Square’s Kimble: There’s ‘More Opportunity Than Obstacle’ in Payments Space

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SquareSan Francisco-based mobile payments company Square continues to grow at a rapid clip. The company closed a $200 million round last September, valuing it at $3.25 billion, and has expanded rapidly since, with a major integration with Starbucks, and, more recently, a push into Asia. The company is now also attacking the merchant payments market, partnering with companies like Visa and Amex as well as offering solutions for small businesses.

Chuck Kimble, who heads up the company’s strategic partnerships, will be appearing on a panel next week in San Francisco at Street Fight Summit West, so we took the opportunity to catch up with him recently over email and find out more about how the company is planning to expand beyond mobile payments to become a vital part of small business owners’ marketing strategy.

Square launched its merchant payments system as an outgrowth from mobile payments. Are we going to see additional features or areas of growth in the near future?
Absolutely. You should expect to see ongoing innovation with Square, and most of it focused directly on growing businesses. For example, we just released Square Stand, beautiful new hardware for brick-and-mortar businesses that turns an iPad into a complete point of sale. It provides additional functionality, which customers have communicated they want. They can quickly and easily connect a receipt printer, kitchen printer, cash drawer, and barcode scanner.

The mobile payments space is growing and changing quickly. What are some major impediments you see across the space generally? How about specifically for Square?
I am really glad to see the network rules evolving to enable innovation. We are optimistic that will continue.

Honestly, I see more opportunity than obstacle at this point. There are still tens of millions of businesses that don’t accept credit cards. And among those who do accept credit cards, many are using obsolete registers. We want to change that.

What are some key metrics or other factors you consider when looking for partners?
Our best partners are those who share our vision and focus on giving tools to businesses that will help them be more efficient and delight customers. We admittedly have a lot of idealists at Square and that is why I joined the team. We are in dialogue with a number of partners who will help us deliver even more value for businesses.

What kinds of brand partnerships have worked the best so far? Have any been unsuccessful?
We have really strong partnerships with the networks, including Visa, MasterCard, and Amex. We also have key retail partnerships with partners like Target and Apple, that enable us to provide access to our products in more than 30,000 locations in the US and Canada.

We recently worked on the Square Wallet Challenge presented by Visa.

Will you continue to pursue partnerships with SMBs in addition to large companies like Starbucks?
Our core focus is on SMBs, and that will continue. We are focused on providing greater value for them and ensuring that our product is well positioned to help them as they grow.

Amy’s Ice Cream in Austin now has its 13 locations using Square and Blue Bottle has 11 across New York and the Bay Area. We want to ensure that they stay with Square and that is why we spend a lot of time listening and then enhancing our products. We just released a new version of Square Register with new tools specifically for the food industry.

Noah Davis is a senior editor at Street Fight.