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.”

 

Show Notes

Book: The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time

Non-profit: LaunchCode

New startup: Invisibly

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