Welcome to Seed: Banking for Small Business

May 5, 2017 | Brian Merritt

When I was growing up in Arizona, my parents ran a small flight school at a municipal airport. If I wasn’t otherwise occupied running around the airport getting into trouble, I watched them work as hard as two people could, giving up sleep and the other comforts of normal life to build their business. They worked so hard because it wasn’t just a business for them. It was the culmination of my dad’s lifelong dream to share his love of flying with people, and it was a chance for them to strengthen their partnership by building something together. I didn’t understand anything about business at the time, but I knew that what they were doing meant the world to them. Even as a kid, it made me proud.

As financial difficulties piled up, I also watched the company fail, driving my parents into debt. It was more than just a business loss for them. It was the end of a dream. I saw firsthand how devastating it can be for small business owners when they fail. It was heartbreaking.

I’m not going to say, “If only one thing had turned out differently…” This isn’t that kind of story. There are too many variables involved in running any business. Success is elusive and frustration is sometimes the only real product. I think if they had access to smarter advice, more support, and more helpful banking and business services, they would’ve had a better shot at succeeding. Just a little bit more help might have made a difference.

Inspired by the courage and perseverance I saw in my family, I grew up and went on to start several businesses myself. I got to inherit from my parents, and everyone who’s ever decided to start a company, all the hassles that every founder faces. In thinking about the problems that hit me every day, I began to wonder how to make it easier for anyone to start, manage, and grow a business. Folks like my parents, and me, and anyone who is willing to embrace the challenge of going out on their own. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could help others avoid the fate of our family business.

Somewhere in there, the idea of building a bank that was dedicated to helping small businesses took hold, and Seed was born. Seed is not just about banking, though. It’s about making it as painless as possible for folks to take a risk, go out on their own, and build a business. It’s about giving more families like mine a chance to achieve their dreams.

Why Do Small Businesses Need a New Bank?

My cofounder Ryan Hildebrand and I started Seed because we saw a need for a bank that focuses exclusively on serving small businesses. Believe it or not, this didn’t previously exist.

As lifelong entrepreneurs, Ryan and I have felt the pain of poor banking service and technology, and have spent many restless nights dealing with the challenges all small-business owners have to face. So in part, Seed is about scratching our own itch — to have a bank that can actually help us as business owners and give us a competitive advantage, rather than being just another hassle.

Today’s small business owners have unique banking needs. They want to know that their service providers are there for them when they need support or advice. They want to use modern, beautifully designed products. They want more help with the day-to-day management of their business. And, more than anything, they want to be confident that they’re running their business responsibly.

But if they want the combination of modern technology and great service, they’re underserved by traditional banks today. It’s often one or the other. Business owners might be able to get great technology from the big, traditional banks, but the service is generally poor. Or, they might get great service from community banks, but the technology is no good. By combining both approaches we can serve a community that wants to have the best possible technology while still feeling supported by real people who are there to help them.

We believe that by offering banking services designed exclusively for our community, we’ll make it a little bit easier for our members to start and run their businesses. Over time, we strive to help in more ways by offering additional features and diverse business services built around our open-banking platform. But every business needs a bank account, so by starting with making banking less of a hassle, our hope is that our members will rest a little better at night knowing that everything is under control and we’re always here to help.

The Idea Was Simple Enough: A Bank in Your Pocket

Until a few years ago, traditional banks seemed permanent, reliable, indestructible. The financial crisis and a steady decline of the expensive branch-based legacy banking model have squashed that vision. Considering our competition, we knew that we’d need to keep our costs low and focus on building our service around the best technology and world-class service to provide a better experience for our members. So we built Seed to be online and mobile, a bank in your pocket backed by a team of empowered, passionate entrepreneurs ready to help whenever needed.

Our decision to focus exclusively on mobile for our first product is a reaction to changes we’ve seen in the business world. Modern business owners often eschew offices for co-working spaces, coffee shops, or public parks with good wifi. We hope that having Seed right there wherever you go will provide peace of mind. We’re only just starting to explore the range of possibilities in having financial control of your business at all times, and we’re excited about sharing more of our work with you over time. We’re working as hard as we can to make it easier for all of us to start, manage, and grow a business.

With That in Mind

If we can remove some of the unknowns, business owners can focus on growth and on the day-to-day decisions that define that business. If we can make it easier to run a business, more folks will take the leap. Maybe some people will get more sleep, or get to spend more time with their families. Who knows?

We’re proud to begin offering early access to Seed now, during National Small Business Week. We plan to serve our community in a number of ways. We’ll be a bank in your pocket but also a resource. Check back for content in the coming weeks on everything from the dangers of a consumer banking account to the dangers of a pretentious email signature, for insight into branding and co-working and what successful entrepreneurs’ desks look like. We’ll be fielding confessions from freelancers, talking to economists about the role of small business in the economy, and figuring out what it means to be a sole proprietor these days. There will be music.

And we’ll meet some of our members and find out what they do. Just having members to meet is a joy for us. For the year we were in development, we were the only company using Seed, so I used to joke that we had the world’s most boutique bank — we built it just for ourselves.

Thankfully, that’s no longer true. We built Seed for you. Welcome.