December 13th, 2012
04:39 AM ET

Jim McKelvey: 'People who solve problems are happier'

Who: Jim McKelvey is an engineer, entrepreneur, artist, community activist, environmentalist, and citizen of the world. Co-Founder of Square, Co-Founder of Third Degree Glass Factory, Co-Founder of Mira Publishing, Director of Emerald Automotive, General Partner of Cultivation Capital, he is a man who embraces challenge in many forms. Tune in Sunday, January 6 at 2 P.M. E.T. to watch The Next List's full 30-minute profile on McKelvey.

Why you might know him: McKelvey is most well known as the Co-Founder of Square, the mobile-payment system. In fact, it was his belief that small entrepreneurs endured abuse in the credit world that led Square to focus on payments.

Why he matters: He’s tackling some really tough problems with imagination, passion and grit. Most notably, McKelvey is working on creating a new economic model to help keep the struggling publishing industry alive. Why? Because “that’s meaningful work - people who write, they need every bit of resource they can get.” If that’s not enough, he’s launching an initiative to try to help reduce violence and provide a path to jobs for highly motivated but poorly educated kids in crime-ridden sections of St. Louis.

McKelvey’s philosophy: That any problem can be solved with enough resolve and the right people. Even if a problem was too big yesterday, everything is changing all the time and new tools are available every day to take on even the most complex problems.

Favorite McKelvey quote: “In my experience, the people who solve problems are happier people. And I don’t know why, but I also spent a lot of time with artists. I’m an artist. They’re not as happy. I spent a lot of time with attorneys. They’re not happy at all.”

McKelvey on the biggest challenge facing the planet: Intolerance and the walling off of people with alternative ideas.

“We have this fantastic thing called the Internet which spreads information. But the Internet also allows you to silo off information. So now you can pick your news sources, you can pick the people you listen to, you can pick the people that you agree with. In the old days, craziness was very hard to spread. These days, you know, crazy, hurtful, behavior spreads very, very rapidly and if we cultivate intolerance, were going to have a lot more grief.”

Something you might not know about him: McKelvey owns a 2000 Honda Insight, the first hybrid car model sold in the U.S. He says it gets 69 miles per gallon.

McKelvey on McKelvey: “I don’t know if I’m an expert at anything. What I’m really good at is working with people who are truly gifted. That’s my real skill. You’ve got to be able to listen, never interrupt. You know, geniuses have personality quirks. I can deal with a lot of weirdness - pretty used to that. Kind of enjoy it.”

Filed under: Art • Culture • Innovation • Tech • The Next List • Thinkers
soundoff (12 Responses)
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    April 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  2. hector jaramillo

    como se puede comunicar con el señor Jim Mckelvey

    April 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  3. mabel

    Es admirable que tu mayor felicidad sea la resolucion de problemas. los desafios permanentes a la inteligencia que generen
    endorfinas y nosotros nos quedamos con los problemas cotidianos.mabel de Argentina

    April 12, 2013 at 6:49 am | Reply
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    January 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Reply
  5. Dwayne B

    I enjoyed the latest episode with Jim McKelvey. At some point he was talking about coding for people without extensive previous experience in coding, some project called "Launch Code" I think? (that's what it sounded like to me at least) I've been scouring the internet since then looking for it but no luck. Hopefully somebody here can refresh my memory.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Reply
    • Unknown

      check out

      August 15, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Reply

    Can CNN upload the complete video of the episode? It's so inspiring!

    January 6, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • Amanda Ashley

      Where can I find the full video of this that was aired! This was incredible.

      January 7, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Reply
  7. Amy Amin

    I'm writing about the episode of the Next List that aired today (12/23/12) about that chef who uses technology to come up with new ways of presenting food.
    What nonsense. I can't believe that Dr. Sanjay Gupta lends his name to such junk. He better sticks with important medical information that's his speciality and not wander in what's basically a waste of time. And that guy says, "Not everybody saves babies. My mother saves babies." But he chose to pursue this career and be the best he could be in it. Quite frankly, I don't see any value in that. I don't care if you don't post this feedback. I just wanted to send it to you and couldn't find any other way of doing it. By the way, I'm an avid watcher of Sanjay Gupta, MD on Saturdays or Sundays.

    December 23, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  8. Carmine Gaidasz

    The "Next List " is so inspiring! It shows 'ordinary' people who test, run with, and go on to develop their pet ideas or 'hunches'. I watch it right after Fareed Zakaria; I highly recommend both, but my favorite is..hmm.. I can't decide!

    December 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply

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