Feb 24, 2017

Jack Dorsey talks Square, public pressures and politics

Jack Dorsey is best known as co-founder and CEO of Twitter, but it's his other company ― Square ― that set Wall Street tongues wagging this week with better-than-expected earnings and a hearty stock price bump. In fact, the financial technology company closed trading yesterday at an all-time high.

Axios spoke to Dorsey via phone about Square, his thoughts on being a public company CEO and, of course, Trump. The quick read:

  • He cares about profits, even if Square doesn't have them yet
  • Customers want big merchants to feel small
  • Tech founders shouldn't fear taking companies public
  • Square will release a diversity report
  • You don't have to take a meeting with the president to influence policy

Does profitability matter?

"It's important to get to that milestone, and it's one we've really set ourselves against. It's important to build a company where you have control, so you can choose to either invest in the growth of the company or more in profitability. So we're building something that can really reach that level."

Did Square Capital benefit from troubles at companies like LendingClub and Wells Fargo?

"To be honest I hadn't really considered it. We definitely take note of what's happening in the market, but what sets us apart from everyone else is that we have a deep understanding of the seller. Not just its name or business type, but really developing a strong relationship that gives us an advantage when determining how much risk to bake into our model. It's hard to compare with others because no one else has that level of understanding."

Does Square risk those smaller company relationships as it signs more large sellers?

"No, because we've seen a lot of companies start with one location and go to 11. Or 10 to 40 and then 40 to two countries. Our model is really simple: If we build tools to help sellers grow, we grow. That's success. For larger sellers, the real challenge that emerges is feeling smaller to your customers, having more human connection. That's why a lot of merchants turn to Square in the first place, like going to the floor and meeting a customer right at the dressing room, for instance, and taking the transaction right there."

On the Caviar acquisition beginning to look better (even though its financials aren't broken out):

"Well, I'm really used to negative perceptions and turning them into positives. The reason we bought Caviar in the first place was that we saw an opportunity to unlock the restaurant market… It focused on delivery and gave restaurants a superpower to make more sales no matter its number of tables or table turnover. Just focus on the kitchen. It goes back to the mindset of wanting to build tools to help sellers grow. We have Caviar customers who only use us for delivery, but we also have ones who use our point-of-sale system and Square Capital."

Will Square release a diversity report?

"We plan to do it. I'm not sure of the timeline just yet."

On tech founder fears of becoming public CEOs:

"It's definitely a transition, but it's not all that different from how, as a private company and especially as a startup, you take on investors and a board and are constantly having conversations about the company's performance. You can be a bit freer in the private world and the velocity of feedback and criticism is much higher with a public company, but the fundamental questions and accountability are the same. There are a lot of benefits to being a public company in terms of awareness, which is especially true for things like recruiting."

How Trump policies, particularly in terms of spurring small business lending by banks, will impact Square?

"There hasn't been anything firm yet on policy, so it's hard to opine on hypotheticals. As we get closer to answers we'll do the work."

Would he have gone to Trump's tech CEO summit, if invited ?

"What's not important is who was or wasn't invited, but rather that we continue to give feedback to our leaders and government about what's right and what's wrong. And I can do that from anywhere."

Go deeper

Top Trump ally sounds 2020 election alarm over coronavirus response

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

There is growing concern among top conservative leaders that the Trump administration isn't addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus, several sources tell Axios. One top adviser said if the recovery is bungled it could cost President Trump the election.

What we're hearing: "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets reelected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Federal Reserve board, told Axios. If the administration mishandles its economic recovery efforts, he said, Trump is "in big trouble."

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,600,427 — Total deaths: 95,506 — Total recoveries: 354,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 465,329 — Total deaths: 16,513 — Total recoveries: 25,410Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  6. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  7. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  8. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  9. 1 SNL thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return this weekend in a remotely produced episode.
  10. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy