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The digital payment provider with Bitcoin close to its heart

Block Inc (formerly Square Inc) is an American financial services and digital payments company based in San Francisco, California. The company creates tools to help expand access to the economy through their broad range of products, including point-of-sale hardware and software. The company operates an FDIC-insured bank, consumer payments platform, offers stock and cryptocurrency trading and has made a high number of high-profile acquisitions.

They have four primary services, these are:

  • Square: a payments platform to make accepting credit card payments and use tablets as payment registers possible for small and medium businesses.

  • Cash App: an app which allows for p2p money transfers via the app or website. A further extension to this app is “Square Cash for businesses” which makes it possible for individuals, organizations, and business owners to send and receive money. Since 2019 the app allows the buying and selling of bitcoin.

  • Afterpay: buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) service. Weebly - web hosting service.

  • Tidal: Jay-Z’s subscription-based music, podcast and video streaming service.

The Founding of Square

It all started with a tiny square card reader - a stamp-sized dongle in plastic, which could be plugged into an iPhone jack, this dongle became the simple solution for artists and vendors to accept credit cards. The two tech entrepreneurs Jack Dorsey and Jim Mckelvey launched Square, now called Block, in 2009. Riding the megatrend of smartphones and online payments, the two St. Louis natives realized that convenient plastic card payments were just the tip of the iceberg.

The original iPhone dongle quickly evolved into an iPad app to get rid of the need for cash registers. Square struck a deal with Apple to sell its hardware in the stores, and later with Starbucks, becoming its official card processor. From there, Square started focusing on all things small business, including loans and payroll.

Cash App – simplifying mobile peer-to-peer payments

Dorsey said that “Cash app was something that everyone in the company, at the time we started, didn’t think we should be doing”. “It was a very hard sell and we weren’t seeing much traction in the market, and every day I was losing credibility”. Eventually the team found a model and made it work. Cash App is a mobile app-focused money transfer service. With the app, users can send and receive funds, set up a bank account and debit card, and also invest in stocks and Bitcoin. The user interface is extremely simple, making it handy for sending and receiving money. Transfers are swift, and the bonus of being able to invest and use a debit card with the service makes it a very useful tool in today's digital environment.

The Afterpay Deal

In the sphere of M&As, where armies of advisors often spend months negotiating key terms and inspecting books and business plans, three months is not a lot of time. Nevertheless, three months was all it took for Square to complete the purchase of the Australian BNPL provider, Afterpay. The takeover interest was big from six potential buyers, but Square made more sense, considering the companies were already exploring services tie-ups. Square was keen on being able to provide a buy-now-pay-later service for Cash App and Afterpay wanted to accelerate growth in the U.S. market, competing with Affirm and Klarna.

The negotiations for the largest buyout ever for an Australian company took place in Hawaii, where key executives met. After a couple of days they left the tropical island, agreeing on the need to combine their services and expertise. 11 weeks after leaving Hawaii, the transaction terms were finalized.

Putting Bitcoin on the balance sheet

Dorsey has been one of the most high-profile pioneers of Bitcoin and often refers to it as “the native currency of the internet”. Back in 2014, the company started experimenting with cryptocurrency within the Cash App, enabling online stores to accept crypto as a payment. After years without any major breakthroughs, the company now facilitates buying and selling of bitcoin within the Cash App, in addition to equities. Additionally, the company holds bitcoin on its balance sheet as an alternative to cash. They have launched several open-source projects within the company and are working on a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange and mining project.