Square也可能是这种心态的受害者之一。2009年，因失去CEO职务而离开Twitter的杰克·多尔西，推出了一个造型时尚，可连接移动设备的白色信用卡读卡器。这样一来，任何iPhone或安卓智能手机用户都能够接受信用卡支付。几家硅谷顶级风投机构，比如Khosla Ventures、红杉资本和Kleiner Perkins，都向Square注入了资金。（就连维珍集团创始人理查德·布兰森也是该公司的投资者。）坐拥大量现金的Square吸引了基思·拉波伊斯、梅根·奎因、萨拉·弗里亚尔、戈库尔·拉贾拉姆等硅谷最有才华的运营专家、产品经理和工程师。
“What’s really going on at Square?”
“The company seems lost.”
“Can Square live up to the hype?”
These were all comments made to me over the last year by venture capitalists and people in the technology industry about Square, the Silicon Valley payments company founded by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.
The industry got part of the answer to this confusion on Friday when reports surfaced that Square had confidentially filed to make a public offering. As Bloomberg reported, Square filed to go public under the JOBS Act, which allows companies with less than $1 billion in revenue to privately file for an IPO. Sources familiar with the company’s plans say that Square expects its IPO to take place this fall but has the option to delay it.
One investment banker told Fortune: “I was shocked when I learned they filed. I thought they were struggling.”
Contrary to past reports, signs suggest that Square’s revenue will grow. According to one source close to the company, Square’s revenue is growing three to four times faster than payments giant PayPal PYPL 0.65% , which just went public after spinning off from eBay. In the second quarter of 2015, PayPal saw revenue jump 16% to $2.3 billion. If sources close to the company are correct, Square’s revenue is growing at least 50% year over year. (A spokesperson for Square declined to comment.) Jim McCarthy, executive vice president of strategic partnerships and innovation at Visa, recently told Fortune that Square is a top 10 merchant on Visa’s credit card processing system. It’s also worth noting that Visa made a strategic investment in Square in 2011.
In a recent, separate interview regarding eBay’s future without PayPal, investor Marc Andreessen told Fortune that startups are “over-glorified” in the Valley.
“We venerate the new, cute young upstart,” he said.
Square may have been a victim of that mindset. The company’s hype cycle began in 2009 when Dorsey, who had left Twitter after being pushed out of the CEO role, introduced a sleek, white credit-card reader that plugged into a mobile device to allow anyone with an iPhone or Android smartphone to accept credit card payments. Top venture capital firms on Silicon Valley’s Sand Hill Road poured money into the company, including Khosla Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and Kleiner Perkins. (Even Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson invested.) Flush with cash, Square was able to attract some of the Valley’s most talented operators, product managers, and engineers, including Keith Rabois, Megan Quinn, Sarah Friar, and Gokul Rajaram.
Members of the press, including this reporter, chronicled every step the company made. Square was often likened to the next Apple (and Dorsey, the next Steve Jobs). Square scored several high-profile partnerships with Fortune 500 companies, including a 2012 deal with coffee giant Starbucks SBUX -0.22% , which put that company’s CEO, Howard Schultz, on Square’s board of directors. By November 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that Square was exploring an IPO with top-tier investment banks such as Goldman Sachs.
It didn’t take long for the early sheen of startup success to wear off.
The first blow came to Dorsey’s reputation with the late 2013 release of writer Nick Bilton’s book Hatching Twitter, which chronicled the story of Twitter and characterized Dorsey as unable to stabilize the company’s culture and technology. The next round came with news reports in 2014 that Twitter had postponed its IPO earlier in the year, was looking for a seller, and had engaged in discussions with Apple, Google, and eBay. A Journal report asserted that Square was bleeding money—roughly $100 million in 2013, a figure that was larger than the loss the company posted in 2012. Additionally, the report said that Square’s margins were shrinking. Though Square vehemently denied the acquisition talks (as did some of the acquirers) and rejected the report, all was not rosy with the company’s core products, especially those that were consumer-facing.
In 2014, Square shut down Wallet, its mobile wallet product for consumers, after it failed to gain traction with its intended audience. With Wallet’s demise went Square’s Starbucks partnership that allowed people to pay for their coffee using the app (though the company continues to process payments for Starbucks). Earlier this year Square shut down Order, an app that allowed people to get order food from restaurants. Meanwhile Square resisted making Dorsey available for interviews with the press and reduced his on-stage appearances on the tech conference circuit. Speculation abound: Was something amiss at Square?