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Jim McKelvey reveals the business strategy that made Square impenetrable – using what he calls the Innovation Stack.

In 2009, a St. Louis glassblowing artist and recovering computer scientist named Jim McKelvey lost a sale because he couldn’t accept American Express cards. Frustrated by the high costs and difficulty of accepting credit card payments, McKelvey joined his friend Jack Dorsey (the cofounder of Twitter) to launch Square, a startup that would enable small merchants to accept credit card payments on their mobile phones.

In his new book, THE INNOVATION STACK: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time, Jim McKelvey recounts the startup’s against-the-odds survival of a direct attack from the most dangerous company on the planet—Amazon — and reveals the business strategy that made Square impenetrable: —what he calls the Innovation Stack.

Drawing on his firsthand experience as the cofounder of Square, McKelvey shares how they 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.

With fascinating and humorous stories of Square’s early days and historical examples of other world-changing companies built on Innovation Stacks, McKelvey reveals a pattern of ground-breaking, competition-proof entrepreneurship that is rare but repeatable.

Topics Jim will discuss:

• How Square—while still a startup—beat Amazon, and what other companies can learn from it

• How “The Innovation Stack”— a series of interlocking inventions—helped Square beat Amazon, and other companies like IKEA, Southwest Airlines, and Bank of America compete and succeed in their respective industries

• Why copying is a great place to start, but won’t help you achieve transformational change

• Why entrepreneurs are rare, and why an entrepreneurial skill set is not.

• Why sacrificing functionality in favor of beauty and simplicity helped Square build trust and reach a mass audience

• How commitment can be a great substitute for qualification

• Why it’s time to disrupt “disruption”

• Finding the entrepreneur within yourself—even if, and especially if, you’re not an expert

• Using complexity as a competitive advantage

• Putting passion and values ahead of the bottom line, and the circumstances when fairness can outperform


Jim McKelvey

Jim is 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. McKelvey founded Invisibly, an ambitious project to rewire the economics of online content, in 2016. He is a Deputy Chair of the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

The Innovation Stack is an irreverent first-person look inside the world of entrepreneurship, and a call to action to find the entrepreneur within ourselves and identify and fix unsolved problems—one crazy idea at a time.

The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center is a 501c(3) public charity whose mission it is to make entrepreneurship accessible to all. We deliver world-class resources and mentoring to enable every entrepreneur across the globe to realize their maximum potential. Please join us and make your gift to ensure these transformative programs may continue to reach the underserved.

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