Jack Dorsey emulates Steve Jobs, his ‘mentor from afar’


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Jack Dorsey has drawn comparisons to Steve Jobs for his innovation with Twitter and Square as well as the purist aesthetic he instills in the products he builds.

As his friend Ashton Kutcher told Vanity Fair in April: ‘What makes Jack magic is his precision.’


Dorsey emulates Jobs’ approach to design, a relentless drive for simplicity and quality. He bought his first car, a BMW M3, for the sleek design. In his spare, immaculate apartment, he has a Shaker bench. He wears a Rolex because it’s one of the few companies that still manufactures its own parts.

‘I love simplifying something down to a base essence,’ Dorsey said Thursday, speaking on stage at AsiaD in Hong Kong.

He said he tries to design products that disappear when people are using them and called Jobs ‘a mentor from afar.’

What inspired Dorsey most: The way Jobs built Apple.

‘A lot of people learn from the surface, the aesthetic,’ Dorsey said. ‘What’s most fascinating to me is the discipline.’

Dorsey got some discipline in a visit to Apple.

In its early days, Square was dubbed Squirrel. Dorsey dreamed up the name for the mobile payments system in the Marin County woods while watching squirrels collect acorns and ‘squirrel’ them away. The prototype for the credit card-reading dongle was made out of wood and was called and shaped like an acorn.

With the dongle in hand, the San Francisco entrepreneur drove down to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., to have lunch with and give a presentation to Apple’s honcho in charge of iPhone software, Scott Forstall. That’s when he noticed the Apple cafeteria had an internal payment system called, what else, Squirrel Systems.


Dorsey scratched the name and the wood dongle. He looked up squirrel in the dictionary and scrolled through words until he landed on square. The name had the evocative and physical message he wanted: People say they are ‘square’ or they ‘square up’ when settling a debt. That’s now also the company’s url:


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-- Jessica Guynn