Consumer Product Search Engine SEA App Aims To Be ‘Kayak For Shopping’

By July 24, 2012

Since 2010, Chesterfield, Missouri startup Growth Systems has been developing a consumer product search engine that aims to level the playing field for online retailers of all sizes. Where most product search engines favor big-name retailers in their results, the Search Engine App (SEA) won’t hesitate to show the customer the lowest listed price for the product they’re looking for no matter the online retailer, eliminating the growing bias of popular price comparison engines.

“SEA is the Kayak for shopping,” wrote the founders. “We consolidate millions of products online from electronics, shoes, books, and even car parts.”

SEA was developed by Growth Systems, a Missouri startup founded by CEO Walter Harrison and COO Chris Benningfield, who originally began working on the venture out of their CPA’s office in St. Charles. The pair used the office space in exchange for letting him do their books, admitted Harrison. After a year of experimenting and days spent writing and rewriting business models, the founders decided they needed to focus on building a search app. “Chris and I were avid online shoppers, and we were consciously looking for a way to simplify it,” Harrison said. “Hence the SEA App was born.”

The CEO admitted that much of the startup’s inspiration comes from search competitors like Google, which is intensely focused on the power of near-instant results. “As Eric Schmidt said, ‘Never underestimate fast’ — that is something we work on very much,” Harrison wrote, conceding that the SEA App still has progress to make in that area.

But it’s that need to progress and constantly improve the product that keeps the SEA App’s founders motivated. “Trial and error is the best way to learn,” said Harrison. “The culture we are creating at Growth Systems is to never settle for ‘just good.’ I am a firm believer in your current good times are only a result of the hard work and dedication you have put forth… We try very hard to avoid complacency.”

The company’s drive to improve its product has paid off, according to Harrison. SEA is currently used internationally by millions of users, whose successfully completed transactions are the main source of monetization for the company. The CEO said that while the product is currently web-based, the company hopes to create mobile versions of the unbiased search engine in the future.

Growth Systems first raised funding for the SEA App in the Spring of last year. Harrison said the company is finalizing another round with Hal Gentry of St. LouisCapital Innovators.

Though the company has had no problem securing funding, Harrison said they have continued to dedicate themselves to the lean startup model with which they began. “We believe less is more and we never want to get rid of the feeling of hunger,” he wrote. “I have seen large rounds of funding make it seem that the startup has arrived at something, when in reality the work has just begun.”

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Corey Cummings

Corey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he received degrees in English and Creative Writing. He currently lives in Chicago and enjoys alternately obsessing over video games that aren't out yet and crazy gadgets he can't afford.