For many entrepreneurs, launching a single successful startup is enough. But for Jim McKelvey, his success involves six different startups that he still owns. Though best known as the Square founder, along with Jack Dorsey, Jim McKelvey has created an array of innovative businesses. In addition to founding Square, he is also involved in companies related to glass-blowing, venture capital, employee training, and digital publishing. Indeed, Jim McKelvey appears to have the Midas touch when it comes to entrepreneurship and Bold Leadership.
Tremendous success does not come without a great deal of hard work and powerful leadership. Though Bold Leader Jim McKelvey admittedly appreciates the importance of luck, he thought it unlikely that Lady Luck would shower him with favor so many times. Instead, Jim McKelvey applies his unique and bold style of leadership in an array of different areas. By taking an in-depth look inside the Square founder’s leadership philosophy, entrepreneurs and leaders everywhere can benefit.
Jim McKelvey’s Bold Leadership Foundation—Perseverance and Diligence
In each of Jim McKelvey’s businesses, he identifies a specific problem that needs a solution. As the Square founder, his inability to sell his own glass-blown art pinpointed a need for an accessible payment platform for small business owners. Another of his businesses, LaunchCode, fills the lack of technologically skilled workers through employee training and apprenticeships. And, Invisibly is now striving to fix the broken digital ad ecosystem that plagues the digital publishing world—thus, allowing content creators to sustainably monetize their content. In each instance, Jim McKelvey succeeded, because he started with the problem.
While recognizing a need is great, creating a solution is not easy. As Jim McKelvey describes, great leaders need to expect failure and rejection. Perseverance is an important secret to leadership success and often is the difference between bold leadership and startup failure.
Mentor, Educator, and a True Believer in the Team
Bold leadership has been defined in part as fostering success in others while having the ability to delegate effectively. These characteristics certainly apply to Jim McKelvey. The Square founder recognized talent in Jack Dorsey during his previous interactions with him. This insight along with his keen problem-solving skillset and bold leadership allowed Square, a $30 billion-plus market cap public company, to become a reality. In nearly all of Jim McKelvey’s pursuits, he has collaborated with others to co-create a vision. His capacity to encourage others to utilize their talents and work together are among his boldest leadership traits.
A key part of fostering talent also involves serving as a mentor and educator to others. Jim McKelvey is a published author of three internationally recognized textbooks that seek to enhance others’ understanding. His first book, a computer science textbook—which he wrote when he was in college—was written in an effort to improve upon the professor’s inadequate course book. He also wrote the primary resource today for beginner glass-blowers. Similarly, at LaunchCode, he is developing programmers through training and education to enhance the local talent market. These leadership pursuits exemplify Jim McKelvey’s belief in people.
A Bold Leader who Strives to Make a Difference in the World
As the Square founder, Jim McKelvey provides a solution to help artists and small businesses excel. At LaunchCode, he aims to reduce poverty and unemployment by developing technology skills in the community. And at Invisibly, Jim McKelvey wants to enhance the published content society enjoys by ensuring content creators are appropriately rewarded. Underlying each of Jim McKelvey’s pursuits is a social agenda.
The drive to make the world a better place has always been a core piece of Jim McKelvey’s leadership. His father, a chemical engineering pioneer, and professor instilled these motivations within Jim McKelvey. His friends at Washington University in St. Louis also helped him appreciate humility, integrity and a down-to-earth perspective. This combination of influences is what molded Jim McKelvey’s passion for helping others. And it remains a key part of his bold leadership today.
Advice for Bold Leaders and Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow
McKelvey is a great example of a modern-day bold leader who serves as a role model for countless others. With this in mind, the Square founder encourages others to be real and authentic and to follow their passions. In addition, he emphasizes that cultivating relationships and investing in self-education is critical. But above all else, he heartens people to lead with integrity and to expect failure before certain success. As I wrote in a recent article featured in ProjectBoldLife, the path to success is rarely linear and requires course correction along the way. McKelvey is a master at understanding this is and persevering against the odds.
“Failure with a startup is really a question of the entrepreneur giving up. Now you can say. ‘Well if we don’t have funding, we have to let everybody go.’ But many times, I’ve had my company reduced to me. It doesn’t die until you quit, and I just never quit,” Jim McKelvey Founder of Invisibly, LaunchCode and Square.
Being bold requires courage, and bold leadership demands this and much more. But as Jim McKelvey demonstrates, this combination of pursuits can drive tremendous success and cultivate strong leadership potential along the way.
