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Square, Inc.

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Square, Inc.
Square, Inc. logo.svg
Type of businessPublic
Traded as
FoundedFebruary 2009; 10 years ago (2009-02)
United States
Area servedUnited States, Canada, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom
Key people
  • Jack Dorsey
  • (Chairman & CEO)
  • Jim McKelvey
  • (Co-Founder & Director)
  • Sarah Friar
  • (CFO)
ProductsPoint of sale terminals and auxiliary equipment
RevenueIncrease US$2.21 billion (2017)
Operating incomeIncrease −US$54.21 million (2017)
Net incomeIncrease −US$62.81 million (2017)
Total assetsIncrease US$2.19 billion (2017)
Total equityIncrease US$786.33 million (2017)
Alexa rankIncrease 1,974 (DEC. 2018)
LaunchedMay 11, 2010; 8 years ago (2010-05-11)
Native client(s) onAndroid, iPad, iPhone
[1] [2] [3] [4]

Square, Inc. is a financial services, merchant services aggregator, and mobile payment company based in San Francisco, California. The company markets several software and hardware payments products, including Square Contactless and Chip Reader, Square Stand, Square Register and Square Magstripe Reader, and has expanded into small business services such as Square Capital, a financing program, Cash App, a person-to-person payments service, Appointments, Gift Cards/eGift Cards, Invoices, Virtual Terminal, Marketing, Loyalty, Employee Management, and Square Payroll. The company was founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey and launched its first app and service in 2010. It has been traded as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange since November 2015 with the ticker symbol SQ.

Square Register allows individuals and merchants in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom, to accept offline debit[5] and credit cards on their iOS or Android smartphone or tablet computer. The application software ("app") supports manually entering the card details, swiping the card through the audio jack-connected Square Reader, or inserting or tapping the card using the Bluetooth LE-connected Square Chip and Contactless Reader. On the iPad version of the Square Register app, the interface resembles a traditional cash register.


The original inspiration for Square occurred to Jack Dorsey in 2009 when Jim McKelvey (a St. Louis friend of Dorsey at the time) was unable to complete a $2,000 sale of his glass faucets and fittings because he could not accept credit cards.[6]

The name "Square" derives from the company's square-shaped card readers.[7][8]



Square Reader

In 2010, the Square device communicated with the Square app through a phone's audio jack.

The Square Reader was the firm's first product. It accepts credit card payments by connecting to a mobile device's audio jack. The original version consisted of a simple read head directly wired to a 3.5 mm audio jack, through which unencrypted, analog card information was fed to smartphones for amplification and digitization.[9]

In April 2011, rival payment company Verifone claimed that the Square system at the time was insecure, and that a reasonably skilled programmer could write a replacement app which could use the Square device to skim a credit card and return its details, because of the lack on encryption. VeriFone posted a demonstration video and sample skimming app to its web site.[10] Dorsey called VeriFone's claims "neither fair nor accurate", noting that all card data also be compromised by visually examining the card, and that even if there were compromise, card issuers offerred fraud protection.[11]

Square now uses strong encryption on its devices, [12] and neither card numbers, nor magnetic stripe data, nor security codes are stored on Square client devices.[12] The current technology is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI) compliant and Verisign certified.[12]

In July 2014, ahead of the October 2015 EMV liability shift, the firm announced a card reader that would accept chip cards and contactless cards to supplement the standard Reader's support of traditional magnetic stripe card transactions.[13] In June 2015, Apple announced Square would release a new Reader capable of also accepting Apple Pay and other contactless payments.[14] In August 2018, Square released a version of its magstripe reader with a Lightning connector, allowing it to be used on iPhones without a headphone jack.[15]

Square Stand

Square Stand at a coffee shop turned around for the customer to choose a tipping option

In June 2013, the firm unveiled Square Stand, which turns the Apple iPad into a more complete point of sale system. It uses a larger reader and a rotatable base.[16]

Square Contactless and Chip reader

In 2015, Square launched a bluetooth-connected reader that works for Android and iOS devices to accept chip and contactless payments through their platform.[17]

Square Register

In October 2017, a standalone point-of-sale system, Square Register, was announced for small to medium-sized businesses.[18] It consists of a merchant tablet and a customer tablet, with a built-in swipe, chip, and tap reader.[19]

Square Terminal

In October 2018, the company introduced a self-contained Terminal product that features a display, prints receipts, and accepts chip, swipe, and contactless payments.[20]


Square Point of Sale

Square Point of Sale (formerly Square Register) is point of sale software aimed at replacing traditional credit card terminals and cash registers. It combines payment processing with point-of-sale functionality like itemization and inventory management, and integrates with third-party platforms such as Shopventory, Weebly, and Bigcommerce via an App Marketplace.[21]

In August 2018, Square began allowing merchants to develop custom interfaces for the platform, via an application programming interface.[22] This can also allow the system to function as an ordering kiosk, allowing customers to input their own orders.

