Square possibly reviving 'artisan' culture among small businesses

The co-founder of both Square and Twitter reveals his insights about these tools and how they are making society better.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Although it might seem counter-intuitive at first, Square's CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey posited that digital tools like Twitter and Square actually build more in-person and human relationships.

While speaking at the GigaOM RoadMap 2011 summit on Thursday, Dorsey explained this theory using Twitter first. The best example that many people in tech have pointed to has been Twitter's role in the Middle East in the last year.

Dorsey admitted that he didn't have much of a strong context for Iran before the tumultuous elections in 2009. But, as Dorsey noted that "suddenly people were using Twitter to share from the street as things were happening," it informed people around the world about what was going on and how people were interacting with each other.

"We can minimize conflict because we can understand where someone is coming from," Dorsey said.

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Also a co-founder of Twitter, Dorsey affirmed that the microblogging site "enables people to say whatever they want, anywhere they are."

Similarly, Square allows anyone that wants to start a business to start it immediately.

Dorsey asserted that he believes these tools make us better, but the builders of the tools must ensure that they're not overwhelming, distracting, or put the technology first ahead of the user.

"The hardest thing for any entrepreneur to go through is to start," Dorsey stated. He posited that with "access to simple tools," such as smartphones and tablets, it enables merchants to move faster, be more creative without all of the friction and boring debris.

Thus, with more and more people that can quickly start businesses, Dorsey posited that we have more potential for small and medium-sized businesses to thrive and grow into larger corporations.

Nevertheless, the use of Square's technology, most frequently seen as a module attached to a mobile device for swiping a credit card, is often seen most by small businesses and independent sellers.

Thus, GigaOM's founder Om Malik asked Dorsey if this is a sign that we're returning to an artisan culture.

Dorsey replied simply, "I love that."

Using the example of a neighborhood coffee shop, Dorsey pointed out that for many small sellers using Square technology, it's not just about serving the perfect espresso and making money from that, but it's also about how the coffee is served, the aroma, and knowing who your customers are. Dorsey argued that this kind of business builds more business, loyalty, devotion, and even love.

"When you start discovering the small details that people obssessed over, you just fall in love with the product and the experience even more," Dorsey said.

While that might seem a bit lofty, Dorsey later pointed towards future plans for Square, most of which will revolve around Card Case.

Dubbed as a "simpler, faster, and more personal way to pay," customers can link their credit cards to their accounts and open tabs with merchants. On the merchant side, a customer's face pops up when paying.

The benefit here is that a merchant can build a more friendly relationship and converse with customers as customers don't have to fiddle around in bags, looking for their wallets and, at least eventually, smartphones.


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