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Jack Dorsey: The Twitter billionaire who believes in small business

By Maggie Lake, CNN
updated 1:20 PM EDT, Mon October 28, 2013
  • Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is promoting his new business, Square, across North America
  • CNN's Maggie Lake caught up with Dorsey in Toronto to hear his plans to upend commerce
  • Dorsey said he wants to make commerce frictionless, allowing businesses time to expand
  • His comments come as Twitter, which is valued at up to $11 billion, prepares to go public

Editor's note: Square is expanding. But where should it go next and why? Tweet Maggie Lake your thoughts here or tell CNN in the comments section below.

(CNN) -- Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is very softly spoken. The tech titan, now chief executive of mobile payments company Square, is an observer who pays close attention to everything that goes on around him.

The 36-year old prefers to listen rather than talk, which may seem ironic for someone who helped re-define how we communicate. But it might explain the brevity of Twitter, the social media phenomenon which distils communication to 140 characters.

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Dorsey, who I meet in a Toronto coffee store, is a little uncomfortable around the media. This is perhaps not a shock given some negative press which has followed his success -- notably from journalist and author Nick Bilton, who painted an unflattering portrait of Dorsey during the early days of Twitter.

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But he is surprisingly engaging when he is talking to small business owners and Square customers. Dorsey has a real passion for building communities, and that's the common thread between his current venture, Square, and Twitter. They are both about building communities.

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There are differences: Twitter was wide in scope, while Square is focused on building a community of small businesses.

Dorsey, now a billionaire and one of the world's most influential tech brains, grew up in St Louis, Missouri, with parents who were running small coffee and pizza businesses.

He's clearly a genuine believer in small companies and their importance to communities and wider economic growth.

That's why Dorsey is traveling around the U.S. and Canada, holding Town Hall meetings for small businesses under the banner #LetsTalk. Dorsey wants to talk to business owners about Square, but also connect these local companies to support and mentor each other.

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Square is the mobile commerce company he set up back in 2009, with the @Square Twitter handle. It began with a credit card reader and has expanded to analytics (Square Register) and service where you can send cash over email (Square Cash).

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The initial set up is easy and fees are low, which reflects Dorsey's desire for technology to even the commercial playing field. He wants small businesses to have the same shot at success that big businesses have.

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Dorsey also thinks technology should make the back office administration (billing, inventory, promotions) easier so that the owner or seller can spend more time on the actual business -- in the front of the shop. Ultimately, he wants to revolutionize commerce.

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And despite the presence of Paypal, Google and Intuit, Dorsey thinks there is still too much disruption for customers. He refers to a "frictionless" experience for customers that releases business to do what it should be doing: Building the economy.

Square is in U.S., Canada and Japan already. But Dorsey, in his unassuming way, is pitching to take it around the globe.