Question everything, question everyone, especially yourself.
– My college Professor of Philosophy, an ex-Jesuit priest.
In a recent, persuasive post, A Tale of Two Story Tellers Square CEO, Jack Dorsey, is dismissed with a few sentences as diworsified and unfocused while the bulk of the post is dedicated to singing the praises of TTD’s CEO, “likable” Jeff Green, who has the “ability to charm people,” make friends and has apparently mastered the “fascinating art of storytelling” which seems to be equated with great management abilities. Even the booyah guy with his strained, high-pitched delivery and his hyperactive manner that makes one suspect he is off his meds, gets almost as much cyberspace as Jack Dorsey who is damned with faint praise, https://discussion.fool.com/ttd-sq-a-tale-of-two-storytelllers-3….
This is the latest of the anti-Dorsey posts and I feel compelled to post my take on Dorsey and Square. I too look at each company’s management but unlike the above author, a self-described Intuitive Investor who follows his gut, I distrust intuition, gut feelings, and CEOs who profusely praise the magnificence of their own product or the greatness of their own company. I also distrust a CEO’s “fascinating art of storytelling.” Let us not forget that all con men are charming and have the gift of gab; that’s what enables them to bamboozle their hapless victims. The Bernard L. Madoff’s of this world, the CEOs of Enron, WorldCom, both bankrupt, and Tyco all charmed their investors and we know how that ended. A lot of investors fell for the charming stories that turned out to be lies and went bankrupt themselves. If I want fascinating storytelling, I’ll go back to the exotic tales of One Thousand and One Nights I devoured as a child. Similarly, I generally don’t watch TV performer Cramer or other talking heads. If I want theater, I’ll go to a good play.
While I occasionally watch a CEO on national TV, I don’t expect any candid revelations about any difficulties the company may face. Instead, I’d rather use my time to get information from public records like the 10-Q or 10-K, including the footnotes and the list of “Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry” that may indicate where I should look for potential future problems. Periodically I’ll go to the SEC website to see if there is any letter exchange with the company or if there is a new CT or Confidentially Treatment Order, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/confidential-treatment-…. I read the transcripts of the quarterly presentation but I will listen to the audio if any answers appear muddled or evasive. The SEC documents are quite dry and somewhat boring but they will tell me more than any CEO could tell me in a few sound bytes on public TV. I prefer to look at the numbers obtained from the company itself to see trends, as Saul and many other number wizards on this board teach us. Emotions and feelings cloud judgment–as some of my own poorer decisions when I did not focus on facts and the numbers, clearly prove. And “gut feelings” aren’t even close to accurate as plenty of research suggests. “Our ability to read people is a whole lot more related to whether we find them likeable, or more to the point, similar to us and our implicit ideals, than it is to being able to determine true talent,” according to experts.
On Jack Dorsey’s Habits
After reviewing my Square file, I have come to the conclusion that the lopsided tale of Mr. Dorsey’s presumed deficiencies, especially his lack of focus, could not be further from the truth. I am baffled by the often revealed antipathy to Mr. Dorsey, expressed at times as barely concealed horror (“he creeps me out,” he is “weird”) and his presumed “eccentricities” and shortcomings, https://discussion.fool.com/questioning-dorsey-34087537.aspx?sor…. Yes, some could call Dorsey a bit eccentric but he is one of the most disciplined and focused people–if you listen to those who have known him for more than a decade or have worked with him closely for many years instead of third hand gossip revealed in some of the posts.
Dorsey gets up at 05:00h in the morning, meditates, exercises and for the last couple of years walks 5 miles to work. His morning walk takes more than one hour, giving him time to think, focus on what needs to be accomplished that day or listen to music or podcasts. He calls that walk his best investment, and he is correct, not only medically speaking. Steve Jobs was another CEO who liked to take walks to clear his mind or discuss with a companion Apple’s possibilities or problems. Dorsey usually spends the morning at Twitter and the afternoon at Square, generally working up to 18 hours a day. The companies are two minutes walking distance apart, timed by Barron’s! Should his immediate physical presence be required, Dorsey could be available in a couple of minutes.
