Twitter, Square hot streak continues for Jack Dorsey


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SAN FRANCISCO -- Jack Dorsey may shy from being called the Steve Jobs of his generation, but there's no question he's on a hot streak.

Square, the mobile-payments startup that's landed $340 million in venture capital, just moved into sprawling new offices in San Francisco after doubling its head count in less than a year. The new digs sit -- coincidentally, Mr. Dorsey insists -- a block from those of Twitter Inc., which he co-founded in 2006 and whose looming IPO figures to make Mr. Dorsey his second billion dollars in the past 13 months.

In an interview, the 36-year-old declined to say much about Twitter, citing federal "quiet period" rules that precede an initial public offering of stock. But asked how it felt to have invented two products whose users number into the hundreds of millions worldwide, the notoriously buttoned-up hacker allowed himself a moment of introspection.

"If you're climbing on the mountain, it doesn't look that massive to you," he said from the glass-and-wood accented headquarters into which the CEO and most of Square's 600 other employees recently moved.

Twitter made news of its own earlier this month with its long-rumored IPO filing, which revealed the microblogging service has more than 200 million active monthly users. Square, meanwhile, claims to process $15 billion annually in credit card transactions -- not including a deal cut last year to handle all of Starbucks' card payments.

But, said Mr. Dorsey, "we don't feel we're at even 1 percent of our potential with either company."

Mr. Dorsey, who grew up in a blue-collar St. Louis family, owns 5 percent of Twitter and a reported one-third of Square. Each of those holdings is worth at least $1 billion, according to the estimated valuations of both companies.

To his admirers, though, Mr. Dorsey's accomplishments aren't measured in dollars, but in influence and vision.

The parallels to Apple's co-founder are obvious: Both men were forced out of startups they launched, only to return and help lead them to new heights. Both men, after being ousted, started second companies that became powerhouses in their own rights -- Pixar, in Mr. Jobs' case.

And both men became famous for a relentless focus on simple, elegant design: Even the pillars that support the new office's ceiling have been rounded to resemble Square's namesake plastic reader, which lets anyone accept credit cards via smartphone or tablet.

One way in which Mr. Dorsey differs from his role model: "He doesn't lose his temper," said Maja Henderson, who was Mr. Dorsey's executive assistant in Square's early days and now rides herd on the company's design and construction efforts. Those include the 150,000-square-foot headquarters, where employees avail themselves of such perks as in-house chiropractic care and unlimited vacation.

Ms. Henderson acknowledged that few "Squares" take much time off, although she said Mr. Dorsey "has gotten a lot better" about breaking away from work after a stretch in which he split 80 hours each week between Twitter and Square.

Jack be numble

Jack Dorsey helped build two billion-dollar companies -- Twitter and Square -- at the same time.

Age: 36

Born: St. Louis

Education: Dropped out of New York University to launch his first Silicon Valley company in 2000.

Lives: San Francisco

Making history: In March 2006, Mr. Dorsey sent the world's first tweet: "just setting up my twttr."

Human touch: Takes every new Square employee on a walking tour of San Francisco.

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First Published October 18, 2013 8:00 PM


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