Sean Harper is the co-founder and CEO of FeeFighters, a comparison shopping website for small business financial services. Their unique auction process and comparison engine allows us to save businesses 40% on average on their credit card processing. Before that he was the co-founder of TSS-Radio, an Inc500 company that sells satellite radio equipment online.
Prior to his entrepreneurial ventures, Sean worked as a venture capitalist at Longworth Venture Partners and William Blair Capital Partners and as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group where he worked on a number of projects in the payments industry. Sean holds an A.B. in economics from the University of Chicago, where he also studied computer science and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
What are you working on right now?
Business owners get ripped off by their credit card processors. FeeFighters is like Priceline or Kayak for credit card processing and helps business owners get the very best honest rate without wasting too much time shopping, negotiating and comparing.
Our software gives a true apples-to-apples comparison between each of the options so the business owner doesn’t need to worry about undisclosed hidden fees, they are all included in the comparison.
3 Trends that excite you?
Check out this Newsweek article – this is what happens when stuff gets cheaper because technology makes us more efficient at producing stuff. My business provides incredible customized comparisons between different service providers, for free. Before us, hiring someone to do that work would cost $1000s.
The Future of Money
Technology is disrupting our financial system, increasing capabilities and lowering prices. Geeks are being set loose to reform the money system and great things will result.
Services like AngelList are making angel investing much more efficient.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I run my businesses as experiments. I figure out what I would need to know to make the business a success. For example, how many potential customers are there? what will my conversion rate be? How much will it cost to attract traffic?
Then I figure out the cheapest / quickest way to figure out each of those unknowns and then run the experiment fast.
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
My mistakes always stem from trying to do too much at once. I get excited and want to pursue everything.
Most people can only handle doing a few things at once. I am making a conscious effort to be more focused.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Every year the number of wind turbines increases and they break all the time. A wind turbine services business or a seller of wind turbine spare parts would both be cool businesses.
How can I ensure that I don’t get ripped off by my credit card processor?
First, insist on no cancellation fee.
Having a cancel fee reduces your flexibility to leave if something goes wrong and reduces your provider’s incentive to do a good job.
Second, get interchange plus pricing. Interchange is the wholesale rate for credit card processing and “interchange plus” means that you are paying a fixed markup over the wholesale rate. Processors are good at monkeying with the rates to rip you off, but if you have interchange plus it makes it much harder for them to do that. Only a minority of businesses have interchange plus, but almost all big businesses do, because they know it results in better deals.
Third, when you shop, compare at least 5 interchange plus bids. Let them know that you are shopping around.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
My wife and I recently had a son. He is 4 months old now and figuring out how to balance that responsibility with my entrepreneurial compulsion is difficult. My tendency is to work a lot, which doesn’t work quite as well with a baby at home.
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