If you want to get a more balanced picture of Square’s CEO, here are two articles, better researched than most cited on this board: the most detailed appeared in the New Yorker in 2013. The author followed and interviewed Dorsey, his associates and friends for several months. This is not some third-hand gossip offered by some fired underling.(1) A briefer more recent assessment of him was published by Barron’s in August of 2018. The author interviewed many of Dorsey’s long-time friends and present and former long-time associates.(2)
In essence all people who know Dorsey, many for decades, and who were directly interviewed by the authors agree that Dorsey is a calm, thoughtful leader who is reserved and doesn’t talk much but is a good listener. His friend Robert Andersen, one of Square’s former creative directors stated: “If [Jack] says something at a meeting, you better listen—he would not have spoken if he didn’t have something important to say.” Evan Williams, well-known internet entrepreneur, who has known Dorsey since 2005 (and got him fired from Twitter in 2008) now regrets not having invested in Square. He said this of Jack: “What I have seen in the last few years as a Jack observer is his intense focus on his work and on himself to become better. It’s amazing.” To improve himself, Dorsey at one point hired a CEO coach during his first stint at Twitter. Long-time friend Christopher Isaac “Biz” Stone, who along with Jack Dorsey holds the patent for inventing Twitter, is impressed with Dorsey’s transition from programmer geek to global leader. He calls it Dorsey’s transition to “sort of embody his own persona in a graceful and leadership-y kind of way. It’s very rare for a programmer—I mean, a geeky programmer kid—to, in a relatively quick amount of time, become a global leader. . . . Larry Page is the C.E.O. of Google, but he doesn’t have anywhere the qualities that Jack has.”
On Running two Companies
Some posters on this board and many in the media have been severely critical of Mr. Dorsey for running two companies. Since 2015 he has been the CEO of Twitter and Square, both companies he co-founded. While I believe that running two companies at the same time is extremely demanding and leaves little time for private life, it is not an unusual arrangement and so far, Jack Dorsey has done well enough and has not had a public meltdown like the CEO of the company that cannot be mentioned on this board.
Somehow, none of the other multi-tasking CEOs running several companies have received the same castigation. They are: 1) Jeff Bezos (Amazon in Seattle, WA, Blue Origin rocket company in Kent, WA, and The Washington Post, in Washington, DC); 2) CEO, whose company in Fremont, CA, cannot be discussed on Saul’s board, see https://discussion.fool.com/monday-morning-rules-of-the-board-34…, is also CEO and CTO of Space X with its subsidiary, Boring Company, both in Hawthorne, CA, and Neuralink, San Francisco, CA; 3) Carlos Ghosn who ran three, at times four companies on two different continents (Renault in France and Nissan Motors and Mitsubishi Motors both in Japan, and AvtoVaz in Russia. In 2016 he gave up his obligations at AvtoVaz, and in 2017 he stepped down as Nissan’s CEO, but remained as chairman of its board); 4) Marcia Kilgore built four companies, including Bliss Spa, bought by LVMH and Soaper Duper, and ran three at the same time (London-based Soap & Glory, Beauty Pie, New York’s FitFlop, eventually selling two, keeping only Beauty Pie); 5) Roy Hessel (ran EyeBuyDirect in Shanghai, FramesDirect in Texas, Clearly based in Vancouver, Canada. He eventually sold all of Shanghai-based EyeBuyDirect to French Essilor International); 6) Steve Jobs (Apple and Pixar, the latter sold to Disney in 2006. Micro-managing Apple Jobs had a more hands-off relationship with Pixar, a company he would visit every Friday.)(3)
All CEOs running more than one company declined to discuss their job juggling with Barron’s. Only Carlos Ghosn voiced an opinion on multitasking: he stated that he lives like a monk. I am sure that juggling several companies, especially if on different continents, exacts a heavy personal price, judging from the high divorce rate of the above group.