Cash App

Cash App (formerly Square Cash) allows person-to-person money transfer via the app or website. In March 2015, the firm introduced Square Cash for businesses, which includes the ability for individuals, organizations, and business owners to use a unique username, known as a $cashtag, to send and receive money.[23] In January 2018, the app expanded to support bitcoin trading.[24]

Gift cards

In December 2012, Square began allowing merchants to issue virtual gift cards; a QR code is scanned from the customer's smartphone to use the funds.[25] Physical gift cards were added in the service in 2014.[26]

Square Capital

In May 2014, Square launched Square Capital, which offers business financing to merchants using Square.[27] In contrast with a traditional loan, there is no time limit for a merchant to pay off a Square Capital cash advance. The merchant returns the advance to Square by paying back a percentage of their credit card sales over time.


On August 4, 2014, Square announced the acquisition of Caviar, a startup that delivers meals from high-end restaurants.[28] Caviar uses a fleet of couriers to provide delivery for popular restaurants who do not otherwise deliver.[29] Caviar is currently available in 18 markets in the U.S.[30] Users can order via the company's iOS or Android app,[31] or on Caviar's website.[32] In 2016, a class action lawsuit was filed against Square, claiming that the company falsely represented that 18% of the gratuity charge from each Caviar order will be given to the drivers while the drivers did not receive any part of it. In 2018, Square agreed on giving $2.2 million to settle the lawsuit while denying the claims against them.[33]

Caviar eventually replaced Square Order, an app which allowed users to make purchases in advance and pick them up at a predetermined time. In March 2015, Square announced that it was shutting down Square Order .[34] In 2018, Caviar took a step into corporate catering by acquiring Zesty, a San Francisco-based catering platform.[35]

Customer Engagement

In April 2015, the firm launched Customer Engagement, a suite of CRM tools which includes email marketing services. These tools allow businesses to target customer audiences with customized or different messages and promotions based on actual (offline) purchase behavior.[36]

Square Payroll

In June 2015, the firm launched Square Payroll, a tool for small business owners to process payroll for their employees. The product, currently available in Alaska, California, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, and New Hampshire, automatically handles a business's withholdings, payroll payments, and tax filings.[37]

Square Appointments

In August 2014, an online booking tool was added to the firm's offerings, allowing small businesses to accept appointments on their website.[38] The service only accepts scheduled appointments based on a service provider's availability, and does not accept restaurant reservations.[39]

Square for Retail

In February 2017, the firm launched Square for Retail, a set of tools optimized for retailers, including a new point-of-sale iPad app. Key features include employee management, advanced inventory management and reporting, barcode label printing and more.[40]

Square for Restaurants

In May 2018, the firm launched a subscription service for restaurants. In addition to processing payments, the system can track table locations, tip splitting, and menus.[41] The system directly integrates with the Square-owned online food-ordering service Caviar, with plans to include other similar services in the future.[42]


The firm has an application programming interface to process credit card payments online.[43] The API, launched in 2016, is expected to be the first step in Square's online expansion, with its acquisition of Weebly.[44]


Square received angel investments from Marissa Mayer, Kevin Rose, Biz Stone, Dennis Crowley, Shawn Fanning, MC Hammer, and Esther Dyson.[45] Since then, it has raised several additional rounds of funding:

The company's valuation in October 2014 was $6 billion.[48]

On November 19, 2015, Square had its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange with an initial valuation of $2.9 billion, down by more than half from its last valuation in October 2014 at $6 billion. Although the firm has yet to make a profit and has lost $420 million since 2012, it has decreased its losses from 44% of revenues to 16% in the six months leading up to its IPO.[49]

For the fiscal year 2017, Square reported losses of US$63 million, with an annual revenue of US$2.214 billion, an increase of 29.6% over the previous fiscal cycle. Square's shares traded at over $75 per share, and its market capitalization was valued at US$32 billion in November 2018.[50]