To learn more about Jim McKelvey’s newest venture, visit our exclusive story, video, and infographic on Invisibly.
Consumer attention is currency. Advertisers, content creators, and even consumers all benefit if we accord “consumer attention” the value it deserves. Regrettably, the current online advertising landscape is unable to capitalize on the value of consumer attention as a resource. The consumers’ cluttered and less than optimal digital consumption experience is proof. There’s the pervasiveness of clickbait contents and fake news. There are few economic incentives for content creators to continue generating high-value digital content. And at the bottom of this, the engagement that brands get from their audience is often far from their expected results. In truth, the broken ad tech infrastructure is a problem begging to be solved. Armed with a disruptive business model, innovator-entrepreneur, and Square Founder Jim McKelvey hopes to find solutions through his new startup company, Invisibly.
Invisibly is Upending the Status Quo Through a Disruptive Business Model
- Invisibly gives consumers control over their data and access to premium content. At present, most content creators allow an X-number of free articles to non-subscribing visitors. To access more content, visitors have to pay a subscription fee. Sadly, their content experience is cluttered with ads, which take data without providing any value back to the consumer. Invisibly provides consumers a way to control who has access to their data and what data they share while giving them access to premium content. This is achieved by assigning consumers a digital wallet and funding that wallet every time a brand engagement is seen. When a consumer visits a participating site, funds are seamlessly withdrawn from the wallet to pay for the content granting a mostly, if not completely, ad-free experience on the page. The consumer is not required to take any explicit action, as Invisibly manages their wallet, serving de-coupled brand engagements at the right time to ensure there is always a sufficient balance to fund the consumer’s content consumption. Consumers have the option to actively manage their attention through their wallets, deciding what brands they engage with, what data they share, and for those want to avoid ads and data sharing entirely, they have the option to fund their wallets themselves.
“…you don’t force [the consumer] to do anything. This is one of the things that you can do once you give consumers control over how their attention if bought and sold can open up the potential for great things.” Jim McKelvey, Founder of Invisibly
- Invisibly rewards content creators for quality. Under the Invisibly business model, content creators earn a fair price for their content. Invisibly provides content creators with a tool to dynamically price their content at a fair price for the consumer. When a consumer visits the article, they seamless pay the content creator the fair price for the content from the balance in their wallet. Invisibly has verified that this price is significantly above what content creators currently earn from traditional advertising.
- Invisibly supports authentic brand engagements. Unfortunately, in today’s ad-tech ecosystem, brand messages are not guaranteed to reach their intended audience. In fact, they’re not even guaranteed their ads are served to real people. Invisibly turns ad-tech on its head by separating them from content and matching consumers with high-value verified engagements, which seamlessly fund consumer wallets. Through fast, clean and decoupled ads, brands create an explicit value exchange, are able to capture the market’s exclusive attention, confirm viewership, gain feedback and gather data with consumer consent.
Exposing the Pain Points in Ad Tech
Before the advent of digital marketing, advertising was straightforward. A company or brand who wanted to reach a certain consumer segment employed the services of an advertiser (television, radio, print) to send their message across. But the modern digital age ushered in a different set of challenges with disruptive technologies and business models.
“The secret to Invisibly is that we respect the user’s right to be left alone. But the core idea is you put the consumer in control.” Jim McKelvey, Founder of Invisibly
Invisibly is setting the stage for the future of digital content distribution. Advertising is an income-generating industry. In 2015, the global digital advertising expenditure was almost $162 Billion. Experts predict that digital spending will grow to $335.5 Billion by the year 2020.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of ad spend goes to middlemen (primarily, Facebook and Google) leaving content creators a small share of the revenue pie. Content creators are dependent on unsustainable and invasive ad tech, which muddle the digital space with pop-ups and interruptions. A cluttered digital environment is counterproductive as it causes attention fatigue for the consumers while incentivizing clickbait.
A study conducted by Deloitte estimates that 80% of adults in North America use at least one ad-blocking method to curb attention fatigue. This is bad news for content creators who cannot monetize ad-blocked consumers and brands who cannot get their messages across.
To date, Invisibly has gained the support of many Fortune 500 Brands and content creators who have signed up to be part of Invisibly’s vision to give consumers desirable content experiences, content creators more revenue, and brands deeper customer engagement. With Invisibly, we are looking at a future where everyone wins.
To learn more about Jim McKelvey, read our Bold Leader Spotlight. Content creators are invited to reach out to Invisibly here to sign up as a launch partner with preferred terms. Brands and marketers are invited to reach out to Invisibly here to apply for early access testing.