Markets In Action

Twitter’s CEO on Entrepreneurship: You Do Whatever It Takes to Make It Work. And Then You Do the Next Thing, and the Next Thing

Twitter and Square Co-Founder and CEO Jack Dorsey spends much of his time focused on making technological innovation succeed in business.  But for Dorsey, technology can also have a positive impact on a community.

In a recent interview at The Capital Markets Conference, SIFMA’s 2016 Annual Meeting, Dorsey traced the integral roles of entrepreneurship and community. “It took me a long time to think not just about going broad, but to think about going deep.” He emphasized the role of entrepreneurship in fostering “a sense of care, a stronger sense of purpose.”

When Square went public, Dorsey wanted the individual vendors who used Square to be a force for good. As a result, he dedicated most of his Square stake to The Start Small Foundation. “The foundation gives grants to small businesses in communities like Ferguson, Detroit, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Oakland.” In other words, places that may benefit from an injection of small business owners in the community.

For both Twitter and Square, Dorsey made clear that the key to economic empowerment exists beyond pure technology. Instead, it lies within a network: “The network has always been there. Technology just makes it faster. It just changes the speed dynamic and the boundaries we can cross.” For Dorsey, his companies have served as tools that enable more efficient, more powerful connections.

In Dorsey’s view, the mission of technology is to serve segments of the world that were not previously well-served. With Square, he noted that “Our purpose is economic empowerment. We empower people with really simple tools.”

While some startups maintain a mindset of challenging traditional financial institutions, that has not been Dorsey’s purpose. “Our mindset is partnerships,” Dorsey said. He underscored Square’s mission to identify and authenticate legitimate vendors, in concert with financial institutions.

Unlike Twitter, Dorsey relayed that Square was borne out of a need to solve a problem. His co-founder was unable to accept a credit card for his small business, and they built Square to tackle that obstacle. “That’s the spirit of entrepreneurship – you do whatever it takes to make it work. And then you do the next thing, and the next thing,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey discussed the importance of security as financial technology continues to evolve. “The best security is to be ten steps ahead of everyone else,” Dorsey said. “We can change software faster and evolve software faster. That can give us time back to do the right things.”

Dorsey sees new technology as an enabler of economic empowerment. “The cloud was a big example of coordinating machines across the internet, through distributed systems and algorithms.” He underscored the blockchain as an evolution of these distributed systems. “When you coordinate machines together, they are working on bigger problems than they could alone,” he said. “If you imagine a ledger that exists everywhere, any one part could fail and the ledger still lives on.”

For Dorsey, technology is a tool that gives time back to individuals, businesses, and communities. “All these technologies save time,” said Dorsey. “What we then get to do is focus on bigger, strategic things and creative approaches, over the more mechanical things that new tools can cover.”


Tom Price is Managing Director, Technology and Operations with the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).