Payments Views

Innovation

It’s Hip to Be Square!

So you really want to be a merchant – and accept card payments simply and easily? Jack Dorsey wants to be your friend. Hope you’ve got an iPhone!

Earlier today, Dorsey and friends announced the launch of Square. Dorsey, co-founder and chairman of Twitter, is certainly a celebrity founder and CEO. TechCrunch notes that apparently Square is worth something like $40 MM – before they’ve launched.

What’s all this excitement about? According to Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch post: “What PayPal was to eBay, Square is to the real world,” said one person close to the company.

Square seems to be aiming at democratizing merchant card acceptance for physical face-to-face card transactions – a heretofore arcane marketplace that required folks like you and I to qualify for traditional merchant accounts from merchant card acquirers.

PayPal did exactly this almost 10 years ago in the online, ecommerce space. It enabled folks like you and me to be able to accept payment cards in real time – for non-card present payments.

The promise of Square is that I can do the same thing – but, with my iPhone, accept payments cards in a physical, card present environment – and that I can do so with a truly minimalist setup, not requiring the overhead of qualifying for a traditional merchant account. Suddenly, all the parents at the school bake sale can pay for their cupcakes with their debit cards via my iPhone as the POS terminal.

What’s not completely clear at this point is how Square is navigating the existing card company rules to be able to pull this off. But they appear to be doing so. As Arrington notes: “The green field potential is massive.”

Square includes several other interesting features. Email and text receipts – instead of paper. Photo verification of participants. A built-in merchant loyalty scheme that allows Square acceptors to define their rewards. Charity donations – a penny per transaction to the charity of your choice.

At the point, Square is in a limited beta. You can request participation at the bottom of Square’s web page: http://squareup.com/

Square is innovating card acceptance on several fronts – we’re excited about the possibilities. It’s yet another example of the iPhone as the platform for mobile innovation! Meanwhile, follow Dorsey and Square on Twitter for the latest updates.

How about you? Are you signing up for Square?