It's not shocking that Jack Dorsey refrained from discussing Twitter at the opening day of GigaOm Roadmap 2013 in San Francisco on Monday. The micro-blogging service Dorsey co-founded has gone quiet in the final stretch before an initial public offering this week.
Instead, Dorsey chatted with GigaOm founder Om Malik at length about Square, the mobile payment startup Dorsey co-founded with Jim McKelvey a few years after helping to create and launch Twitter while working at the now-defunct podcasting service Odeo.
Malik made light of the gag order Dorsey's currently under regarding public discussion of Twitter, joking at the outset of the talk that the only topic off the table would be the St. Louis Cardinals' recent World Series loss to the Boston Red Sox.
"Don't rub it in," replied a somewhat dour Dorsey, who originally hails from St. Louis.
Roadmap attendees didn't get the last-minute dirt on Twitter they may have hoped for, but they did get an earful from Dorsey on the philosophical underpinnings of Square. The mobile payment company recently released Square Cash, a new service that lets users transfer funds to recipients via email—a product which the Square CEO described as of a piece with his company's mission to "make commerce as easy as communication."
"Square Cash launched three weeks ago. We can push money right to your debit card without you having to go through your bank account," Dorsey said. "When I received my first dollar from our engineers [via Square Cash] ... it was eye-opening."
Making monetary transactions hassle-free, simple to execute, and a value-add to both buyers and sellers have been the driving principles at Square since its founding in 2009, Dorsey said. In addition to its original Square point-of-sale credit card reader, the San Francisco-based company has released products like Square Wallet, Square Register, and now Square Cash to further those goals.
These products are part of Dorsey's vision for Square, a payment company that's "not about payments."
"As we evolved, we figured out that this is not about payments. It's about commerce and the activity between buyers and sellers," he said. Dorsey's take on the cash transactions that make the world go round and even money itself — it "touches everything but everybody on the planet feels bad about it at some point, it's a burden," he said — may seem a bit rich for a fellow who stands to become very wealthy in a few days' time, but his larger point is reasonable.
Dorsey and Square argue that the business of exchanging money for goods and services is distracting at best and sordid at worst. Better to make the payment process quick, painless, and quickly forgotten, so buyers and sellers can engage in the more uplifting, humanistic aspects of commerce.
To that end, Dorsey claimed that Square works hard to eschew another sometimes slimy aspect of business, marketing flim-flammery.
"We have this principle in the company which is, 'show, don't tell.' We don't want to go around the world saying we're going to build the best way to do transactions through your phone, we want to show that," he said.
"Four years ago, nearly five years ago now, we built a very simple card reader that plugged into your mobile phone and the first time we showed it to people, they said, 'wow'. So to pay attention to that principle, we want to make something internally that we feel great about. Which was very, very hard in the first days of the company, because a lot of us in the company, we weren't merchants and we weren't sellers," Dorsey continued.
"We framed it as, what we all are, is buyers. We love these merchants and we want to do right by them, and we don't them to have to deal with these ugly point-of-sale systems. Our mission at Square is to make commerce easy, as easy as communication. It's not about the swipe of the credit card, it's everything that happens before and everything that happens after."
Other rival companies are keen to cash in on NFC technologies, with IBM creating a dual-factor authentication tool for mobile and PayPal trialling mobile payment with facial recognition.