Square under Jack Dorsey’s Leadership?
So far Dorsey has run Square with great efficiency and innovative imagination. He revived Square and Twitter when both slumped in 2017, a pretty incredible feat according to some management experts. First, let’s look at Square’s numbers, more important than gossipy tales.
For a complete discussion and all pertinent numbers, see our resident FinTech specialist, TMFCochrane’s last post on Square Q1 Earnings: https://discussion.fool.com/square-reports-2019-q1-earnings-3419…. I will limit myself to some important points.
• 2019 Q1 TTM Adj. Revenue growth was 62.7%, an increase over previous quarter Q4 of 61.3%. To understand why adjusted revenue is used, see https://discussion.fool.com/brittlerock-back-to-your-questions-y…
• Subscriptions too show a nice upward trend (my percentage deviates a bit from TMFCochrane’s):
Subscription & Services Revenue (millions)
**Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total/Yr % ?** 2016 35 41 2017 49 59 65 79 252 2018 97 134 166 194 591 134.5% 2019 219 2018 TTM - $300 M, 2019 TTM - $713 M, a 137.7% increase
• Gross Payment Volume (GPV) shows a steady increase of larger sellers
**Gross Payment GPV % Larger Sellers % Sellers** **Year Volume % YoY >$125k/yr Q4'17 >$500k** 2016 49.7 39.6% 43% 16% 2017 65.3 31.4% 48% 20% 2018 84.7 29.7% 52% 24%
• In 2019 Q1, the company created the Square Online Store to make it easier for sellers to integrate their online and brick-and-mortar businesses. This new online system uses Weebly technology and automatically syncs orders, inventory, prices, and data for both online and in-store sales, especially useful to larger sellers.
• Primary growth drivers for Square were Instant Deposit and Cash App. The latter’s volume increased 250% YOY. It is listed as primary driver of growth for subscription and services-based revenue and its success is linked to Twitter. That would deserve a separate post.
These numbers and trends are all positive and that’s what we should focus on instead of Dorsey’s personal habits. Meditation, fasting, eating only one meal a day (requirement for any Buddhist monastic), and regular sauna visits have been used for thousands of years in many cultures with proven health benefits and a dip into ice cold water after 15 minutes in the sauna was de rigueur in any sauna I’ve ever visited. It’s supposed to toughen your immune system. However, medical experts do not recommend it as it can produce a sudden raise in blood pressure. Meditation is being taught successfully to kindergartners right here in the US as I recently saw on PBS. The sensationalistic, gossipy media reporting on Dorsey’s habits only attests to the basic ignorance of the authors.
- Dorsey’s Time Management
• The proximity of Square and Twitter makes running two companies a bit easier.
• Dorsey manages his time assiduously according to Square and Twitter employees, through highly regimented meetings with specific agendas and goals. Each day is organized around a theme, such as product development. Says to Dorsey: “I like having a lot of repetition in my schedule because it allows us to see how we’re actually growing, rather than randomness, which hides that,” and, “We kick off the week every Monday with a leadership meeting to talk about what we’re committing to this week and what we learned last week. And we have check-ins on Wednesdays and Fridays for 30 minutes.”(2) I call that extremely focused and well organized.
• Square’s focus is on smaller merchants. In his youth, Dorsey worked in his mother’s coffee shop. He learned early the problems of payment processing: “muddled, unnecessarily expensive, and ugly, with hulking cash registers, mounds of paper receipts, hidden charges, and insulting credit checks for merchants.” Not something a small business or market stall could deal with. When his artisan friend Jim McKelvey complained he failed to sell a $2,000 piece of glasswork to an overseas buyer because he couldn’t accept her credit card, Dorsey and McKelvey set out to make a portable credit card reader that anyone could use. Dorsey focused on the software, McKelvey on the hardware. When in 2009 they realized they could attach the reader to an iPhone using the audio jack, Square was born.
