Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time with Jim McKelvey

Jim McKelvey is a serial entrepreneur, inventor, philanthropist, artist, and author of The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time.

He is the co-founder of Square and served as the chairman of its board until 2010, and still serves on the Board of Directors.

In 2011, his iconic card reader design was inducted into the Museum of Modern Art.

McKelvey founded Invisibly, an ambitious project to rewire the economics of online content, in 2016.

He is an Independent Director of the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

About the book:

In 2009, a St. Louis glassblowing artist and recovering computer scientist named Jim McKelvey lost a sale because he couldn’t accept American Express cards. Frustrated by the high costs and difficulty of accepting credit card payments, McKelvey joined his friend Jack Dorsey (the co-founder of Twitter) to launch Square, a startup that would enable small merchants to accept credit card payments on their mobile phones.

Now, in his new book, THE INNOVATION STACK: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time (Portfolio/Penguin Random House; March 10, 2020), Jim McKelvey recounts the startup’s against-the-odds survival of a direct attack from the most dangerous company on the planet, Amazon, and reveals the business strategy that made Square impenetrable—what he calls the Innovation Stack.

After finding out that major credit card companies were profiting off small businesses at a rate of forty-five times higher than big billion-dollar corporations, McKelvey realized that his problem was a big issue for a lot of people, and a good reason to start a company.

Drawing on his firsthand experience as cofounder of Square, McKelvey shares how they approached the problem of credit cards with a new perspective—including questioning the industry’s assumptions, experimenting and innovating their way through early challenges, and ultimately achieving widespread adoption from merchants small and large—with no expertise or experience in the world of payments.

With fascinating and humorous stories of Square’s early days and historical examples of other world-changing companies built on the Innovation Stack, McKelvey reveals a pattern of ground-breaking, competition-proof entrepreneurship that is rare but repeatable.

THE INNOVATION STACK is an irreverent first-person look inside the world of entrepreneurship, and a call to action to find the entrepreneur within ourselves and identify and fix unsolved problems—one crazy idea at a time.

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