MiB: Jim McKelvey, Co-Founder of Square



This week, we speak with entrepreneur Jim McKelvey, author of “The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time.” McKelvey is the CEO and founder of Invisibly and (with Jack Dorsey) co-founder of Square, where he currently sits on the board of directors. McKelvey also chairs the board of directors at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

McKelvey was an engineer by trade but enjoyed glass-blowing as a hobby. The idea of Square came about when he could not make a sale to a customer because he did not have a way to process AMEX cards. He discussed this issue with a former employee — a whiz kid programmer named Jack Dorsey — and Square (now Block) was born.

He explains how Amazon came at Square with a competing product, creating an enormous threat to their business model. Square was too busy at the time to respond to Amazon, which led to an accidental strategy of winning against Amazon by focusing on the customer and ignoring the competition. When Amazon withdrew from the space, they sent all of their clients a Square to replace their own product. But the experience led McKelvey to explore why they beat Amazon, and the result was of that research was his book The Innovation Stack.

A list of his favorite books is here; A transcript of our conversation is available here Monday.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Tina Vandersteel, head of GMO’s Emerging Country Debt team and serves as portfolio manager for GMO’s external and local currency debt portfolios. Prior to joining GMO in 2004, she worked at J.P. Morgan in fixed income research developing quantitative arbitrage strategies for emerging debt and high yield bonds.



Jim McKelvey Favorite Books

The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time by Jim McKelvey

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

My Early Life: 1874-1904 by Winston Churchill

Winston S. Churchill’s The Second World War Series by Winston Churchill



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