• Dorsey had initial problems selling himself and Square to venture capitalists. To counter their resistance, Dorsey courageously made a presentation slide entitled “140 Reasons Square Will Fail.” The project attracted funding with the help of Williams who had instigated his ouster at Twitter. Over the years Jack, as he likes to be called, led the company from the maker of a simple dongle credit card reader for small businesses to a broader financial-services provider and for larger enterprises Square also offers payroll and lending features. As the above table shows, with increased offerings of cash and business management services, larger accounts have increased steadily, a nice development. Even Morningstar recently changed their rating to Square having a narrow moat and Argus who began covering the company on July 5, 2019, rated it a buy.
• As Chamonyx pointed out, Dorsey has surrounded himself with a great management team that can function without a micromanaging CEO. It also allows him much needed breaks from his responsibilities.
• He built the Square’s team from scratch, choosing mostly people without a background in the payment industry and avoiding some of the problems and infighting that had plagued Twitter, his other co-creation.
• Dorsey’s style is not to talk much but to listen. Like very few people, he tolerates long silences. The executive who listens well created a company that listens well to its sellers. Square will drop new features if the sellers are not happy with them and add features that the sellers want and suggest. It’s a company completely customer oriented. Look at their quarterly investor reports, each quarterly front page celebrates one of Square’s sellers. How customer friendly!
• He knows his own weakness as introvert who likes to keep to himself and who had a speech impediment when young. Unlike TTD’s CEO Jeff Green, he is definitely not eloquent and not good at telling stories. To this day, he is visibly uncomfortable during TV interviews and left those to the more outgoing, eloquent Sarah Friar. Dorsey said of himself: “I don’t like to talk, I like to do.” One should not confuse eloquence with competence.
• For the last few years Dorsey has taken to consort with many of the nation’s top business leaders, overcoming his natural reserve and tendency to keep to himself. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with whom Dorsey met regularly for dinner for a time (Zuck did the cooking) also admires Dorsey’s company. Maybe that’s why Cramer thinks Facebook should buy Square. Zuckerberg said this of Dorsey: “The hardest thing as a founder is to keep your . . . vision as a company grows. Jack has been clear and disciplined.”
• Dorsey also gets kudos for leading his employees on Fridays to devote themselves to volunteer work and he is active in a group called Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization founded by Reshma Saujani.
- Dorsey’s Choice of Leadership and Board
Square’s Executive Staff
• 40% of his executive staff at Square are women, a great percentage compared to available data for corporate America where women fall behind at every step of the corporate ladder, see McKinsey’s analysis.(4) Gender diversity and inclusion matters as McKinsey research between 2015 and 2018 documents: “Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation.”
• 20% are Square’s executive staff are of different ethnic background as far as I can tell. Ethnic-cultural inclusion on the executive team gives an even stronger advantage: “Companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. That this relationship continues to be strong suggests that “inclusion of highly diverse individuals – and the myriad ways in which diversity exists beyond gender (e.g., LGBTQ+, age/generation, international experience) – can be a key differentiator among companies.”
• While there has been growing awareness and discussion of gender and ethnic-cultural inclusion, and several other studies support McKinsey’s conclusions, and Silicon Valley finally started looking at itself with Google’s publishing of its diversity statistics in 2014, so far progress of inclusion has moved at glacial speed.The numbers in 2017 are only minimally better than those in 2015, especially in upper management, the C-suite. Lots of palaver, little action, despite increasing documentation of the benefits of inclusion and the penalty for the bottom quartile. “Overall, companies in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnic/cultural diversity were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability than were all other companies in our data set. In short, not only were they not leading, they were lagging.”(5)
• Jack has no problem delegating authority to highly trusted executives, such as his CFO, formerly Sarah Friar, and now Amrita Ahuja. His management style is direct. He does not have an office but carries an iPad as he walks around the office, directly discussing plans or problems with his engineers and staff.
