While I was still at TechCrunch, I would often get asked what startup excited me the most. That’s a massive question. There are a ton. But for the past year and a half, one was always at the forefront of my mind: Square.
Now that I’m a VC, the question is flipped: terms aside, what company would I love to invest in? The answer is the same. Square.
Of course, they don’t exactly need my money — they’re now at the stage where behemoths like Visa are doing strategic investments. And they’re closing $100 million rounds at billion-plus valuations. But I think back to May 2009, when Mike and I were working together to break the news about Jack Dorsey’s new project, then codenamed Squirrel. If only we had the CrunchFund back then…
Of course, at that point, the idea was still more of an intriguing, but somewhat crazy-sounding dream. It wasn’t until Square launched seven months later that it became apparent that this could really be a massive disruptor. And they haven’t disappointed.
My favorite thing about Square is that they always seem to be one step ahead.
Square put a core focus on user experience and design from day one. Now — especially after Steve Jobs’ passing — such things are stated to be a key area of focus for just about every new startup I meet.
Meanwhile, while everyone was busy buzzing about NFC, Square did something ingenious. They created an app, Card Case, that basically mimics the functionality without the need for a special chip. I’ve used it a few times at some local spots, it’s like magic every single time.
It’s something human beings can use with little or no instruction. In fact, the hardest part will probably be convincing everyone that it’s a legitimate way to pay. There’s no hassle. Nothing to do. We’re not used to that when it comes to payments.
Google and others are putting a lot of emphasis on NFC, but we’re still years away from that being a viable reality for most people in this country. Instead of panicking when the giants started moving into that space, Square sat down and thought about what would work right now.
In the VC world, the whispers amongst those not invested in Square tend to be that they’re not exactly killing it. After all, the revenues are still a tiny, tiny fraction of what credit card companies see. But then you see reports like the one today.
Buried in the headline that Sir Richard Branson is investing in Square is a key nugget:
The company recorded $10 million in daily transactions for the first time this past weekend, spokeswoman Katie Baynes told Reuters, up from the $4 million per day in gross payment volume that it announced during the summer.
Square remains at the forefront of my mind. Not as an investor — which again, I’m not — but as a user and someone genuinely interested in seeing technology change the world. They’re a startup that’s doing something awesome in a truly amazing way.
Many startups look up to companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook — and rightfully so. But it’s important to remember that there are plenty of smaller, growing companies out there as well that are setting standards that others should aspire to. Companies like Square.