A Q&A with SwipeStation co-founder Sam Fresco. The Hertfordshire, UK-based startup, which offers a mobile device-connected scanner and printer for on-premise event marketing, announced in late July that it has raised £300,000 in Angel funding from investors Neil Sikka and Adrian Grumi. It was founded in 2012 by Fresco and Syd Nadim, and spun out of digital marketing agency Clock.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Fresco: SwipeStation targets environments with high footfall and rich dwell time. The product design of the unit helps to enhance the customer journey, not disrupt it. This means embracing the user’s behavior when they’re engaged with a campaign, and offering a platform to really support a wide variety of markets.
Our current targets are the hospitality, leisure, and retail sectors, because they present a fantastic opportunity to drive onsite spend and repeat business.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates SwipeStation from the competition?
Fresco: The beautiful thing about inventing your own product is there is no real competitor. Due to the nature of our product, SwipeStation has kept the foundations simple, allowing for significant creative potential.
Furthermore, we have very much adopted the knowledge, skills, and experience of the agency environment we live in with our sister agency Clock. This means we stand out with a real consultative and creative outlook for clients. We’re so eager to explore technical and creative solutions that we see any competitors as potential partners.
SwipeStation can deliver true in-venue innovation, connecting online and offline seamlessly. We enable brands to achieve a lot more and to be increasingly creative through their consumer engagement and campaign tracking—which is the holy grail for brands and retailers.
SUB: You recently announced that you’ve raised £300,000 in Seed funding. Why was this particularly good time to raise funding?
Fresco: We’d invested a huge amount of money, sweat and tears getting SwipeStation to a stage where we were ready to seek investment.
I’ve put heart-and-soul into this business, and it’s a huge vote of confidence that two experienced businessmen share the vision and are willing to invest a considerable amount of cash into helping make that vision a reality.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds, and do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Fresco: We plan to use the funding to enable us to implement our marketing strategy, allowing us to focus on reaching our goals. Right now our aim is to land grab. We believe SwipeStation is a fantastic, innovative product, and now it’s about showing the world what it is capable of.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for SwipeStation? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Fresco: The ‘aha’ moment came when we realized how creative campaigns can become when a screen, printer and scanner work in conjunction with smart phones and/or printed media.
Working in-and-around a digital agency allowed us to hear clients’ challenges. One major client was struggling to close the loop on knowing who engaged with their campaign. The inspiration behind SwipeStation was the solution to this client’s struggle—a true business problem, one where digital provided the right in-venue verification.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Fresco: After creating a minimum viable product, we had a working prototype. It was only constructed of gaffer tape and polyboard, but still gave SwipeStation the chance to be shown to clients. This in turn gave the opportunity to pilot our product in a real live venue. Once that was successful, the results spoke for themselves.
Following on, I seconded the business as SwipeStation’s first full-time member of the team. From then I began looking to see who else was interested in what we achieved with Red Bull and Yates’s, which opened the door to campaigns with Pepsi and Empire Cinemas. Once we had another amazing case study under our belt, we then started looking at gaining permanent clients and investment. It was important showing there was a business case and that the funding would be wisely used to provide good value in building a team and getting us into production. We wanted to be in a business-ready position to really hit the market hard with a loud bang.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Fresco: The name ‘SwipeStation’ was born out of a necessity and its functionality. We had this product that could accept scanning from multiple devices, but we were adamant to steer away from the words ‘scanning’ and ‘kiosk.’ We really wanted a name that was alliterative and could roll off the tongue. SwipeStation felt like a natural, memorable fit.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Fresco: The most significant challenge to my budding business is the hardware. Being a hardware business means it is always difficult because there is a lot of upfront CAPEX costs in order to get our product built and to have all our hardware in place. There are also potential technical difficulties as there are so many different components within the device.
As a company we have continued to learn. We are now on the third iteration of our product and it is truly the culmination of our learnings.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Fresco: We plan to generate revenue by renting units out on a weekly basis. This commercial structure means we can ensure that SwipeStation and the client can both maximize the use of the product to drive activity in venues and successful campaigns.
SUB: What are your goals for SwipeStation over the next year or so?
Fresco: Our goals are to really build up the team and invest in our people. We are also looking at building SwipeStation’s presence in other countries. We have particular interest in territories such as Australia, UAE, South Africa and USA. These are core places we are looking at expanding into.
There is lots of interest all over, so right now the goal is to keep focused and roll-out nationwide across the UK in order to start establishing a network. Our utopia is the opportunity for partner advertising and marketing for brands across the globe.