Square’s Board of Directors
• Dorsey has assembled a great board of directors whose two primary roles are oversight and long-term value creation. It has been shown that here too, gender and ethnic inclusion improves a company’s long-term performance. For a list of all members of the board, see https://squareup.com/us/en/about.
• Besides including the other co-founder Jim McKelvey, Square’s 11 member board includes 3 women. One of them is the “Internet Queen” Mary Meeker, recent founder of Bond Capital building her own empire, formerly at Kleiner Perkins, and author of the yearly Internet Trends Report, a “must study” slide deck, discussing several of “our” companies as well as IT trends in various countries.(6)
• NB: Square is ahead of California’s new board gender diversity mandate, SB 826, which requires a company to have a minimum of one woman on its board of directors by the close of 2019, to be increased to three by 2021 to avoid fines, see Mondaq for details.(7)
• Square’s board also includes two former CFOs, Roelof Botha, previously CFO at PayPal, David Viniar, former CFO at Goldman Sachs. Both, I am sure, will keep a trained eye on Square’s financial developments and Botha will most likely understand mobile payments, digital wallets and banking the unbanked better than most.
• Former UK’s Commercial Secretary to the Treasury and a partner at Goldman Sachs, Lord Paul Deighton, and former Secretary, U.S. Dpt. of the Treasury Larry Summers both know the financial regulatory and legal requirements of their respective countries, useful to avoid regulatory pitfalls as Square’s expands its financial offerings.
Jack Dorsey is a techno-esthete, a minimalist similar to Steve Jobs, obsessed with simplifying and streamlining everything. His obsession helped Dorsey to create Square. “Our niche is countertops and farm stands” said Dorsey some time ago. However, since his statement, the horizon of the company has kept on expanding as has its ecosystem, becoming increasingly sticky. Square with its simplicity and ease of use attempts to pare down the process of buying and Dorsey hopes, that Square technology will one day kill the cash register, simplifying commerce the way his other creation, Twitter, simplifies online communication. Says Dorsey, “Twitter is about moving words. Square is about moving money.”
Square’s Investor website attests to that simplicity. It is streamlined and easy to use. Check out Square’s quarterly earnings, in my view one of the best organized: shareholder letter, 10-Q or 10-K, and audio file all in one place the very day quarterly earnings are announced, see https://squareup.com/us/en/about/investors. Timely, easy, simple, and accessible! I have gotten similar feedback about the simplicity and ease of use from people who use Square, like the small Estate Sales Agency I have used, the two skinny lads from a small moving company who delivered some of the furniture, the owner of the motel where I stayed for several months. The latter, a bit over a year ago, groused about a price increase of Square’s products. When I asked him if he would switch companies, he shrugged, turned both palms up in a helpless gesture and grinned. He still uses Square, apparently it has become too sticky to change.
On Dorsey’s Choice of CFOs
The spokesperson for Square has always been its CFO. Sarah Friar, born in Northern Ireland and educated at Oxford U. and later Stanford U., was an excellent choice. She never worked as CFO prior to joining Square**(8), unlike Amrita Ahuja who had at least eleven months worth of CFO experience during her 8-year stint at Blizzard Entertainment.(9)** Not that it matters. As early as 2008, a McKinsey article disabused me of the notion that a CFO is simply a bean counter, responsible only for a company’s finances, record keeping and financial reporting. To show that the Chief Financial Officer’s role is changing from financial gatekeeper with a solid accounting background to Chief Future Officer, who is advisor and strategic partner of the CEO, McKinsey, an American worldwide management consulting firm, surveyed 164 CFOs of different tenures, interviewed 20 of them and drew on their experiences.
