@jack comes to Princeton to talk Twitter, Square


Editor’s note: On Sept. 25 Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square, visited campus at the invitation of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club to speak about his experiences as a tech entrepreneur. As an homage to Twitter, PAW blog contributor Gavin Schlissel ’13 covered the event in a series of 140-characters-or-less observations and quotations.


Walking in the door, 15 minutes to showtime. Greeter thrusts brand new, free “Square” into my hand

10 minutes to showtime: “hello! im @jack” on the projector, “Beautiful day” on the surround sound

The event is hosted by @princetoneclub — the group also hosts hackathons on campus & leads trips to Silicon Valley

Are we here to see him or vice versa? @Square marketing team showed up in force

Dorsey ( @jack ) steps out into wing, gray sport coat with one button buttoned … He looks like he’s done this before

.@jack panders to @Princeton “one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen” #true

Completely packed house — I’ve never seen McCosh 10 this full or this quiet. Dean Dunne, President Tilghman on hand

Setting the context for the talk: it’s going to be about “how do we change something that affects every single person on earth?” >>

<< @jack has done this twice >>

<< First by untethering people from mass media (Twitter) then by delivering merchants from archaic credit-card policies (Square).

.@jack : creativity is an ongoing process. Projector shows an unfinished painting—a heavy-handed metaphor but fitting and well-received

.@jack : “An idea that changes the course of the company can come from anywhere.” Companies should embrace new ideas.

Dorsey borrows Steve Jobs’ phrase about the culture of continuing innovation: “It has to be built into the DNA of the company”

Motivation for square: credit card payment should be easier: “The industry that created it has not innovated at all” in 60+ years.

.@jack breaks down credit cards: merchants pay 3-7% on transactions to cover credit card fees that just fund reward programs 

Square philosophy: buying things should be really easy: “It feels like stealing… it feels really great. Not that stealing is great…”

Square pitch: de-clutter mom and pop stores — eliminate “cash drawer with a calculator on top” and that pesky card swiper

The app even asks you if you’d like to tip — merchants have seen an increase in tips

Best sell I’ve heard yet: Square enables merchants to track sales of different products; powerful new analytics available

.@jack : “We’re not just building a utility, we’re building a beautiful utility”

Forum opens up to questions, Dorsey asks for ideas for how commerce can be easier. First Q: What about Google wallet?

.@jack : "What’s Google wallet?" Shirley Tilghman (@Google trustee) grins and looks away #awkward

Square wants to be more than a payment device — wants to be a source for information and service for commerce

Random aside: apparently Square HQ has a lot of #bacon? @jack says hipsters love the stuff

If I may editorialize… It seems like startups love to ascribe their success to little, idiosyncratic things >>

<< At Square they push in chairs every night and hold meetings at standing desks, keys to their success. Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

Audience question: how do you settle on a name and a brand identity?

.@jack said the name was gold once they found it: "town square… square up… fair and square… oh my god this is perfect”

Closing: @jack says the best businesses are receptive to their customers and don’t resist good ideas >>

<< #hashtags, @ signs & RTs, even the word ‘tweet’, came from users. Twitter just listened to its base. They did the hard work.

Square is hitting it big: "We are the first result on Google… we are before the Wikipedia article for the actual shape, square.”


Gavin Schlissel ’13 is a molecular biology major from Moraga, Calif.

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