DC Startup: Swapel Is Bartering For Startups And Small Businesses INTERVIEW

Swapel, Washington DC Startup,startup,startups,bartering startup,founder interview,craigslist,pando daily,betabeat,techcrunchWashington DC startup Swapel is all about bartering. It’s a different kind of bartering though, it’s bringing back the old b2b bartering network system that was popular in the mid to late 90′s.

Nick Barron, one of the co-founders at Swapel doesn’t know it but through both of our new media startups we’ve survived because of bartering. We’ve bartered ad space and social media expertise for everything from legal services, to design and even travel. Bartering is a great way for sneaker strapped startups to save vitally needed dollars.

That’s the foundation for Swapel. Swapel puts a layer of trust into the bartering ecosystem for businesses. Bartering is growing in popularity we’ve covered a handful of good bartering startups here at nibletz.com. Bartering on a consumer, person to person level is a lot different than bartering in business to business. At the consumer level most people are bartering tangible goods. I’ll trade you my riding lawnmower for your iPad. I’ll cut the tree branches down, if I can have all the fire wood. When people are bartering with each other it’s typically a straight up trade.

The problem when it comes to professional B2B bartering is that often times at least one of those in the barter or trade is performing a service that may not be executed immediately. For instance maybe you’re bartering legal services for tax preparation services. Perhaps the tax preparer is getting a contract drawn up immediately and the lawyer doesn’t need the tax preparation until the following winter. With trades like that you need a platform to manage them, add a layer of trust and a network of trusted service providers who are willing to barter. You can’t just go to the barter tab on Craigslist and trade SEC filing paperwork for wallpaper removal.

Barron and co-founder Shawn Scott are building Swapel in the thriving DC startup community. We’ve already been through DC twice on the sneaker strapped startup road trip and we know first hand how great DC startups are. In fact Barron says that one of their business role model is fellow DC startup founder Zvi Band of Contactually.

We found that out in more in our interview with Swapel below.

What is Swapel?

Swapel connects entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to grow their businesses by bartering products and services. We Swapel provide an easier, safer way for entrepreneurs to get the help their businesses need without incurring significant costs.

You can be an accountant needing someone to manage social media for your firm, and there may be an upstart social media consultant needing an accountant. Shouldn’t you be able to find each other? That’s what Swapel makes possible.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Shawn Scott, founder and principal at Mission Control Room, former CEO of Parking Logistics

Nick Barron, a digital strategist with experience at startups, in higher education, non-profit and B2B services.

Where are you based?

Swapel is one of many up-and-coming startups in Washington, D.C.

What is the startup culture like where you are based?

DC’s startup culture is vibrant, active and supportive. It’s exploded over the past four years. Even the most successful members of the community are willing to help the greenest entrepreneurs develop their ideas and found successful companies.

Everyone wants to get into the culture, not only because there’s opportunity, but because you feel like you’re in the middle of something big and happening.

What problem does Swapel solve?

Swapel solves the problem of small businesses and entrepreneurs not being able to afford professional services and products. If you’re well-funded, profitable and established, you can afford the professional designer, social marketing, or physical labor your business needs to grow.

Bartering is an excellent way to benefit from these products and services, except right now there isn’t a trusted, mainstream way to connect with other business people looking to barter. You’re left to the Craigslists and Fiverrs of the world, and what you receive on those sites is not what’s going to get your business where it needs to be.

From the upstart consultant to the established local storefront, entrepreneurs are looking for high-quality services and products that they often can’t afford. Swapel is a place for these entrepreneurs, where they know other business people are engaged and willing to trade products or services.

What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?

What we’ve overcome so far in our process is achieving validation. Part of the idea development phase involved a market analysis that showed there really isn’t a solution like Swapel. Does such a thing not exist because there’s no market for it?

We’ve learned going through the process that there is a demand for Swapel. As we’re in the early stages, few people know about us, but those that do are telling us this is what they’ve been wanting and needing.

Who are your mentors and role models?

He doesn’t know it, but Zvi Band and his company, Contactually, really is a role model for us because they’ve gone from idea to reality in DC in less than a year. We believe, if executed correctly, Swapel holds similar promise.

On a larger level, thinkers like Seth Godin and Eric Ries are certainly mentors for the kind of leadership we want to display in making Swapel a value-producing engine for entrepreneurs and a viable business.

What’s one thing the world doesn’t know about you or Swapel?

Swapel started as an email listserve idea. Nick wanted to just throw together a listserve for entrepreneurs who wanted to barter, and Shawn quickly walked him back from the edge of destroying a potentially good idea. The rest is sort of, almost, history.

What’s next for your startup?

Build-Measure-Learn, baby! Soon we’ll introduce an alpha version of Swapel for the very early adopters. Right now anyone can signup at Swapel.com to be included. In alpha we’ll listen and innovate based on customer feedback, then roll into beta for a wider audience.

We’re also taking meetings with potential investors, considering all options at this time. Currently Swapel is bootstrapped, but we’re considering an investment round or accelerator.


Sign up for early access to Swapel here

Check out Nick Barron’s blog here

Nibletz is the voice of startups “everywhere else” here are more stories from “everywhere else”

We’re on a sneaker strapped, nationwide startup road trip check this link out, we need some help


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