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RI PowerPlayer: Angus Davis

Monday, February 11, 2013


Every Monday, GoLocalProv.com shines the spotlight on one individual who you may not know that is making a large impact on Rhode Island. This week, we sat down with Angus Davis, the founder and CEO of Swipely, a fast-growing marketing company for local businesses that was just recently named one of Forbes Magazines’ “Most Promising Companies” in America.

Swipely founder and CEO Angus Davis had played a key role in keeping his Providence-based company growing and expanding each quarter.

1.) You’re the founder and CEO of Swipely. Tell us a little bit about your organization and what it does.
Merchants use Swipely to accept payments, understand customers and grow sales. Most restaurants and local retailers incur a large expense to accept cards, but see little value in return. At the same time, many small businesses struggle to use online marketing to grow sales. Recognizing these pain points, Swipely crunches the “big data” behind every card transaction to bring merchants powerful, easy-to-use analytics, online marketing and loyalty tools. For example, Swipely can identify a restaurant’s 25 most valuable customers, connect Facebook and social media marketing with sales at a boutique, or even determine the impact of weather on a spa’s business. Upgrading to Swipely transforms a necessary cost of doing business (payments) into a valuable marketing investment to grow sales, usually with no increase in cost.

Today Swipely proudly works with hundreds of popular merchants across the U.S., including local RI favorites like Trinity Brewhouse, Alayne White Spa and Nikki’s Liquors. We’ve helped these merchants better understand over 500,000 customers and have quickly grown our network to over a quarter billion dollars in sales under management.

2.) You created your business in 2009, at the height of the economic downturn. How have you managed to succeed in such a difficult economic environment?
The tough economy gives our merchant members even more incentive to get better marketing tools to grow the top line and squeeze more value out of their existing expenses. A breakthrough product can succeed in virtually any economic environment.

A company is only as good as its people, and we’ve been fortunate to hire incredibly bright alums from MIT, Brown, RISD and Northeastern and veterans of companies like Microsoft, Hubspot, SeamlessWeb and Verisign. Our biggest challenge is finding talent as we grow beyond today’s 40-person team - so I invite readers to visit our careers page at http://swipely.com/jobs!

3.) Talk about what makes your organization different and what you see for it in the future.
We’re bringing a little slice of Silicon Valley to Providence. What makes Swipely different from other small businesses is that we’re growing very rapidly. We have grown more than 50% in each of the last two quarters—a rate that most companies won’t grow during an entire year. While high-growth tech startups are the norm in Silicon Valley, they are less common in Rhode Island. We’re fortunate to have the backing of the tech industry’s top investors, and to have assembled a veteran management team with experiencing building billion-dollar companies in the past.

Looking ahead, 2013 is all about growth and continued innovation. We will rapidly grow our sales team, as well as other parts of our organization as we expand into new regions of the U.S. On the product side, we’ll continue adding value to the product for our merchant members, including new online marketing tools to grow sales.

Angus (right) once dressed up as a character from the Pixar movie "Up."

4.) Take us through a day in your life.
My son, Ryder, gets up around 7. He’s almost 10 months old, and I love starting my day with him!
Every day at 8am, our entire management team receives an email with key results against our objectives for the month. It’s basically a daily rhythm of the business, and I read it closely.
Depending on the season, I walk or take the quick drive into our office.
Morning meetings with heads of sales and product teams.
Depending on the day, return home for lunch with my family, or stay at the office. We bring in lunch every day for our team from local restaurants in the Swipely network.
Back to work for meetings with department heads, investors.
I sit on the board of RI Mayoral Academies, which operates one of our state’s top performing public K12 schools, and I am an active angel investor in over a dozen tech startups. These commitments keep me busy when I’m not focused on growing Swipely.

5.) Tell us something nobody knows about you.
Joanna and I once went in costume as the kid (Russel) and the old man (Mr. Fredricksen) from the hit Disney movie “Up.” (see right)
I have a beehive.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: My late grandfather, Robert Spink Davis. (Here’s what I said about him at his funeral)

Favorite Restaurant: I have many favorites, tough to pick just one! My wife’s favorite Providence restaurant is Bacaro, she loves their pasta dishes and I like the pancetta wrapped dates appetizer. When in my hometown of Bristol, I always visit my brother in law’s restaurant, Nacho Mama’s, for a great burrito.

Your Favorite Part of Winter in Rhode Island: Hosting our friends and family for the holidays.

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: A pile of “what to expect” books for first-time dads like me.

Advice for the Next Angus Davis: Be curious, take risks and aim high! One of my favorite sayings is, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” Get involved with causes that are meaningful to you. Find smart mentors you can learn from, and get close to them. If you’ve been in Rhode Island your whole life, spend at least a year in a major city elsewhere for some perspective—but then come home and help us make RI a better place to live and work.


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