Staats: How a Nampan built a business from his dorm room

Here's a story about a Treasure Valley boy who made good - and wasted little time doing it.

Dan Price, who grew up in Nampa, started a business at age 19 in his college dormitory room. Now 24, with a brand-new degree from Seattle Pacific University, he has 37 employees. He says his company, Gravity Payments, has become the biggest credit-card payment processor in the Seattle area.

Price's first exposure to business came at age 15, when he was the bass player and manager of a rock band that wrote and produced all of its own music and sold 2,000 records.

He grew up in a business-minded family. His father, Ron Price, is a well-known Valley business consultant who serves on the board of the Better Business Bureau serving Southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon.

Through his father, Price said he learned about "a lot of industries the average person probably wouldn't become aware of." And he began to understand problems from merchants' point of view. That's how he spotted an opportunity in credit-card processing.

"I saw three fundamental problems with the industry," he said. "One is, across the board, people felt like they were paying hidden fees or didn't understand what they were paying. Second, everyone felt they were paying too much. I found that small businesses were paying five to 10 times as much in some cases as chain businesses.

"And then there was just no relationship, no local support. If you're lucky, you're calling a help desk in Indiana. If you're unlucky, you're calling a help desk in India."

With the help of his older brother, Lucas, Price set up the payment-processing business and began serving small Seattle-area businesses like restaurants and retailers.

By the time he was 23, the business had expanded to serve customers nationwide. Gravity Payments now claims a growth rate exceeding 150 percent last year. Price thinks he'll do $5 million in business this year.

His company charges about a third as much as competitors, he says. The company offers local support and an executive on call 24 hours a day.

Price returns to the Valley six or seven times a year, mostly on business. The company has an office in downtown Nampa with two full-time employees and a part-timer. "We have a few hundred customers in Idaho, if not more," he said.

Meanwhile, he has married Kristin Lewellyn, whom he dated at Nampa Christian High, where he graduated in 2003.

"A lot of my closest friends I talk to weekly are still there," he said. "I love seeing those people. But there are financial advantages to being in a big city. You can grow more quickly here. And I love it up here too."

Of Micron, Qimonda, and the power of the Web

If a tree falls in the forest, does it matter if the tree isn't on the Internet?

When Boise financial adviser Dave Petso interviewed a Micron executive on Petso's KIDO-AM (580) show in late August, the executive, Kipp Bedard, talked about Micron's interest in acquiring other companies. Bedard, the vice president of investor relations, mentioned the "decimated" stock price of Qimonda AG, a struggling Micron competitor based in Germany that employs 13,500 people. Bedard didn't directly say Micron wants to buy all or part of Qimonda, but he did cite its bargain price right after saying Micron is looking at opportunities for acquisition.

That was significant to investors in Micron and Qimonda - and it's relevant to the Treasure Valley economy, because it could delay Micron's plans to build a new fabrication unit here. But not until the Statesman's report (which I wrote after I happened to turn to Petso on my car radio while running Saturday errands) was posted on the Internet did the news gain traction. Then anyone who had punched "Micron" or "Qimonda" into an automated Yahoo! search could read it. "Micron exec hints at Qimonda deal talks," said a MarketWatch headline Tuesday, the first business day after the Statesman story appeared.

Qimonda's stock rose as much as 18 percent in trading Tuesday, while Micron's fell slightly. By the end of trading, Qimonda had settled back to a 7 percent gain for the week. Micron was up 2.6 percent for the week to $4.36.

Local News Editor David Staats oversees Idaho business coverage and blogs at E-mail