McK concludes that modern CFOs, to be effective, have to lead the leader and drive the CEO’s agenda. They often begin aligning themselves with the CEO and board members well before taking office. During the recruiting process, most CFOs received very explicit guidance from the CEO and board members about the issues they consider important, as well as where the CFO would have to assume a leadership role. With increasing use of Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics, the CFO’s role will most likely morph more and more into a strategic alliance with the CEO. For further enlightenment see also the paragraph with good references, “The Changing Role” in Wikipedia’s “Chief financial officer” as well as the TechCrunch article of the shift in the CFO’s role.(10)
Until January 2019 Square’s CFO was beloved Sarah Friar, one of The Bloomberg 50: The People Who Defined Global Business in 2018.(11) She was de facto Square’s CEO. Citigroup Global Markets Inc. analyst, Peter Christiansen, goes even further and wrote, according to Bloomberg, that Ms. Friar was “a key architect in building Square’s business model.” Her UK background was probably quite helpful during Square’s expansion to the UK, as was Lord Paul Deighton’s.
The importance of Friar’s role should be obvious from the level of compensation. She received $6,165,089 in 2017 and $3,871,075 in 2018 while the nominal CEO, Jack Dorsey, received a measly $3.00 per annum both years. He doesn’t reward himself with a salary for running Twitter either.(12), (13). Compare that to the generous compensation of TTD’s CEO Green of $10,782,252 in 2018 while running a money-losing business. The almost 11 Million dollars per year in CEO compensation represent a yearly increase of 76.12% while at the same time TTD revenue increased only 54.86%, ROE 11.14%, Net Income 73.51%. Quite generous I’d say.(14)
After star CFO Sarah Friar went on to become CEO at another startup in January of this year, Jack Dorsey replaced her with Amrita Ahuja. Why would Dorsey and his board have suddenly less judgment when choosing Ms. Ahuja? She was born in the USA to Asian Indian immigrant parents who were small business owners. I suspect that having grown up in a family running a small business, would help her more than anyone else to understand the needs of small business owners and the problems they face. She too has been unfairly criticized; it included her good looks. She was unfavorably compared to Jayshree V. Ullal: https://discussion.fool.com/sq-loses-another-big-exec-34105578.a…. If you look at Ms. Ahuja’s LinkedIn biography you’ll note that that she has impeccable educational credentials and that most of her training was in business development and strategic planning which included a summer job at McKinsey working on Strategy for Growth in International Markets. To me hiring her was most likely a brilliant move. Why?
As second generation Asian Indian and woman she probably studied more diligently than anyone else. In case you did not read the McKinsey report, see page 5 reference**(4)** for an eye-opening graph: women still have to be twice as smart, work twice as hard to get less than half as far as men. This is especially true for women of color.
Research shows that Asian Indians are generally better educated than U.S. natives. High achievement seems to also hold true for the second generation if the results of U.S. Spelling Bee and Geography Bee for the last ten years are any indication. A study by the Migration Policy Institute, The Indian Diaspora in the United States, confirms the high educational attainment of the Indian population whether first or second generation.(15) They are overly represented among the innovative business leaders, especially in the IT space, e.g., Zscaler’s Jay Chaudhury, MongoDB’s Dev Ittycheria, Nutanix’ Dheeraj Pandey, Arista Networks’ Jayshree V. Ullal, praised as competent. Why should Amrita Ahuja be less competent than Jayshree Ullal?
I believe Amrita Ahuja is the perfect choice, especially if Jack Dorsey plans to expand Square services to India as I strongly suspect. When interviewed, he said Ms. Ahuja rose to the top of the search for her entrepreneurial qualities, not because of her experience as CFO, see Square’s PR of January 3, 2019: “In Amrita, we have found an amazing, multidimensional business leader.”… “Amrita brings the ability to consider and balance opportunities across our entire business, and she will help strengthen our discipline as we invest, build, and scale…,” https://squareup.com/us/en/press/amrita-ahuja-to-join-square…. That doesn’t sound like the job description of a typical number cruncher to me. It sounds more like a description of the modern CFO, Chief Future Officer, a multidimensional business leader who with her Indian background, education, and work history would be ideal during Square’s expansion into India. And good looks in the executive suite have never hurt anyone, male or female, climbing up the executive ladder. On the contrary! I can only say, she’s got it, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnimFh5vw14. For all persistent admirers of the prettiest girl, here is a racier version, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7saUb3mHxpk.
