Live Blog: Square Unboxed 2019


I’m in San Francisco this week to attend the Square Developer Advisory Board and Unboxed, Square’s developer conference.

Square Developer Advisory Board, 2019

Hundreds of developers are here to learn about the future of commerce.

8:55am: The main keynote stage opens up.

09:50am: Pankaj Bengani, Head of Global Partnerships at Square, opened up the conference.

In 2016, we launched our platform to the world. In 2019, we made a commitment to an omnichannel platform. We created an Orders API that created a new experience: buy online and pickup in the store.

Our commerce platform opened up access to our first party products. Square for Retail and Square for Restaurants are integrated in kiosks around the world.

We have over 2400 integrated partners building experiences around payments and orders.

10:01am: Common is in the house.

Who are the leaders of today? What truly is a leader?

A leader cares. Not only for themselves, but they care for others. A leader takes time to make sure that the people in the commuinty where he or she is from are taken care. Take time to care.

“What are you willing to die for? Live for that.” — Andrew Young

“Service is the rent that you pay for your room here on Earth.” — Muhammad Ali

10:22am: Q&A with Common & Shawntee Reed, Square’s Head of Inclusion and Diversity

As a black kid growing up in Chicago, I really got to know who I was.

Q: What inspired you to write Let Love Have The Last Word?

A: I was looking and listening to what was going on with political discourse, anf the weightiness of what’s going on in our times, and it made me think about how I can put more focus on bettering myself and others around me. I believe love to be that anecdote. Love is an action word.

At the beginning of the book, I tell a story about my daughter telling me I wans’t being the best father. It made me think about how I can make every experience about making everyone better.

Q: How can you harness the power of diversity to drive results?

A: When we approach the title of diversity, we understand that it’s not just putting one black person next to a latino person next to a woman. People have so much depth. You have to think about diversity in thought too; and approach. Part of that means bringing people in from different backgrounds. They may have what you need. You should listen to everybody sitting at the table.

Q: How have you used your platform to be a source of good?

I started the Common Ground Foundation, centered in Chicago. We created it because we wanted young people to have the same opportunities I had; even more. We have mentors that help our students not only academically but also with nutrition, social work, etc; we’ve even taken them to meet the Obamas.

Q: How can tech companies make a difference right now?

A: They should make sure we are going into areas early on and teaching young people and exposing them to technology. Especially the under-served. I would encourage you to think about, “What is the purpose of your platform?”. How is it benefiting society; how is it changing lives?

11:07am: Common meet & greet. He’s awesome.

11:36am: Panel: The Challenges of Growing an Ecosystem

Moderated by Cyndy Lobb (Head of Product for Commerce Platform at Square) with Jarred Keneally (Intuit), Olivia Chen (Faire), Stephen Liset, OpenTable, Kelsey Garvey (Slack), Dan Cath (Volvo)

Garvey: The user always needs to be in the center.

Chen: The four dimensions are value to your customer (does your idea already exist?), value to your business (integrations have ancillary benefits), scope (don’t over build), and risk (integrate with a partner that will be there in a few years).

Liset: Should we build it vs. should we partner? What are your core priorities? At Opentable, when thinking about delivery, we don’t want to build it ourselves because it’s already a very competitive space; so we chose to partner with someone.

Garvey: There is competition within our developer ecosystem, and it’s a healthy thing. Slack is a layer of the business technology stack. We’re trying to create something any customer would use.

Lobb: It’s really all about the value you provide. How do you keep a two-sided marketplace balanced?

Keneally: At Intuit, we spend a lot of time making sure there is a high bar of quality on our platform.

Cath: The infotainment system in our new electric car is a native Android app. From a partner ecosystem, we want to work with every one of the companies on stage today. What are the right services for the users? I’m here to bridge the old world with the new world.

Chen: Balance is really important, but not for eCommerce. I thought there would be a golden ratio for supply & demand. As a buyer you just want to goto a website and find what you’re looking for. Selection is king. You want as much supply as possible. Let the buyer have the choice.

Lobb: How do you motivate developers to build apps in your ecosystem?

