Here’s what we know: On Monday, Jack Dorsey announced he’s stepping down immediately from the top job at Twitter. On Wednesday, his payments company Square said it would change its name to Block and would, among other things, double down on cryptocurrency, blockchain, and building a decentralized payment system. I haven’t checked the news today, but I’m guessing he may have announced he’s creating a robot society or has plans for a teleportation system.
What does it all mean (besides the robots and teleportation)? For one, Jack Dorsey has had a busy week. But it also means the same guy who helped usher in real-time social media and democratize digital payments for small businesses may now be the one who helps make it easier for average Joe to buy everyday things with cryptocurrency.
Because right now, it isn’t easy. Crypto isn’t nearly as liquid as other conventional payment methods such as cash or credit. Sure, you can trade crypto without any problem – anyone with a Coinbase or Robinhood account knows that – but good luck paying for a bottle of mouthwash or buying a Big Mac with that wad of Dogecoin burning a hole in your crypto wallet.
So, what can Dorsey do about it? Simple: with Square Block, he has all the different parts to make a payment value chain for crypto that will take it from what is mainly a highly volatile investment vehicle today to a street-spendable retail currency of tomorrow.
So what are Block’s business units?:
Square – the company’s original product (which will retain the Square brand) covers the digital payment portion of the equation. The company sells retail point-of-sale systems and has created restaurant-specific platforms and services.
Cash App – Started as Square Cash in 2015, Cash App is a personal banking, money transfer, and investment app for consumers. The app added crypto trading in 2018.
TBD – Announced earlier this year, TBD (long name TBD54566975) is a decentralized financial services unit. The launch of TBD followed other crypto-centric moves by the company such as creating a Bitcoin hardware wallet.
And perhaps most importantly, Dorsey and Block have the passion and conviction that cryptocurrency is the future and will eventually become our everyday currency. The company so much as said so when it began to buy and hold Bitcoin last year. “We believe that bitcoin has the potential to be a more ubiquitous currency in the future,” said Square’s Chief Financial Officer, Amrita Ahuja, at the time.
They also have the know-how. “We believe there needs to be a global native currency for the internet,” Dorsey said as his company launched the Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (COPA) last year. Since that time, the company announced it would build a decentralized Bitcoin exchange in early 2021 and just last month TBD published a white paper detailing a protocol for such an exchange.
This is the type of hard, in-the-trenches work needed to create a more friction-free cryptocurrency financial system and, from all the looks of it, Block and Dorsey are intent on leading the way.
Once that happens, I imagine diners may someday more easily be able to buy dinner using cryptocurrency than was experienced by the folks behind Dinner Dao during their first-ever meal for the NFT dinner club. While the group really wanted to pay for dinner with the Ethereum they pooled together for their club, they had to resort to using a Coinbase credit card that converted the crypto to US dollars.
With the launch of Block, there’s a good chance that in five years (or maybe sooner), Dorsey and company will have put all the necessary tech, systems, and financial guide rails in place so when we buy a Big Mac, we can do so with crypto. At that point, Dorsey will have completed yet another society-shifting technological feat and, who knows, can finally get to work on that teleportation network we all want.
by Michael Wolf