Is Jack Dorsey Eyeing an Indian-Burmese Expansion?
Note that this is pure speculation on my part at this point. The reason why I suspect Dorsey may plan to expand Square’s services into India and perhaps Burma is simple. I don’t think Jack Dorsey does anything without purpose. In the Fall of 2018 he visited India for the first time. He met with Prime Minister Nahendra Modi, the Dalai Lama and other high officials and dignitaries. Unfortunately, he created an uproar when a private photo of a roundtable with Indian women journalists and activists on how Twitter could become more women friendly went viral on Twitter. It showed him with a placard given to him as a gift by a Dalit (Untouchable) woman activist. It read, “Smash Brahminical Patriarchy.” Brahmins are the highest caste in India’s complicated caste system where caste is more of a minefield than even religion. The intricacies are difficult for Westerners to understand. Tensions between higher castes and Dalits have been escalating in recent years with the rise of Hindu nationalism under Modi. Dorsey’s Indian Twitter staff should have advised him better. That was their responsibility. Many Indian Twitterati were outraged but Mr. Modi, not a Brahmin, and a Twitter enthusiast with 44.4 Million followers, never entered the Twitter storm as far as I could determine. There was also outrage against Twitter’s subsequent apology. I am sure this kerfuffle was a great learning experience for Jack.
Judging from Dorsey’s past record, I believe that his trip to India and his meditation in Burma (still the official name for the UK and some US government agencies), was not based on some whimsical decision. He could have gone to his usual meditation center in Texas. Instead, he traveled to and meditated in two countries that have the highest percent GDP growth per capita in Asia. I checked Jack’s Twitter feed around December 8, 2018, https://twitter.com/jack/status/1071575424931512320. Yes, he participated in a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation, but he also visited the cities of Yangon (Rangoon), formerly the capital, Mandalay, and Bagan (Pagan). From my own visit to Burma while a student when the military junta still ruled, I know that it is a beautiful country and the Burmese are very friendly people. The country is slowly opening up to Western influences. From Jacks Twitter feeds it is obvious that the younger Burmese are learning English now and have enthusiastically taken to Twitter which is good for Twitter and will be good for Square.
It amazes me that Dorsey gets chastised for taking 10 days off. There was no indignation or outrage anywhere when Jeff Green moved to Hong Kong and was absent from his headquarters and staff in Ventura, CA, for nearly all of 2017! https://video.foxbusiness.com/v/6049490354001/#sp=show-clips…. Green wants to expand into China. In my opinion his move was an excellent idea to get a feel for the land just as Dorsey’s trip to India and Burma was an excellent move to help him assess possibilities there for future expansion. I’d say, good for both of them.
Why Expansion into India and perhaps Burma makes Sense
If I were Square’s CEO I would definitely expand services to India, the second most populous country after China, where Twitter is already well entrenched and perhaps later to Burma, at one time the “rice bowl of Asia” but after 50 year of military dictatorship, still one of the poorest and most corrupt countries on earth, though there has been a little bit of improvement according to the latest figures of Transparency International.
Both countries are among Asian countries with the highest GDP growth per capita. India has one of the youngest populations and recent GDP growth is estimated to be above 7% (McKinsey in 2018 lists it at 5%), higher than China’s with its aging population and current economic and trade problems. Myanmar was last reported to show 8.9% GDP growth per capita.(16)
Both India and Myanmar are developing countries where small merchants are the norm especially outside the big city centers. When I was in Burma, there were no posh, touristy restaurants but only tiny eating places or roadside stalls. This was also true outside the major tourist areas even in cosmopolitan Bangkok,Thailand.
India and Myanmar have a high percentage of the unbanked and underbanked, lots of possibilities for Cash App expansion.