Year Revenue
in mil. USD$
Net income
in mil. USD$
Total Assets
in mil. USD$
2012 203 -85 0
2013 552 -104 318
2014 850 -154 542
2015 1,267 -212 895
2016 1,709 -172 1,211
2017 2,214 -63 2,187



Square was co-founded by Twitter creator Jack Dorsey.[51] Dorsey also serves as chief executive officer and Amrita Abuja serves as chief financial officer following Sarah Friar.[52][51]

Square's office is in San Francisco.[53] The firm has more than 2,000 employees.[54]

Square has been available in the United States since 2010 and the company launched in Canada at the end of 2012.[55] In May 2013, the firm announced that its mobile payments service was available in Japan after agreeing to a partnership with Sumitomo Mitsui Card Corporation. The fee for transactions would be 3.25% in Japan.[56] It launched in the UK in 2017.[57]

Business model

As of March 2013, Square provides its magnetic stripe card readers to users for free.[58] Square charges $99 for Square Stand and $29 for its chip-based Square Reader.[59] The Square app is also freely downloadable from the App Store and the Google Play Store.

Square charges a fee of 2.75% on every credit card transaction.[60] Square does not have any additional fees beyond the 2.75% per swipe (or the 3.50% plus $0.15 cost per manually-entered transaction) and there are no monthly fees or set-up costs. The firm claims that its costs are, on average, lower than the costs charged by the conventional credit card processors.[61] Square is regarded as a useful app for entrepreneurs, including, for example, consultants, food truck operators, and traditional retailers.[62] Swiped payments are deposited directly into a user's bank account within 1 or 2 business days. In some instances, Square may withhold payments to its users pending issues related to chargebacks.[63] The firm also generates revenue from selling other services to businesses, including subscription-based products such as Customer Engagement, Square Payroll, and Square Register. For example, with Square Payroll, Square charges sellers a monthly fee of $20 plus $5 for each employee paid.[64]


At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in May 2011, Square announced the release of two new apps, Square Card Case (later rebranded as Square Wallet)[65] and Square Register. Square Wallet, before it was removed from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store in 2014, allowed customers to set up a tab and pay for their order by providing their name (or a barcode) using a stored credit, debit, or gift card.

In August 2012, Starbucks announced it would use Square to process transactions with customers who pay via debit or credit card. In February 2014, Whole Foods Market announced it would use Square Register in select stores' sandwich counters, pizzerias and coffee, juice, wine and beer bars.[66]

In July 2013, the firm launched Square Market, which allows sellers to create a free online storefront with online payment processing functionality.[67] In March 2014, the firm announced it will start allowing sellers to accept bitcoin on their own storefronts through Square Market. The seller will take no risk on bitcoin value fluctuations.[68]

In August 2014, Square secured an investment from Victory Park Capital, an asset management firm, to extend "hundreds of millions of dollars" to small businesses via Square Capital.[69] In May 2015, Square secured additional outside investments for Square Capital, with Victory Park Capital tripling its initial investment.[70] In its 2016 third-quarter earnings report, Square reported that it had loaned $1 billion to companies through Square Capital since the program's inception.[71] In October 2015, Square Inc. filed an IPO to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.[72] Shares were priced at $9 on November 18, 2015, and on November 19, 2015, Square officially began trading.[73]

On April 19, 2018,[74] Square announced that it had acquired Zesty, a food delivery service that caters to corporate offices.[75]

On April 26, 2018, Square announced that it would acquire Weebly, a website-building service, for $365 million.[76]


In the media

Business Insider praised the product for its "ease of use, simplicity and elegance". Business Insider favorably compared Jack Dorsey with Steve Jobs for what they called his "entrepreneurial vision and charisma".[77][78] The Next Web praised Square's website,, for its design and aesthetic appeal.[79] The product was also showcased at Apple's iPad 2 event.[80] GigaOM called the product a disruptive innovation.[81]

Customer feedback

Most complaints emerge from unsatisfying customer support.[82][83] The main reason for inquiries originate from suspended accounts with money on the hold due to alleged illegal business which infringes against Square's terms. The website states that "[t]he majority of the complaints fall into three areas: virtually nonexistent phone support, misunderstanding and nondisclosure of its former $2,002 card-not-present deposit hold policy, and reports of random fund holding or account deactivation exceeding 30 days with no explanation or communication from Square."[84]

Banned transactions

In May 2013, Square announced it would no longer allow firearms-related transactions to be performed using its devices or software. The company amended its terms of service for retailers to ban sales of "firearms, firearm parts or hardware, and ammunition; or ... weapons and other devices designed to cause physical injury". The company denied that this move was related to the increased debate over gun control.[85]


This is a timeline of Square, Inc., a payments company that was founded in February 2009 and became publicly traded in November 2015.

