At a Glance

Jim McKelvey : Biography at a Glance

  • Jim McKelvey co-founded payments firm Square after he had trouble selling an art piece from his studio.
  • The company, co-founded alongside Jack Dorsey — also the co-founder of Twitter — has more than 2500 employees and is now valued at over $30 billion.
  • McKelvey's latest book, The Innovation Stack, explains how world-changing companies are built on the strategy of an "Innovation Stack," revealing a repeatable pattern of ground-breaking, competition-proof entrepreneurship.
  • McKelvey remains on Square's board, but has started a new company, Invisibly, which powers micropayments for journalism and publishing.
  • A serial entrepreneur, he has started at least seven companies, ranging from a CD cabinet maker to a glass-blowing studio.
  • He also sits on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and started a nonprofit, LaunchCode, to teach people how to program.

 

Biography

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 $30 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 also founded Invisibly, which gives people control of their online identities.

A 1987 Washington University Economics and Computer Science graduate, McKelvey can 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. McKelvey's latest book, The Innovation Stack, explains how world-changing companies are built on the strategy of an "Innovation Stack," revealing a repeatable pattern of ground-breaking, competition-proof entrepreneurship. 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.

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Reviews

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.

SAP

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 our Annual 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.

MIMA

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 sparked plenty of Q&A.

Winsight Media
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