India has more internet users than any other country other than China. Asia in a recent report accounts for half the world’s internet users, a total of 2.2 billion. China and India account for one third.(17)
India is, according to Twitter executives, one of the fastest growing areas of Twitter. The popular Cash App is closely linked to Twitter and in a country with a high percentage of unbanked, I can see possibilities for Square’s expansion.
Board Member Mary Meeker, “Queen of the Internet” is, judging from her yearly slide decks, aware of all these trends and possibilities and I am sure so is Dorsey.
These are my own thoughts on Jack and Square. Should Jack Dorsey intend to expand Square’s services to India, I guess he would announce it only if and when the entire India and perhaps Burma expansion is set up and a sure thing. Time will tell. In the meantime I’ll look forward to the next earning’s call, the numbers, and trends.
As always and as Saul preaches, investors have to do their own research and come to their own conclusion.
I. M. Young
Long Square and TTD
(1) D. T. Max (2013), The New Yorker, Two-Hit Wonder, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/10/21/two-hit-wonder…
(2) Jon Swartz (2018), Barron’s, Jack Dorsey Is a Double-Duty CEO for Twitter and Square. Here’s How He Revived Them Both, https://www.barrons.com/articles/jack-dorsey-is-a-double-dut…
(3) Cheryl Strauss Einhorn (2018), Barron’s, How Some CEOs Successfully Run More Than One Company, https://www.barrons.com/articles/how-some-ceos-successfully-… (correction of author’s error: Jobs headed Pixar for more than a year)
(4) McKinsey and Company with LEAN IN (2018), Report on Women in the Workplace 2018, https://womenintheworkplace.com, click “Read the Report” on the left for the 36-page PDF version.
(5) McKinsey and Company (2018-01), Delivering through Diversity, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our…, scroll down for the 42-page report.
(6) Mary Meeker, Internet Trends 2019, https://techcrunch.com/2019/06/11/internet-trends-report-201…, scroll down for entire slide deck.
(7) Mondaq, UK, New California Law Mandates Female Representation On Boards Of Directors By December 2019, http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=796336&email… (free subscription of invaluable source of world-wide legal rulings)
(8) Sarah Friar, https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-friar-922b044/ (Linked-In requires free subscription)
(9) Amrita Ahuja, https://www.linkedin.com/in/amrita-ahuja-2402595/
(10) The Role of CFO:
• McKinsey and Company, Starting up as CFO, article 3, page 12, (PDF) https://www.mckinsey.com/%7E/media/mckinsey/dotcom/client_se…, free subscription may be required.
• Wikipedia, a good paragraph “Changing Role” in “Chief Financial Officer,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_financial_officer
• TechCrunch, CFO Role Shifts From Number Cruncher To Business Leader, https://techcrunch.com/2015/04/14/cfo-role-shifts-from-numbe…
(11) Sarah Friar, Bloomberg 50, https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2017-bloomberg-50/
(12) Square Inc A, Morningstar Executive compensation, https://insiders.morningstar.com/trading/executive-compensat…
(13) Twitter Inc, Morningstar Executive compensation, https://insiders.morningstar.com/trading/executive-compensat…
(14) The Trade Desk Inc A, Morning* Executive compensation, https://insiders.morningstar.com/trading/executive-compensat…
(15) On Indian Immigrants
Migration Policy Institute (MPI) (July 2014), Report for Rockefeller Foundation - Aspen Institute Diaspora Program (RAD), The Indian Diaspora in the United States, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/select-diaspora-pop…, scroll down, click India, click download profile
MPI (2017), Indian Immigrants in the United States (figures are from 2015), https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/indian-immigrants-un…
(16) McKinsey Global Institute (2018-09), Outperformers: High-growth emerging economies and the companies that propel them
40-page Executive Summary:
Full 168-page report:
(17) McKinsey Global Institute (2018-09), Outperformers: High-McKinsey Global Institute (2019-07), Asia’s future is now,
https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/asia-pacific/asia… (20 page discussion paper)