SEATTLE – Even though Gravity Payments – a company that helps businesses process credit cards – is now 10 years old, it did not receive any publicity until five years ago. Why?
“Because up until 2008, I had my age,” said co-founder and CEO Dan Price with a smile.
That is because Price launched the company from his dorm room at Seattle Pacific University when he was just 19 years old.
“When I started the company at 19, people would ask me, ‘How old are you?’” Price said. “And I had two responses: I would either laugh or I’d say, ‘I’m 12!’”
Cupcake Royale was one of his first clients.
“I remember when he came out to the café to meet up, it’s like, wait a minute. You’re Dan?” owner Jody Hall said with a laugh.
By age 23, Price felt comfortable enough to reveal his age.
“I feel like at 23, if there was a drivers license for business owners, I was old enough to get it,” he said.
He was right. And a wave of publicity followed for the processing prodigy, including an article that dubbed him “Young and in charge.”
“I don’t know about the in-charge part, but I guess I was young,” Price said with a grin.
As a young boy, Price was homeschooled, making him the coolest kid in his class by default. When he started attending school with others, he admittedly struggled making friends, until he and a few classmates formed a rock band.
By 8th grade, they were touring. By 9th grade they recorded an album. Price served as bassist and manager, making the band his first business, giving him his first taste of credit-card processing.
“I was like your 16-year-old tech guy, but I specialized in payments,” Price said.
Three years later he launched his company with a focus on helping small businesses reign in credit-card fees.
“It seems like an unnecessary fee that’s just stealing money out of their pocket,” Price said.
To clients like Cupcake Royale, that is important. The typical transaction – a cupcake and cup of coffee – is rather small, yet 70 percent of their customers pay with credit cards, so fees can add up.
“It’s really, really confusing and difficult to navigate, and Dan was really great at just breaking that down,” Hall said.
Gravity Payments now employs 100 people, catering an office lunch each week with food from various clients and adhering to a strict open-door policy. In fact, Price shares an office with other managers to encourage communication.
“[With] any physical separation, there’s an emotional barrier that’s created that is hard to break through,” Price said.
The Small Business Administration was so impressed with Price, it named him the national Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010. As part of his reward, Price got to meet President Obama.
“Dan is the epitome of a great small business owner,” said Nancy Porzio, the SBA’s district director. “To have all of that at such a young age, Dan is number one in our books.”
Price delivered the keynote address at the SBA’s regional awards banquet this year, on the same night GeekWire named him “Young Entrepreneur of the Year.” He attended both programs, yet he somehow found time to honor a third commitment: a late-night co-rec soccer game, in which he scored the game-winning goal.
Success seems to follow Price wherever he goes, but he takes nothing for granted.
“The moment you think you have something figured out is the moment you slip into being naïve,” he said. “I don’t know everything, but at least I have an appreciation for how little I know.”
Now 29 years old, Dan Price is still young and still very much in charge.