Recorded on 09/14/2021

How to Build an Unbeatable Business

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Recorded September 14, 2021.

In 2009, when glassblowing artist Jim McKelvey lost a sale because he couldn’t accept American Express cards, he decided there had to be a better way for small merchants like himself to process credit card payments. So, he teamed up with fellow St. Louis native, Jack Dorsey (Cofounder of Twitter) to launch Square, a startup that would allow small business owners to accept credit card payments on their mobile phones. Founding Square led McKelvey to discover a phenomenon he calls “Innovation Stacking” which he believes is at the core of world-changing businesses throughout history. He believes that “Innovation Stacking” – which is a series of interlocking inventions that build on one another – is the secret to the success of Square and other companies that exist to solve never-before tackled issues.

In this session, McKelvey shares his insights on building a first-of-its kind business as outlined in his recent book, The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time. He describes how he innovated Square through early challenges, survived an attack from Amazon and ultimately grew the company to its current $128 billion dollar valuation. He also talks about what we can learn from long-established companies including IKEA, Southwest Airlines and Bank of America, which – like Square – made a series of ground-breaking, competition-proof internal innovations allowing them to achieve enormous success and create transformational change. Moderating the conversation is Cresset’s newest advisory board member Suneel Gupta.

About Jim McKelvey

Jim McKelvey 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.

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