people in turn, leave Swipely, I want them to help build the next Swipely.”