Jim McKelvey is an engineer, entrepreneur, artist, and widely known together with Jack Dorsey as the co-founders of Square, a new mobile payment platform. A revolutionary service that enables anyone to accept credit cards anywhere. His other company Mira, started out as a software company. Eventually, Mira was refocused as a digital publishing company and provides online submission management and traditional print and electronic publishing services for more than 100 organizations from numerous disciplines.
Jim is the eldest son of the former Dean of the Engineering School at WUSTL, James Morgan McKelvey Sr. He grew up in St. Louis, MO and attended public school. In 1984, as a freshman Economics major at Washington University, Jim wrote and published a replacement for the computer programming textbook used in one of his classes. The success of this book led McKelvey to sign a contract with a publisher for a second book at the age of 19. This book became a bestseller. McKelvey spent his junior year at the London School of Economics in England. He graduated from Washington University with dual degrees in Economics and Computer Science.
After graduation, McKelvey worked as a Visiting Scientist at IBM’s Los Angeles Scientific Center. While still at IBM, McKelvey also worked as a glassblowing instructor and started a CD cabinet manufacturing company. After his mother’s sudden death a week before Christmas in 1989 he had a personal crisis and decided to focus his efforts on one company. McKelvey and a college friend founded Mira Corporation shortly thereafter.
Founded by McKelvey and David Mitchell in 1989, Mira developed one of the first PC document imaging systems, “Look”, in 1991. The software had limited success and Mitchell left in 1992. Unable to compete with Adobe Acrobat, McKelvey successfully moved the company into tradeshow publishing. The advent of the Internet decimated that business in the mid-1990’s. In 1995, with the assistance of one of Mira’s summer interns, Jack Dorsey, McKelvey again pivoted the company into conference publishing where it remains today. He left daily management at Mira in 2000, but remains its owner and Chairman.
McKelvey began blowing glass as a teenager at Washington University and then studied briefly with master Lino Talgiapietra. In 2000 after giving a demonstration at his alma mater, he met Doug Auer and together they founded Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis.
In 2006 McKelvey wrote and published one of the first instructional textbooks for glassblowing later translated into Norwegian. That same year, Third Degree hosted the world’s largest conference for art glass (GAS 2006) and in preparation for this conference McKelvey designed and produced a line of all-glass faucets. Though not originally intended for sale, the demand for the faucets eventually led McKelvey to form another company (www.glassfaucet.com) to sell them.
Dorsey and McKelvey reunited late in 2008 to start a business together. They were working on one of Dorsey’s ideas when McKelvey suggested the basic idea for Square. McKelvey sits on the board of Square and served as its Chairman until 2010. McKelvey designed the hardware used by Square in 2009. In 2011 McKelvey’s iconic card reader design was inducted into the Museum of Modern Art.
Jim McKelvey is a dynamic public speaker. His lectures on a range of topics from art to entrepreneurship are very popular.