Jim McKelvey is a serial entrepreneur, inventor, philanthropist, and artist. He cofounded the mobile payments company Square and sits on the Board. He also founded Invisibly, a digital content company, LaunchCode, a nonprofit that teaches technology literacy, and a glass art studio. His book is called The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time.
Some interesting insights from this episode:
- He has never had a life plan and because of that, he’s become very comfortable with uncertainty.
- He was a state debate champion and owed much of his success to the ability to read the judges and adjust his strategy accordingly.
- “If you want to be successful and make some money, copy what works. But if you want to have a phenomenally successful company, you have to do something original.”
- The big insight was rather than going after an existing market of merchants already using credit cards, Square decided to go after a market that didn’t even exist – the tiny mom and pop merchants without access to the credit card payment networks.
- They designed a small card reader that looked really cool and got your attention but was flimsy and difficult to use. But the novelty of it turned every Square sale into a Square advertisement. This allowed the product to go viral without needing to spend one dollar on advertising.
- What allowed Square to survive a competitive attack by Amazon and thrive as a standalone company was their innovation stack. An innovation stack is a series of innovations needed to provide a new product or service and that collectively work together to provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
- Training as an artist was a big help in mentally preparing to be an entrepreneur.
- “Excellence is something that’s above and beyond normal good. It’s something that’s surprisingly wonderful.”
New startup: Invisibly