Year Month and date Event type Details
2009 February Company Square is founded by Jack Dorsey on February 1, 2009.[86]
2009 November Funding Square raises $10 million in a Series A round.[87]
2009 December Product On December 1, Square unveils its website ( for the first time.[88] The first device that Square launches, the Square Reader, allows people to easily accept physical credit card payments from their mobile phone, but without contracts or monthly fees. It is compatible with both iPhone and Android devices.
2010 November Product After ten months of a private pilot limited to just 50,000 users, Square opens its doors to the public.[89]
2011 March Product VeriFone claims that Square is insecure and a "reasonably-skilled" programmer could use Square to skim a credit card and return its details.[90]
2011 May Product On May 23, Square announces the release of two new apps, Square Card Case (later rebranded as Square Wallet[91]) and Square Register.[92]
2012 March Competition PayPal launches PayPal Here on March 15, a competitor for mobile payment. It has a small dongle that can be used to accept credit card payments.[93]
2012 August Product Starbucks invests $25 million in Square and makes Square its exclusive processor of debit and credit card payments.[94]
2012 September Funding Square closes $200 million in Series D financing.[95]
2013 May Product On May 13, Square unveils Square Stand - which turns an Apple iPad into a more complete point of sale system.[96]
2013 May Product On May 20, Square announces Square Cash, which allows people to send money to their friends via email.[97]
2013 June Product On June 26, Square launches Square Market, which allows sellers to create a free online storefront with online payment processing functionality.[67][98]
2013 October Company Square moves out from its cramped office in the San Francisco Chronicle building and into new 150,000-square-foot digs in the SF Central Market district.[99] By now, it has 600 employees.
2014 March Product Square announces it will start allowing sellers to accept bitcoin on their own storefronts through Square Market. The seller will take no risk on bitcoin value fluctuations.[100]
2014 May Product On May 12, Square launches Square Order, which lets people order from nearby eateries, pay for it, and then get a ping when it is ready for collection.[101]
2014 May Product Square launches Square Capital on May 28, which offers business financing to merchants using Square.[102][103]
2014 July Product Square announces a card reader that accepts chip cards. It supports both traditional magnetic stripe card transactions as well as chip-and-signature transactions.[104]
2014 August Product On August 4, Square acquires Caviar, a startup that delivers meals from high-end restaurants.[105]
2014 August Company Square secures an investment from Victory Park Capital, an asset management firm, to extend "hundreds of millions of dollars" to small businesses via Square Capital.[citation needed]
2014 August Competition Amazon launches Local Register on August 13, a competitor to Square with lower transaction rates.[106] Amazon later shuts down Local Register on October 30, 2015.[107]
2015 March Product In March 2015, Square introduces Square Cash for businesses, which allows individuals to use a username to send/receive money.[108]
2015 March Product Square shuts down Square Order.[109]
2015 April Product Square launches Customer Engagement, a set of CRM tools that allows email marketing services.[110]
2015 May Funding Square secures additional outside investments for Square Capital, with Victory Park Capital tripling its initial investment.[citation needed]
2015 June Product Square launches Square Payroll in California, a tool for small business owners to process payroll for their employees.[111]
2015 June Product Apple announces that Square will release a new Square Reader that can accept Apple Pay and other contactless payments.[112]
2015 June Company By now, Square has 1,171 employees.[113]
2015 September Competition on September 1, PayPal launches to compete with Square’s Cashtags.[114]
2015 October Funding Square Inc. files an IPO to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.[115] Shares were priced at $9 on November 18, 2015, and on November 19, 2015 Square officially began trading.[73]
2017 October Product The Square Register standalone point-of-sale system is launched in the United States for medium-sized businesses.[116]
2018 April Product Square announced that it will acquire Weebly for ~$365 million, a deal expected to close in the second quarter of the year.[117]


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External links