Dorsey pushes small business agenda

Small business is driving the world economy…Big corporates focus on shareholders, whereas small business builds communities and generate jobs within them.

Jack Dorsey expounded the virtues of Australian innovation and small business on Monday evening. In Melbourne for the official Australian launch of revolutionary mobile payment device, Square – the city is home to the company’s Australian HQ – co-founder and CEO Dorsey joined a panel of local small-business owners to talk about the importance of the SME sector to the world economy.

Dorsey, also co-founder and CEO of Twitter, was welcomed by Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, who said that Square’s arrival – joining the likes of GoPro, Eventbrite and Slack in the state – was key to Victoria’s chances of thriving by attracting innovators and traditional-business disruptors.

Australia is a particularly attractive market place to Square, according to Dorsey, because of its reputation for embracing technology to make people’s lives better. He pointed out that the US is actually the first world’s slowest adopter of new technology – SMS messaging arrived there five years after it was introduced here – and that he expects Australia to be in the vanguard of the, what he sees as inevitable, transition to a cashless society.

Dorsey believes the pace of change we have seen in the last decade will only increase, so ‘what we assume will happen in ten years will be realised in five, and what we assume will eventuate in five years will actually occur in two’.

He also praised the commitment, perseverance and creativity of Australia’s small-business owners. Entrepreneurs, he says, aren’t afraid of admitting failure and making mistakes, then coming again and learning the lessons of previous ventures so they eventually succeed.

Small business is driving the world economy, in his opinion, and says the sooner those in power realise this the better. Big corporates focus on shareholders, whereas small business builds communities and generate jobs within them, he said.

He cited the example of a St Louis entrepreneur he met at a round table in that US city. Formerly a lawyer in New York, the man had returned to his home town with a view to opening a coffee shop.

At St Louis City Hall he endeavoured to obtain a license for his café, and was redirected to numerous offices until being issued with one. Two weeks later, having opened for business, an inspector advised he had ‘the wrong kind of license’ and was told to return to City Hall to get ‘the right one’. This happened another 17 times, over a three-month period, until he had the requisite paperwork to satisfy the authorities.

This kind of tenacity, in the face of great adversity, is what makes small-business owners stand out, according to Dorsey. But for the world to prosper, he believes, these kinds of barriers need to be removed.

Square itself had humble origins. Dorsey’s co-founder, Jim McKelvey, was a glass-blower who lost a sale for one of his hand-crafted artefacts because he couldn’t accept credit-card payments. They set out to develop a system that would enable artisans and other small businesses

Dorsey went into debt on his credit cards to get Square off the ground, and committed to paying their merchants within 24 hours of each transaction and had to ‘bridge’ those payments until the banks released funds – which took up to two weeks at that time.

Square Australia head Ben Pfisterer concluded the evening by reinforcing Dorsey’s message by saying. ’the conversation around small business needs to get louder.’

Tim Ladhams, Editor, Inside Small Business

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