In 2009, glassblowing artist James McKelvey teamed up with friend and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey to create Square after losing a sale because he couldn’t accept American Express cards. Today, through his new company, Invisibly, the serial entrepreneur is disrupting Big Tech by returning personal data back to consumers. McKelvey joins with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius to discuss the dangers of personal data online and how his company is making a difference.


Square co-founder James McKelvey’s new company, Invisibly, is hoping to disrupt Big Tech and return personal data back to consumers. McKelvey says the company’s basic strategy is to “allow consumers to opt-in or opt-out of their ad viewing and to a greater extent opt-in and opt-out to the way they consume content” “Right now, what we have is an economic model that allows no consumer input…What Invisibly is…the idea is basically this: Give people choice over how they choose to engage with ads and engage with content, and then allow an economy to flourish.” (Washington Post Live)
James McKelvey, the co-founder of Invisibly, says he fears that government regulation of social media companies could result in “politicians essentially being bought.” “The dangers here are the people who essentially form the government all are heavy users of social media…and if you think about the people who are going to be writing these laws they are very open to influence by the entities that they are seeking to regulate.” (Washington Post Live)

James McKelvey

JIM MCKELVEY is a serial entrepreneur, inventor, philanthropist, artist, and author of The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time. He is the cofounder of Square, and served as the chairman of its board until 2010, and still serves on the Board of Directors. In 2011, his iconic card reader design was inducted into the Museum of Modern Art. In 2017, McKelvey founded Invisibly, an ambitious project to unlock the value of peoples’ personal data. He is a Deputy Chair of the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

Moderated by David Ignatius

David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column for The Washington Post. Ignatius has written 11 spy novels: “The Paladin” (2020), “The Quantum Spy,” (2017), “The Director,” (2014), “Bloodmoney” (2011), “The Increment” (2009), “Body of Lies” (2007), “The Sun King” (1999), “A Firing Offense” (1997), “The Bank of Fear” (1994), “SIRO” (1991), and “Agents of Innocence” (1987). “Body of Lies” was made into a 2008 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. Ignatius joined The Post in 1986 as editor of its Sunday Outlook section. In 1990 he became foreign editor, and in 1993, assistant managing editor for business news. He began writing his column in 1998 and continued even during a three-year stint as executive editor of the International Herald Tribune in Paris. Earlier in his career, Ignatius was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering at various times the steel industry, the Departments of State and Justice, the CIA, the Senate and the Middle East. Ignatius grew up in Washington, D.C., and studied political theory at Harvard College and economics at Kings College, Cambridge. He lives in Washington with his wife and has three daughters.