Jack Dorsey Channels Revolution to Define Twitter, Square's Tech Culture

This week both Twitter and Square paid homage to the Egyptian people and their revolution.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Jack Dorsey
    A picture of the new Tahrir Square conference room at Square's San Francisco headquarters.

    It's been almost a year since young Egyptians in Tahrir Square sent tweets that were heard around the world.

    As some of those same youth still stand in Cairo's most famous square, a local entrepreneur is embracing the revolution he helped spark by indoctrinating it in his two companies cultures.

    Jack Dorsey is widely credited with coming up with the idea for Twitter and sending the world's first tweet.

    And the inspiration for the mobile credit card processing company he started, Square, came to him when his glass artist friend and mentor told him about a $2,000 sale he lost because he didn't have a way to accept a credit card payment.

    Both men had iPhones, both men should be able to process credit cards Dorsey thought.

    Now the 35-year-old splits his time between both companies as Twitter's executive chairman and as Square's CEO.

    Some call him the next Steve Jobs, while others like Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff say he is one of the young tech leaders to watch.

    Both Twitter and Square are located just blocks from each other in downtown San Francisco and by all accounts both companies are thriving -- both financially and culturally -- in large part to Dorsey.

    While some startups struggle to develop an organic, positive culture -- look no further than Facebook's MTV "Diary" episode and Zynga's recent attempt to prevent a post-IPO brain drain -- Twitter and Square appear to have no trouble maintaining a young, hip, almost underdog-like atmosphere.

    The two companies can at least, in part, thank Dorsey for that. After all the man made processing credit cards sexy -- albeit with a little help from Apple.

    This week both of Dorsey's companies paid respect to the revolution that social media built and at the same time took another step in defining their own tech culture.

    Square unveiled new conference rooms at its San Francisco headquarters Thursday named after famous squares around the world. And Twitter revealed round two of "Twitter Stories," which prominently features Google executive, avid tweeter and Egyptian revolutionary Wael Ghonim.

    Dorsey took to Twitter to boast about both moves this weekend when he very consciously tweeted a picture of only one new conference room at Square: Tahrir Square.

    "We have beautiful new conference room signage at @Square. All of them named after famous town squares." Dorsey wrote in his tweet. A few simple words, much like Square's simple design and Twitter's new sleek look.

    But the symbolism behind the image he tweeted was anything but simple.

    It was a bold move considering that while the world easily rallied around a mostly non-violent uprising against a brutal leader, who held onto power in Egypt for nearly 30 years, it is still largely waiting to see what type of democratically-elected government emerges -- if at all.

    "Tahrir owes some homage to him and he's paying his respect to them and keeping their story alive," one tech observer said about Dorsey's twitpic. "In a pretty awesome way too."

    Somewhere above Dorsey mentor Steve Jobs must be smiling and uttering "Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes."

    What must his colleagues at Twitter be thinking about the image though? After all, the San Francisco-based micro-blogging site was the company in Dorsey's portfolio that helped spark the Arab Spring. Square isn't even available in the Middle East.

    But the man behind both companies is the same and the identity he is trying to forge is one of the dreamer, the underdog, those who dare to challenge the status quo.

    And both Twitter and Square have done that so far.

    Twitter partnered with Google during the Egyptian uprising earlier this year to give protesters the ability to send tweets without the use of the web after Hosni Mubarak cut the country's Internet access.

    And Square has shown its strength as well -- ironically in part by fighting off a challenge from the very same Google.

    With the likes of the Mountain View search company entering the mobile payments arena, many have wondered how Square would stay afloat -- even predicting its death or eventual buyout.

    But the mobile cash register has recently shown it may be an independent player for a long time.

    In just its first year of processing mobile payments via a plastic insert into the headphone jack of an iPad, iPhone or Android device, the company has processed $2 billion worth of payments -- taking 2.75 percent of all transactions.

    Meanwhile the industry leader, PayPal, processed $3.5 billion in mobile payments this year and Google is struggling to convince even its own mobile partners to allow Google Wallet to come pre-installed on phones.

    Not to mention that PayPal and Google have had a hard time getting along in the mobile payment arena and that a recent study showed that consumers don't trust both Google and Apple with their virtual money.

    At the same time, Square has built a large part of its business plan on the little guy, earning the respect of small businesses and individuals who never would have been able to process credit cards without the simplicity of the device.

    And Square has looked into the future and prepared for life in the near field communication world by introducing the Card Case app, which allows users to make mobile payments at their favorite restaurants and stores using only their mobile device.