Do small businesses need another bank–or another way to bank? I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ryan Hildebrand, the co-founder at Seed, the first full-service digital bank alternative designed for small business. Not surprisingly, Hildebrand thinks the answer is yes! I interviewed Ryan to find out why.
Laurie: Can you give us some background information about Seed? When did you get started, and why?
Ryan: Seed started in 2014. We have 15 employees and are mostly a distributed team with offices in Portland, OR and San Francisco, CA. Prior to Seed, our previous banking startup was Simple, which helped consumers with their personal checking and financial needs. We’ve long felt that small businesses deserve better from their banks. Starting and running a business is hard enough, banking shouldn’t be.
Laurie: What does Seed do, and who is it for?
Ryan: Seed is a mobile first banking service. Designed with the small business in mind, Seed empowers small businesses with modern, easy-to-use digital tools and customer-support resources for starting, running, and growing a business.
Traditional banks have struggled to take care of their small business customers because they only have two banking options to offer — consumer or enterprise. Consumer banking products don’t offer all of the features and service small businesses need, while enterprise offerings are unnecessarily complicated and expensive. Seed is solely focused on serving the small business community. We’re responding to the frustrations of small business owners by offering an alternative to the status quo – a complete online banking service designed specifically for the 28 million freelancers, micropreneurs and much larger small businesses with dozens of employees and millions of deposits.
Laurie: How is Seed different from other banks?
Ryan: Seed is built from the ground up to serve small business. It’s our only focus. We have the standard banking services that one would expect, but we do it better with great technology and service. For instance, we started mobile first. Users can do everything on their phone, which many traditional banks don’t offer. We can support your needs through both phone and in-app messaging, allowing the busy business owner to reach out to us on a Friday night after a long week.
We’ve also spent time automating monthly cash flow reports that save time spent on understanding what’s going on with your business. Owners can categorize, search, and take memos of their finances. We also allow you to store bills, receipts, and documents alongside transactions.
Aside from these specific features, we listen to our customers and are constantly building for their needs. As a technology company first and a banking service second, we are constantly innovating.
Laurie: Does Seed it integrate with small business accounting solutions like QuickBooks and Xero?
Ryan: Seed works with all accounting platforms. We’ve also partnered with QuickBooks and Mint to allow closer integration.
Laurie: I know you recently conducted some research with small business owner about their banking needs. What data points really jumped out at you, and how is what you learned influencing where you’ll take Seed?
Ryan: We learned that 46% of banks don’t offer small businesses an intuitive, simple bank app; the present and the future of business is mobile. But many banks aren’t adapting to these needs.
We also found out that 76% of small businesses do not receive valuable business advice from their banks. The first thing you do when you start a business is open a bank account. The community banker used to be the person you’d go to get advice on things like your business cash flow or products that might fit your needs, but this is no longer the case. We want to be the old school community bank adviser, but online.
You can see all the data and findings from our survey here.
Laurie: You currently charge $9/month for Seed, but you’d mentioned to me that you plan to make it free soon. What’s the reasoning behind that?
Ryan: We listened to our members and prospective members and felt that even a nominal fee didn’t align with their best interests. Even though 40% of small businesses pay on average up to $300 year in monthly fees to banks, we want to reduce friction around monthly fees to help our members grow.
Laurie: Well that certainly removes a big barrier for small businesses! Thanks so much Ryan for sharing this information–it certainly looks like Seed has an interesting offer that small business owners can check out here.