The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
From the cofounder of Square, an inspiring and entertaining account of what it means to be a true entrepreneur and what it takes to build a resilient, world-changing company
In 2009, a St. Louis glassblowing artist and recovering computer scientist named Jim McKelvey lost a sale because he couldn't accept American Express cards. Frustrated by the high costs and difficulty of accepting credit card payments, McKelvey joined his friend Jack Dorsey (the cofounder of Twitter) to launch Square, a startup that would enable small merchants to accept credit card payments on their mobile phones. With no expertise or experience in the world of payments, they approached the problem of credit cards with a new perspective, questioning the industry's assumptions, experimenting and innovating their way through early challenges, and achieving widespread adoption from merchants small and large.
But just as Square was taking off, Amazon launched a similar product, marketed it aggressively, and undercut Square on price. For most ordinary startups, this would have spelled the end. Instead, less than a year later, Amazon was in retreat and soon discontinued its service. How did Square beat the most dangerous company on the planet? Was it just luck? These questions motivated McKelvey to study what Square had done differently from all the other companies Amazon had killed. He eventually found the key: a strategy he calls the Innovation Stack.
McKelvey's fascinating and humorous stories of Square's early days are blended with historical examples of other world-changing companies built on the Innovation Stack to reveal a pattern of ground-breaking, competition-proof entrepreneurship that is rare but repeatable.
The Innovation Stack is a thrilling business narrative that's much bigger than the story of Square. It is an irreverent first-person look inside the world of entrepreneurship, and a call to action for all of us to find the entrepreneur within ourselves and identify and fix unsolved problems - one crazy idea at a time.
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|Listening Length||6 hours and 23 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||March 10, 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #18,289 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#29 in New Business Enterprises
#84 in Starting a Business (Books)
#166 in Entrepreneurship (Audible Books & Originals)
Reviewed in the United States on July 13, 2020
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Few entrepreneurs know how to write. Jim McKelvy is the exception. Jim’s writing is like the opening of a James Bond film. It crackles with twists and turns, near-death experiences, and “uh-oh, how’s he gonna get out of that?” moments. And Jim is hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny. When he talks about the difference between a business person (a successful person who only knows how to do what has already been done) and an entrepreneur (a wild spirit, a crazy person, a person looking for the perfect problem), he shows you the difference.
While the real story here is about the Innovation Stack, Jim uses the early days of Square, the company he and Jack Dorsey founded, to illustrate the concept. So be clear, this isn’t just the story of Square. It’s about something much bigger. It’s about two things: (1) "squaring up" – creating something that has never before existed that brings fairness to a previously unfair system; and (2) the Innovation Stack, "one of the most powerful assets a company can possess" which is what makes “squaring up” a possibility.
If you're looking for a way to make a lot of money by doing what other people have done, don't bother with this book. If you're looking for the perfect problem to solve, or to put an even finer point on it if you're looking to tackle the perfect problem for you, read this book. You will not be disappointed.
It exceeded my expectations.
Jim’s writing style is fluid and he wraps enough humor throughout the book that it makes you feel like you are visiting with an old friend. The story telling is top-notch, engaging you in the journey of bringing Square from a concept to a proven industry innovator and leader.
Filled with anecdotes, references and some unforgettable characters like Herb Kelleher and A.P Giannini, The Innovation Stack builds upon itself much like how Jim challenges you to construct your business idea to solve problems.
The world needs innovation and entrepreneurs now more than ever. Reading this book truly inspired me. I keep it at my desk to reference often to share quotes and be reminded of Jim’s perspective.
I even shared this with my father, who is not a businessman or a tech guy. He loved it and couldn’t put it down.
Highly recommended and I feel smarter having read it. Well done, Jim.
Jim McKelvey says stuff in a way that others have generally been nervous. He does an exceptional job clarifying what new entrepreneurs are scared of. Focus on the areas in that you're innovating in but then copy everything else. I've always loved the phrase "if you want to make apple pie from scratch, first you must create the universe" and this book exemplifies it.
If you liked the classic Business Adventures by John Brooks, you'll love this.
I recommend this book to hose interested in the payments/fintech space but also for those interested in following the entrepreneur path
Addendum: A common element to Jim’s four case studies : prior restraint placed by governments or trade associations. Ironically, Jim’s cofounder of Square, Jack Dorsey, now actively places prior restraints on free speech on Twitter.
Top reviews from other countries
I appreciate the honest and down to earth tone of the book in contrast to the almost gossip magazine style of writing in tech journalism these days. It was a very interesting read. Definitely recommend.
Across 18 exciting chapters, Jim McKelvey takes us along on his journey, along with Jack Dorsey on creation of Square - the writing is both explosive and internalizing at the same time. The author's humility and vulnerability shine throughout the pages - there's no great joy at defeating Amazon in the payment's game, nor any chest beating - simply, a subtle thought on how Square could've possible defeated the behemoth that Amazon is
While trying to understand the potential reasons Square's innovation stack caused Amazon to exit the market, the author's research into 4 similar paradigm-changing personalities are described in great detail. The journey of Christopher Columbus, A.P. Giannini of Bank of America, Herb Kelleher of Southwest airlines, IKEA's Kamprad are detailed in an interesting manner by the author
The author concludes the last of the chapters under "Innovation physics" heading, dwelling on some of the often-quoted success factors for a startup and the culture thereof. Even when talking about the theory, the author's down-to-earth attitude and unassuming character traits come to the fore - which makes it easier to read (an otherwise unbelievable story of how a startup SQUARED UP against the biggest behemoth on earth currently!)
For anyone interested in the innovation/startup culture, The Innovation Stack is a must-read and I hope you love reading the book as much as I did. A huge thanks to Jim McKelvey for the book - one that I am sure I will read many times again!
He is the cofounder of Square, was chairman of its board until 2010, and still serves on the Board of Directors. In 2011, his iconic card reader design was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art.
In 2016, McKelvey founded Invisibly, an ambitious project to rewire the economics of online content.
In 2017, he was appointed as an Independent Director of the St. Louis Federal Reserve.
Why you should read this book?
The Innovation Stack is a deeply useful book about the characteristics of successful companies and how and why to build one, complete with inspiring case studies that literally span centuries.
How did Square beat the most dangerous company on the planet? Was it just luck? These questions motivated McKelvey to study what Square had done differently from all the other companies Amazon had killed. He eventually found the key: a strategy he calls the Innovation Stack.