In this video from the “21st Century Individuals vs. 20th Century Organizations” session at Techonomy 2011 in Tucson, Ariz., Techonomy founder David Kirkpatrick asks Jack Dorsey about the similarities, and differences, between his two companies, Twitter and Square. Both are utilities, says Dorsey, and both are defined by the user.
Kirkpatrick: Talk to us a little bit about what unites these two companies in your mind? What is it that is the overarching trend or zeitgeist that these two companies represent? How do you think of them in your own mind as unified? Because I know you do.
Dorsey: I do. I think the common base for both of them—these in particular, I don’t know if there is an overall trend—are they’re both utilities that an individual or an organization of any size can pick up and use immediately. So in Twitter’s case, you can pick up any phone, any device at all and use it to broadcast to the world immediately as an individual or as the largest government in the world. You can also use it to figure out what other people are doing. What’s happening in the world right now? What’s happening, not only with what you care about and what’s immediately around you but the entire world because we have more and more people using Twitter every day and using this way to share and to communicate with the world.  In Square’s case, it’s the ability to instantly start a business. Ninety percent of this country pays with a plastic card. No one is carrying checks around anymore, no one is carrying cash around anymore. So that form of payment—to actually start a business, start receiving payment for services—has been cut off for many small merchants and for many sole proprietorships and you know—if I got really good at piano and wanted to teach other people or wanted to teach people tennis because I’m a pro, I can’t tap into the element that everyone is using that everyone has in their pockets. Square enables people to immediately start accepting credit cards from a tool they already have which is their mobile phone. It’s not just individuals. It’s small businesses and medium sized businesses and large businesses and both companies scale that very dynamic range. Both companies are interesting in that they are true utilities. We haven’t defined a lot of how people are going to use them. People come to each service—
Kirkpatrick: Because they are still so nascent, both of them.
Dorsey: Yes and also because they are abstract enough that people can do whatever they want with them.
Kirkpatrick: You don’t want to define it?
Dorsey: We don’t want to make Square all about taxicabs and we don’t want to make Twitter all about celebrities or politics. Everyone comes to each and they define what they want to do with this service and they run with it. That, to me, is the best sort of technology—is actually building a foundational utility that people can come to and build products on top of and build companies, movements and all these other things.