Garvey: Slack could be seen as a software company, but we don’t want to be seen as that. Instead of selling saddles, it’s about the art of horse riding. We’re trying to inspire transformational organization.

Cath: Understand your developers’ goals.

Lobb: What are you excited about for 2020?

Cath: Native apps in the car is a tremendous step in the right direction. We have to think about how we’re going to bring our software into the car.

Garvey: We have made a huge transformation in our platform. The initial APIs were very tech focused; now we’re making the platform much easier to use without writing code. App discoverability is a big focus.

12:37pm: Lunch provided by Shake Shack.

1:20pm: Custom screen-printed hoodies. Bonus points if you can decode the binary.

2:00pm: Panel: Disrupting Industries Through Technology

Moderated by Ashley Grech (Global Head of Sales at Square), Ryan Walls, (POWDR), Michael Nusimow (DrChrono), Jasmine Crowe (Goodr), Brett Spiegel (Koala)

Grech: How do you get buy-in from investors?

Crowe: It’s extremely hard to get buy in from investors especially if something isn’t going to make money, and also do good.

Nusimow: When iPads first came out, people thought it was a toy. Of all the backorders for when the iPad came out in 2010, 10% (30,000) were for doctors.

Spiegel: Creating something that was rooted in the physical world presented a lot of questions that we weren’t sure how to answer. How do you take credit cards? How do we sell alcohol? We followed conventional wisdom, and learned from merchants who had solved these problems before.

Grech: What does innovation look like for others?

Walls: You don’t have to be on the bleeding edge to make something great.

Crowe: We should be looking for technologies that create social good. If we were going to disrupt the waste industry and feed people, it’s a game changer for us.

Nusimow: Being able to build on other platforms is important.

Spiegel: We try to focus on the best experience for the customer as possible, and not try to reinvent the wheel.

2:33pm: Panel: Breaking into New Verticals

Moderated by Owen Jennings (Head of Growth for Cash App at Square), Andre Iguodala (NBA All-Star), Meghana Dhar (Instagram), Abhishek Gupta (Uber Technologies, Inc.), Dan Kim (AirBnB)

Iggy: I dabble in basketball, and I’m also trying to get more into investing.

Jennings: How did you get involved in investing?

Iggy: In 2008, I started an eTrade account; bought some Apple. I invested in a few apps that I was interested in. I kept getting deeper and deeper into it. That’s when you start learning about private markets. I was fortunate enough to play for the Warriors, so I was right in Silicon Valley’s backyard. I worked with a16z a little bit.

Jennings: What kind of interest are you seeing that led you into the shopping vertical?

Dhar: A lot of our users were asking for it with their behavior. Around 80% of all users are Instagram follow a business. The same percentage discover new products this way. We saw users hacking the process, so we started building features that cater to them.

Kim: AirBnb is a collection of the most beautiful homes & the best hosts on our platform. We help these hosts with hospitality planning. We’re always thinking about how we can create hotel-like experiences.

Jennings: What does a vertical even mean for Uber?

Gupta: We want to be the logistics platform of choice. We think about the supply side first. On the ride-sharing side, we wanted to grow a large driver base.

Jennings: Andre, what were you surprised by, and how did your investing relate to basketball?

Iggy: Trying to balance it all has been an adjustment. Add more people to the team, make sure the schedule is streamlined. In regards to basketball, you think about how you can be a better shooter/dribbler. In the tech space, you gotta work on each skill the same way. Engaging my brain in different areas is important.

Jennings: How does it work from a coach/teammate perspective? Are you learning from others?

Iggy: You learn through experience. When you’re thrown in the fire, you gotta figure it out, and if you don’t you get left behind.

Jennings: What are the elements that have contributes to success with Instagram Shopping?

Dhar: I think of us as very different than any other shopping app out there. We’re very visual, emotional, and all of the content is organic. These are users that already engage with brands. The Creator product for influencers lets people tag products and you can shop directly. Kim K launched one of her latest brands on Instagram.

Jennings: How do you see AirBnb Plus competing with hotels?

