#square

Kyle Vanhemert spoke with Square’s VP of hardware, Jesse Dorogusker, about their new card reader:

The redesign also gave Dorogusker and company a chance to tweak the feel of the swipe itself, which is a crucial detail that makes the product itself feel trustworthy despite its tininess. By tweaking the design of the spring to which the magnetic read head was attached, the team was able to fine-tune the friction customers feel when swiping their card. At one point in development, they found that the level of contact they needed to successfully transfer data from a card resulted in a swipe that felt too loose. And when the swipe felt too loose, it felt like it wasn’t working, and would thus require another swipe. So they increased the friction above what was actually needed–an adjustment that was overkill from a technical point of view but resulted in a swipe that felt perfect to the hand.

Design is how it works…

Not surprisingly, Dorogusker came to Square from Apple, where he most recently led the development of the Lightning connector.

Farhad Manjoo on the new Square Stand:

Translation: Credit cards will be here for a good long time. This isn’t a novel admission; Dorsey has always said that he doesn’t think plastic will go away anytime soon. But the launch of the Square Stand—a device engineered to improve the credit card experience—shows how deeply Square is betting on credit cards. It’s as if, after building the Model T, Henry Ford also spent a lot of money to build a faster horse, just to hedge his bets. In this way, Square Stand prompts a deeper question: What if, as wonderful as Square Wallet is, we just never move beyond credit cards? What if people find faster horses good enough?

It’s bad enough that Google Wallet co-founding engineer Rob von Behren left the Google Wallet team (following several others out the door). It’s worse that he left Google. But subsequently joining Square is the ultimate kick in the nuts.

As is von Behren’s entire comment to NFC Times:

When I left the Google Wallet project in January, I fully expected to stop working in payments but to remain at Google. After meeting the team at Square, however, I decided to do the opposite. Square is doing some great things in the payment space. They have a strong leadership team and a culture that fosters innovation.

The unstated implication there is that Google is not doing some great things in the payment space. Nor do they have a strong leadership team. Nor do they have a culture that fosters innovation.

This just keeps getting worse and worse for Google.

Square Is Trying To Take Magic Mainstream

Just in case my love letter last November didn’t make it abundantly clear, I’ll reiterate: I love Square. We’re not investors, but I wish we were. I love both the business and the product. And if that level of admiration makes this post biased, then color me conflicted.

Apparently well aware of my tweets and posts, the company brought me in to show me the latest thing they’ve been working on. It’s the evolution of their Card Case product to morph it into a more central part of their overall strategy. It’s technically called “Pay with Square”, but when installed, the new app simply reads “Square”.

That’s telling. Square, the card reader (now appropriately called “Square Card Reader”), has been the way most people think of the product and company. But that’s limiting because it’s so focused on merchants. It’s a great business, and an important one — but if Square is truly going to revolutionize payments, they need to get the consumers fully on board.

Enter Pay with Square. Using Card Case has been nothing short of magical. It’s one of those experiences that when it happens, you wonder how the hell they did it — and also why the hell it hasn’t been done like that before?

But there’s a flipside. Because the experience is so magical — so natural — it almost seems as if something is wrong when it happens. It simply can’t be that easy. You can’t possibly pay for something simply by saying your name and doing nothing else, right? The most common reactions I’ve seen to Card Case in public are “now what?” and “that’s it?”

That’s Square’s biggest barrier to entry with Pay with Square: they need to convince people that they don’t need to put up with the nonsense they’ve been doing for decades. You don’t have to swipe a card. You don’t have to sign anything. You pay by having your smartphone on you. And your payment is verified by your name (and face). 

With Pay with Square, Square is ditching the wallet metaphor (of Card Case) and simplifying things to just be a list of venues of interest that are close by. At first, I was a bit surprised by this change because I liked the design and the card metaphor (which is still sort of in place). But this actually makes a lot more sense. Don’t cater to the baggage of the past, replace the past.

I’ve been using Pay with Square this past weekend and it’s great. The transition from Card Case is seamless because it’s essentially the same thing, just reworked in an attempt to take it more mainstream. 

To that end, Square also put in quite a bit of work to make Pay with Square work on Android as well. Because Android doesn’t have the same geofencing capabilities native to their SDK like iOS does, this was undoubtedly a huge pain in the ass. Square essentially had to build the technology from the ground up to make their Android app work in the same way that the iOS one does. 

Thanks to this work, Square has managed to do the seemingly impossible: make Google Wallet look even worse. While Google is wasting time (and apparently employees) trying to move from a credit card swipe to a tap-to-pay by way of NFC, Square has been busy building the future. A tap is a bit more simple than a swipe, I suppose. But screw that. You should be able to pay by doing nothing at all.

As you may be able to tell from my posts on our portfolio company Highlight, I love the idea of mobile apps that work without the user have to do anything. Highlight alerts you as you move around. Pay with Square allows you to pay for things by walking into the place you wish to buy something. 

Again, magic.

The next trick is signing up more vendors to accept Pay with Square. Luckily, products like Square Register are complimentary. They just need iPad adoption to keep growing at the pace it has been. And it will.

And Square needs to convince people that the ability to pay without doing a thing isn’t actually magic, it’s just one of those things that should have always been done this way that technology now allows for. It’s a more natural way of doing payments that just happens to seem like magic because of the baggage we all carry.

It’s technology at its best.

More about Pay with Square on Techmeme.

Square’s latest app has a simple goal: killing the cash register. 

Looks amazing, as usual. And anything that gets more merchants using Card Case is a good thing in my book.

I also love the last line of the USA Today story on the matter:

Square has no plans at this time to launch a version of Square Register for Android tablets.

I assume they also won’t be launching it for the Atari Jaguar, the Newton, or the Commodore 64.

Nice quick post by Chris Dixon reflecting on why certain web-based marketplaces are taking off now when they haven’t in the past. The key:

I asked Roelof Botha the “why now” question regarding web-based marketplaces. He said something I thought was really interesting: marketplaces depend on trust, and trust requires knowing the reputation of a prospective counterparty. Today, for the first time, you can get background information on almost any prospective counterparty by searching Google, Facebook etc. Or put more simply: we finally have an internet of people.

One of my favorite things about Airbnb is the way they handle reputation by looking at your social connections. If thousands of people follow me on Twitter and I have hundreds of friends on Facebook, I’m probably not an impostor looking for trouble. Square does some of this as well, I believe.

More broadly, “why now” is often just a matter of timing. I think of Dodgeball, which never took off in the way Foursquare has even though they’re essentially the same thing (or at least started that way). Sure, you can probably partially blame Google for neglecting Dodgeball post-acquisition, but a bigger key was the rise of smartphones, and the iPhone with its app marketplace in particular. 

Dodgeball was a great idea. Foursquare exploded because it was a great idea at the right time.

Squared Away

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.

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Nice Claim Chowder recall by Gruber. Not only has Apple replaced the POS (piece of shit) POS (point of sale) solution by Microsoft, with Square, there’s now an opportunity for everyone to. 

Also funny that Ed Bott (the person who wrote the original BS) is using Gruber’s linkback to flame him. Fascinating that Bott’s “Microsoft Report” has turned into a Mac security blog. That can’t be for traffic purposes, right? Right…

All Things D’s Tricia Duryee: 

Did you give Square a heads-up that you were going to do what you did?

Verifone CEO Doug Bergeron: 

I don’t know who our PR folks talked to or didn’t.

Verifone was trying to destroy Square’s business and they may or may not have given them the heads up beforehand. And if they did, it was not Bergeron or any executive at Verifone, it was their PR team.

What a huge ass.