Jim McKelvey: Biography at a Glance

  • Co-Founder of Square, with Jack Dorsey, which has revolutionized the way people make payments
  • His latest venture, LaunchCode, is making it possible for anyone to learn programming and land a full-time job in under 6 months
  • Named one of Inc. magazine's "15 Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2015"
  • From the lectern, he discusses how market demand is the driving force of innovation and how great entrepreneurs and innovators recognize a need and react, creating the companies that consumers embrace


Co-Founder, Square

Chances are good you’ve run across a Square device at some point, especially if you’ve recently visited a food truck or mobile small business. The tiny piece of plastic that allows you to accept credit cards on your smartphone is all over the US and recently landed in Australia, along with a suite of business-management tools.  The company, co-founded by Jim McKelvey and Jack Dorsey — also the co-founder of Twitter — has more than 2500 employees and is now valued at $20 billion.

While best known for co-founding Square, McKelvey is, in some circles, better known as a master glass artist and author, having written the world’s most widely read text on the subject, The Art Of Fire. His industrial design work is part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and The Smithsonian in Washington DC. His glass studio, Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis, one of the United States’ main centers of glassblowing arts.

After founding Square, Jim created the nonprofit LaunchCode, making it possible for anyone to learn programming and land a full-time job in under six months–for free.  LaunchCode is an open model that may be freely copied by anyone and aims to solve the worldwide shortage of programmers.

Jim’s most recent venture, Invisibly, gives people control of their online identities.

A 1987 Washington University Economics and Computer Science graduate, McKelvey will discuss founding successful companies in payments, education, scientific publishing, construction, printing, glassblowing and software. Though an eclectic mix, each business is founded upon a simple idea and run by people committed to that idea. Jim has never sold any of his companies and as a result now oversees a diverse portfolio of businesses. Referencing personal experiences and local challenges, McKelvey offers a fresh approach to problem solving.

Jim is the author of three textbooks, two on computer programming and one on glassblowing. He lectures internationally on art and entrepreneurship.

McKelvey was appointed as an Independent Director of the St. Louis Federal Reserve in January 2017.

McKelvey, and his wife, Anna (a programmer and attorney), have two noisy children.


“He was a fabulous speaker and we had wonderful feedback from our agents.”

Douglas Elliman

“Jim's presentation was very well received. It was great that he created new material to match SAP's theme for the event. He is definitely a multi-faceted individual and I hope that this event will lead to other projects together.”


“Jim was great! He was relevant, funny and a fantastic start to the conference. In addition, it was just great fun getting to meet him and get to know him. Many thanks, and I hope he enjoyed the experience as well.”

Institute for International Research

“Thank you for confirming Jim McKelvey for ourAnnual Conference. It was an insightful and interesting dialogue. Jim, along with the others in the discussion, have received the highest marks for content and as speakers from our attendees. It was a great session and a highlight of our program.”

Pension Real Estate Association

“Jim was a dream. The audience loved him and hung on his every word. We could've listened to him for hours.”


“We are grateful for Jim's generosity, authenticity and the wealth of knowledge that he shared with the local startup ecosystem through each event he was involved in.”

City of Sydney, Australia

“The audience clearly enjoyed him.He’s a good storyteller and sparkedplenty of Q&A.”

Winsight Media

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