Author and Square Co-Founder Jim McKelvey Shares Wisdom and Insights into the Entrepreneurial Journey


On November 17, we hosted Jim McKelvey, a serial entrepreneur, inventor, philanthropist, artist, and author of The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time. He is the cofounder of Square and served as the chairman of its board until 2010, and still serves on the Board of Directors. In 2011, his iconic card reader design was inducted into the Museum of Modern Art.

In this hybrid speaking event with a live audience and open to public virtually, McKelvey shared key experiences from his founder journey – experimenting and innovating through early challenges, and ultimately achieving widespread adoption from merchants small and large.

“I’ve undertaken a dozen projects that people have called crazy,” said Jim McKelvey, cofounder of Square, serial entrepreneur, author. “I’ve made a living as an artist and started a glassblowing studio. I’ve founded companies in the fields of software, book printing, roofing, and payments. I launched a non-profit to solve the national shortage of programmers. I’m currently trying to give people control of their online identities. I have no idea what, if anything, these organizations have in common except that at the core is a problem that I care about.”

Allowing entrepreneurs to hear from other entrepreneurs is the focus of a new quarterly speaker series.

“We want entrepreneurs to hear from other entrepreneurs,” said NEC CEO Jane Allen. “This is one of the ways we connect business leaders to the entrepreneurial community–to share wisdom, experience and insight to inspire local entrepreneurs and drive our economy.”

This session offered a first-hand look at how McKelvey approached the problem of credit cards with a new perspective, questioning the industry’s assumptions, experimenting and innovating their way through early challenges, and ultimately achieving widespread adoption from merchants small and large—with no expertise in the world of payments.

“Most of the problems you encounter, you can find the solution on YouTube,” said Jim. “No human is qualified to do something no one in history has done. The process is fundamentally different…some of us step across the invisible line…and it’s important to recognize your own behaviors as you get closer to your end of competence.”

His new book, The Innovation Stack, is now available for purchase.

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