February 16th, 2010
06:56 PM GMT
NEW YORK CITY – Let's face it: the news these days is pretty depressing. High unemployment, spiraling deficits, lawmakers quitting because the mood is so poisoned in Washington. So, it was a breath of fresh air when I sat down with Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter (@jack) to talk about his new company Square.
You might think that someone who has achieved so much so young might be… well… a little self-important. But I found the exact opposite. When I met Dorsey, he was passionate about his work, polite and generous with his knowledge – basically a really really NICE guy. Maybe it is his mid-western background that keeps him grounded, I don’t know. But it was refreshing.
Square, Dorsey’s new project is looking to take mobile banking to a new level. They have developed software and a small hardware device that will allow anyone will a portable computer or smart phone to accept credit-card payments. If you meet a friend for dinner and have no cash, you can whip out your card and pay them right there on the spot.
In the demo we did, Dorsey charged me $4 for the interview (well $3 and I gave him a $1 dollar tip!).
Banking through mobile phones is not new in Africa, but those of us in Europe and the U.S. are a bit behind. This payment system hopes to change that. Square is beta testing with iPhones now, but plans to expand to Blackberries, Android and laptops and officially launch this summer.
The day I interviewed Dorsey, we met at one of his local haunts, Third Rail coffee shop on Sullivan Street. The two proprietors are guys who left their former jobs in the pursuit of perfect cup of java (and they’ve come pretty close!).
Dorsey and I then talked about Square, the competition (a handful of other companies are also working on mobile payments systems) and tech start-ups and I left feeling… well… hopeful.
Despite all the gloom and despair, New York City is humming with entrepreneurs. Some are chasing their own dream, some working on new ideas that have the potential to radically change the way we live/do business. And there isn’t any economic data that captures that. No monthly government reading that measures innovation. It is important to remember that when you read yet another headline about sub-par growth and lost jobs (even if I am the one writing, or saying, it!).
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