Jack Dorsey’s Square was unveiled last December as an innovative way to let people quickly and easily accept physical credit card payments from their mobile phone.
Since then, Square, which has been in limited beta, has been used in a variety of use cases. E.g. philanthopic organization charity:water recently used Square at the SXSW festival to collect donations.
A local flower cart in San Francisco is using Square to take payments from customers. Denim, a jeans store in New York is using Square to take payments from shoppers. We even used Square at this year’s Crunchies to raise money for the UCSF Foundation.
Here’s how Square works: A small device attaches to the phone via the headset/microphone jack. The device gets the power it needs to send data to the phone from the swipe of the card, and sends the information over the microphone connection. The device is compatible with both the iPhone and Android. It’s similar in some ways to PayPal, but anyone can now accept physical credit card payments, too. With no contracts or monthly fees. People are sent receipts by text and email. If you haven’t seen Square in action, check out this video.
And now, a new use case has popped up for Square: political fundraising.
Square is currently being used in two campaigns. Silicon Valley VC Josh Becker, who is running for state assembly in California’s 21st district, has been using Square at fundraising events. And lawyer Reshma Saujani, who is running for Congress in New York’s 14th district, is using Square at campaign fundraising events, including at an event in San Francisco on Friday.
Square is ideal for taking money at political fundraisers for several reasons.
Currently, if you want to donate money at a fundraising event, you often have to fill out a form and hand over a check or cash at the event. If you don’t have your checkbook or cash handy (which, many of us don’t), credit cards are the only option. You can write down your credit card number and info for fundraisers to charge at a later date, but you have to trust that the fundraiser keeps track of that information and paper.
With Square, there is both a convenience added for both the payee and fundraiser. The donation is instantly processed, and Square will send the receipt via SMS or email to the payee. Of course, political contributions and donations are a little more complicated because of the reporting requirements associated with donations.
For many types of donations, you need to take the donator’s name, occupation, address, and other information. Currently Square doesn’t allow users to input all of this information but Dorsey says that they are releasing Square’s API to allow fundraisers to build additional applications on top of Square, where they could input all of the necessary data. Once this is enabled, Square will allows fundraisers to eliminate paper collection and payments all together.
Dorsey says he’s already getting significant interest from politicians and political candidates across the country, but because Square is in limited beta, is being selective about how the service is distributed. Dorsey expects Square to be open to the public sometime in the next few months.
Valued at $40 million even before launch, Square is off to an impressive start. And technology’s most notable investors and leaders seem to think so as well.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, investor Ron Conway, Google’s Marissa Mayer, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley, Digg creator Kevin Rose, investor Esther Dyson and a host of others have invested in Square. The company also raised funding from Khosla Ventures.