Kim: The key difference is power of our hosts. You’re staying in someone’s home. It has a unique personality, it’s very personal. A lot of our homes are not located in tourist zones.

Jennings: For Uber, is expanding into new verticals across logistics/shipping/driver/food grocery, is that a superpower or a detriment?

Gupta: I think it’s a superpower and it’s what will help Uber stay around for a while. The company was very disciplined with ride-sharing, and there were other businesses starting that did “Uber for ____”, and we had to be very thoughtful about whether or not we should go into a new vertical.

Jennings: What is the next new vertical?

Gupta: I’m excited about autonomous. It’s gonna change how things move from point A to point B.

Kim: We’re getting into interior design.

Dhar: Drops. Celebs can “drop” new launches on Instagram.

Iggy: Education will be disrupted; it will be more personalized.

3:30pm: Panel: Building Efficiency for the On-Demand Economy

Moderated by Oseyi Ikuenobe (Head of Product for Orders & Checkout at Square), Joseph Lawton (Chowly Inc.), Ted Trisco (Postmates), Zhong Yuan Xu (Deliverect)

Ikuenobe: How has the restaurant industry changed because of technology?

Lawton: There is a high error rate when manually entering orders. The direct integrations we have today really help fix that.

Ikuenobe: On-Demand is a very multi-sided market. How do you deal with the complexities?

Trisco: The customer wants to see a fresh menu; our fleet cares about getting in and out of the restaurant in a timely manor; the merchant cares about the signup experience as well as the fulfillment experience. Working with Square on a direct integration helped usempower that efficient experience for everybody.

Xu: It’s all about scale. The complexity is to manage taxes, menus, choices. We have big restaurant chains with hundreds of locations. Now they can use our platform with a few clicks and manage everything.

Ikeunobe: What’s surprised you most about working with Square?

Trisco: Square support is awesome. We had a product manager walk us through the integration from initial vision until launch.

Lawton: I want to echo what Ted said.

Ikuenobe: What didn’t surprise you about working with Square?

Lawton: Everything we expected was there. We expected an enterprise solution that was built for the future.

Trisco: It did not surprise me how passionate Square sellers are about their business. They want the tools to manage everything on their own.

Ikuenobe: What will on-demand delivery look like in five years?

Lawton: It’s about using data to customize experience for users.

Trisco: It’s about automation. Over time, we’ll remove as many pain points as we can and it will be more seamless for the end user.

Xu: Multi-channel. You will be able to order food from any channel possible (think Alexa).

4:00pm: Square’s Product Roadmap (Carl Perry, Developer Platform Lead at Square)

We have a developer Slack channel where you can get help with questions about our API. We have an email address that gets answered right away too. We have a developer advisory board too; it’s a small group of developers that we can get direct feedback from.

We have a few APIs in alpha: Loyalty API, Marketplaces API, Risk API.

In beta: Gift card support, Multiple payments per order Reader SDK, Fractional quantities, Sandbox, Order improvements.

APIs in GA this year: Webhooks, Labor API, Employees API, Orders V2 API, Location V2, Google/Apply Pay, Payments V2 API, Python & Ruby SFK, In-App Payments SDK, Inventory V2 API, SCA Support, New Tech Reference.

Short term goals:

Medium term goals:

04:20pm: Chat with Jack Dorsey & Balaji S. Srinivasan (Former CTO of Coinbase)

Srinivasan: When millions of people align around a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum, it’s a big deal.

Dorsey: How long before we see more asynchronous workflows?

Srinivasan: The smartest early internet companies realized that the pipes weren’t ready to handle all their content (Netflix did DVD rental first).

Dorsey: How will crypto change the concept of a nation state?

Srinivasan: People live in apartment complexes and don’t know people living next door, but they are more connected with someone 3000 miles away via online.

Dorsey: In the next two years, what does a tech startup look like?

Srinivasan: Companies are becoming more fully remote. The dark horse is VR. Eventually it will become more productive.

Dorsey: As a company and individual, I benefit a lot from open source. What is the future of open source with these technologies?

Srinivasan: It offers new axises. Github bounties are an example.