On saturday I went to a #tweetup in New York organized by the New York Knicks. One of the panelists was Jack Dorsey, of Twitter fame, and after the event I got the chance to test drive his new venture: @square. Square is a mobile payment system that allows anyone with an account and an iPhone to take credit card payments . I tried it by donating to the Red Cross, and its elegance and ease of use is absolutely mind blowing. Jack plugged the little dongle in to his iPhone, opened the app and processed my payment in seconds. I signed with my finger to confirm my donation and it was done: email receipt in my inbox, my (rather miserly, sorry) donation winging its way to the Red Cross.
Think about that for a second…when this thing launches anyone with an iPhone will be able to take credit card payments. Anyone. Your buddy that owes you money but claims he doesn’t have any cash can @square it to you. Your daughter’s lemonade stand will be able to take credit card payments. Every pop-warner football game in the country, every club, every single business that was predominantly cash or cheque based will be able to do the same. How big do you think that market is or could be? Big? More like scary big.
And what sort of impact could it have on the non-profit world? Well, ignoring the (not insignificant) fact that square will be donating 1c from every transaction to the non profit of your choice, suddenly every fundraiser of any kind that takes place offline will be able to take card payments. Breast cancer walks, bake sales, the fundraiser at your kid’s school, political fundraisers… it’s huge, and the revenue it could generate for good causes and @square alike is mind boggling.
It won’t be without issues, of course. Payment and card transactions are complicated, but if they handle those pieces (particularly the security side of things), they’ll have an absolutely amazing product on their hands. The version I used didn’t have the picture verification system they talk about on their site (let the images on the homepage scroll to see), but I can’t imagine that they’ll launch without some sort of added security layer. In any case, many of the transactions they’ll be processing will be less prone to credit card fraud as they’ll be taking place between people who have some sort of existing relationship. Either way, as long as the vendor takes the necessary steps to verify that their customer is legit, @square will be just as secure as a regular credit card payment in a store. The bigger danger for them will be the other way round: dodgy vendors trying to rack up fraudulent charges on stolen cards. To that end, I’m sure you’ll have to jump through hoops to get an account, just as you do with paypal, to which it has often been compared.
After seeing it in action, I’m even more convinced than I was before that @square will be bigger than Twitter. It’s super quick and so simple and elegant that my mom could use it (no disrespect intended, mom! xoxo). The potential market is enormous, and it solves a very real problem. I love that people are doing stuff like this. Brilliant.
I think Square is genius, and that it’s going to change the world. What do you think? Will you use it?