As the new founder in residence at SV Angel, Paul McKellar is part of the next layer of web and mobile entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. People who have come here and been through a couple startups over the last several years – in his case, his own company, then Square — and are now moving into financial and advising roles. That is, at least before they go found more companies.
I talked with McKellar by phone yesterday to hear a little more about what he’ll be doing in his new job.
Backed by Ron Conway and headed up by David Lee, SV Angel is one of the more connected and prolific angel investors. It has had one other founder in residence that I know of, BookFresh and FreshGuide founder Ryan Donahue.
McKellar has been in the middle of the action here for the last several years, having been on the founding team of Square since 2009, where he worked on the API and web interface for the payments service provider. He arrived here via Y Combinator in early 2007, developing an anonymous conversations site called Socialmoth that he’d created while a research engineer at Georgia Tech. He turned the site into a Facebook app when the social network launched its platform that May, which he eventually sold.
In my interview with him, below, he discusses the early days of Square, how entrepreneurs should think about approaching investors, and what he’ll be doing with SV Angel.
TechCrunch: So you were early in Square. How did that come about?
Paul McKellar: I had been working on credit cards online around the same time Jack [Dorsey] was starting Square, or as it was called at that point Squirrel. We had met already because I’d been in the Twitter offices when it was eight people in South Park. We met for coffee, I saw and raved about the product, and within 15 minutes he offered me a job.
I actually said no because I enjoy doing my own thing, but changed my mind about two weeks later which turned out to be a good decision.
TechCrunch: What did you learn from working there in the early days?
Paul McKellar: It was an unusually fast-growing company. We grew from 25 to 75 in 2010, and managed to do a surprising number of things right early on. The Square interface on the iPhone, for example, had the same alignment of form, and same organization since the very beginning. The way the price is displayed, the credit card sale, the description — it all encourages the right order for convenient transactions, and it hasn’t really changed from the beginning. I remember Jack and Robert Anderson agonizing for this detail for hours in Jack’s apartment.
It took a lot of work to get it right and because of that, it hasn’t changed.
TechCrunch: How’d you end up at SV Angel?
Paul McKellar: I’d been meeting the team over the years at tech events, and had always gotten along with them. Kevin had reached out when they started doing the founder-in-residence program.
TechCrunch: Tell me about your new role now? What’s your focus going to be?
Paul McKellar: It’s basically like an entrepreneur-in-residence. Go to the Monday meetings, listen to conversations about which companies are under consideration.
Being there will help me get more of a perspective on bigger trends, and meet people who are working on other things outside of the entrepreneurs and developers I know.
The team is also small and informal, and focused on very early-stage deals, which are all things I can appreciate.
I’ve been looking a lot at mobile. I’d say mobile-social but that tends to make people think of Instagram or GroupMe and I’m more interested in social utilities.
TechCrunch: iPhone or Android?
Paul McKellar: iPhone.
TechChrunch: You’d recommend building for both?
Paul McKellar: All apps should be launched on both. It’s a false dichotomy. Android devices are going to be ubiquitous. You might not have an Android phone, but you might have an Android fridge or an Android stereo or an Android TV.
Apple is never going to let iOS be installed in a car, that is never going to happen. But Android will. You are going to see Android everywhere.
TechCrunch: Could this position lead you to join or incubate a company as part of the job?
Paul McKellar: I’m looking to start a company with a friend or someone who I know I work with really well. Because of that, it is unlikely that I will join any company I notice because of SVAngel.
TechCrunch: Any advice for founders?
Paul McKellar: Make the decision to invest in your company very very easy. Make it easy for someone to understand what your company is, who your market is, why you’re the people to solve the problem. Good investors look at a lot of different deals and have to make fast decisions with little information. The easier you make it, the more competitive you are.