Payments startup Square just filed to go public.
In Jack Dorsey’s founders’ letter, he says that the company’s goal since the beginning has been to make the entire payments ecosystem “faster, more affordable, and more accessible.”
“We’ve built one of the fairest and most efficient payments businesses in the world,” he says.
Dorsey also revealed that over the past two years he’s given over 20% of his own equity back to Square, and a new organization called the “Start Small Foundation,” which will invest in artists and small businesses in underserved communities around the world.
He also committed to giving an additional 40 million shares to this cause now.
Here’s the full note:
We started Square because Jim McKelvey, our co-founder and my second boss (after my mother!), couldn’t accept a credit card for his art.
Setting up a merchant account was painful. The application process required lots of paperwork and took months. Banks asked for multiple credit checks and years of financial history. And when we were finally approved to accept cards, we couldn’t decipher the rates we were paying. Then our first deposit was held. The entire process was exclusionary and unfair.
Square was born out of our experience. We built a working prototype: a mobile credit card reader that plugged into the audio jack of an iPhone and an app to enter an amount and process the payment. But it took us a year to convince the financial industry to allow us to make Square broadly available. The problem was not with the technology, but with the system.
We decided to make the entire system faster, more affordable, and more accessible. We gave the card reader and software away for free. We settled funds next business morning, which required us to advance money to sellers faster than we received it. We abstracted away the byzantine maze of interchange pricing to offer a simple fixed rate per swipe, which forced us to find ways to lower our costs immediately. Every one of those decisions carried existential risks that we trusted we’d be able to overcome with time. And we have!
Creating more inclusion and greater equality in the global economy is both a social need and a huge business opportunity. We’ve made it our purpose: empower people with beautifully simple tools that give them an advantage where they previously and unfairly had none. Our strategy to realize that purpose is straightforward: grow our payments service, extend payments into financial services, and extend payments into marketing services.
We’ve built one of the fairest and most efficient payments businesses in the world. We made it possible to accept card payments in less than five minutes. We priced all payment cards at the same flat rate and eliminated complicated fees. With Square Cash we’ve built a network that works for both individuals and businesses, online and offline. We believe sellers should be able to accept any type of payment, from cash to cards, Apple Pay to bitcoin, and whatever the future may bring, so they never miss a sale.
The strength of this business is more than the money it generates. The collective power of our millions of sellers sustains a scale from which we can build valuable financial services and marketing services, creating reinforcing and virtuous cycles back to our core business of payments. We’ve made getting capital as easy as tapping a button. We replaced pen and paper accounting with real-time insights into sales patterns and customer trends. Everything works together seamlessly to help our sellers make smart decisions for their businesses. When they succeed, we succeed.
By making our services accessible to everyone, we can build a more fair and productive system that serves instead of rules. This is both good for Square and the right thing to do. We’re off to a strong start.
As a public company our decisions will continue to reflect what we’ve done as a private one-we put our customers first. That means constantly asking the question: how can the financial system better serve people? We’ll measure ourselves by our commitment to take the long view and focus on building a company that creates value over decades and not just a few fiscal quarters out.
Here’s the part about Dorsey’s equity:
I believe so much in the potential of this company to drive positive impact in my lifetime that over the past two years I have given over 15 million shares, or 20% of my own equity, back to both Square and the Start Small Foundation, a new organization I created to meaningfully invest in the folks who inspire us: artists, musicians, and local businesses, with a special focus on underserved communities around the world. The shares being made available for the directed share program in this offering are being sold by the Start Small Foundation, giving Square customers the ability to buy equity to support the Foundation. I have also committed to give 40 million more of my shares, an additional 10% of the company, to invest in this cause. I’d rather have a smaller part of something big than a bigger part of something small.
We intend to make this big! Thank you for your support and potential investment in Square.