Tobagonian at the forefront of fintech | Local company
For the past six months, Tobagonian Sekani Solomon, 31, has been working on the secret rebranding of Square, the publicly traded US financial services and digital payments company, co-founded by Jack Dorsey, its former chief executive, who also co -based Twitter ,.
On December 10, the rebranding went live.
Square, which includes Square, Cash App, TIDAL, TBD54566975, and Spiral (formerly Square Crypto), is now known as Block Inc.
“Block is a new name, but our goal of economic empowerment remains the same,” Dorsey said at the time.
Solomon, the head of movement design for Cash App, said the rebranding was silent except for a few members of the executive.
Dorsey’s resignation from Twitter a few weeks before Block’s launch, he said, surprised them.
“This news (Dorsey’s resignation) came on Monday, and we had long decided on a December launch a few months ago. Jack is, you know, a really smart guy, really forward-thinking. His leadership and the vision he brings are super thoughtful and inspiring. And for him running two great companies is like, wow, really crazy, but we are also happy to have him to ourselves because the company is also growing quite quickly. For Cash App, it continues to grow and try to figure out how to get some of these services internationally, ”Solomon said in an interview with the Sunday Express last week from Tobago.
This is his first return trip to the country – he is the last of five children of former Tobago House of Assembly (THA) official Gladstone Solomon – after the border closed in March 2020.
Since the pandemic was declared, the technological axis of the world has shifted to digital – from work to teaching in banking.
For Cash App, there was a slight uptick as it was able to provide tools for people who don’t have them, “especially for people of color and minorities.”
Cash App, he explained, creates a digital account where you can send and receive money without having to touch real money.
Solomon explained that Cash App was used to process U.S. government stimulus payments because a large percentage of Americans were unbanked.
“Even in the United States, it’s still difficult for people to set up bank accounts or receive money. If you didn’t have a bank account, it would be difficult to get the stimulus. So when you build a platform that makes it easy for people to take payments and then send them to people, it becomes attractive, ”he said.
But Cash App isn’t just an app, it’s a digital payment ecosystem.
“We’re a platform that allows someone to get a payout and then buy shares of most companies on the stock exchange and buy Bitcoin. You can sign up for Cash App, get a bank account number and a routing number, so you can also deposit your paycheck directly into Cash App, ”he added.
Cash App has 14 million users in the US and UK.
From cinema to technology
Solomon says the first time he physically touched money in years was when he returned home on vacation earlier this month. Since December 2019, T&T has switched from cotton banknotes to polymer.
Solomon explained that motion design was a specific career choice because he had thought about becoming a software engineer when he started applying to college.
He got his first job in New York even before graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta.
Solomon began his career in television (two projects won two Emmy Awards), commercials and commercial films. He worked on the Oscar winning film Black Panther and in 2018 he made the leap to technology.
After working for a few months with software and hardware giant Apple, he held a full-time position at Cash App.
For him, the appeal of Cash App lay in the limits it pushed from a brand and visual point of view.
“The way they approached it was from a very advanced, millennial, Gen Z perspective,” he said with the aim of attracting the unbanked and creating an accessible brand.
“It gave me the possibility of having more creative freedom in the projects. It also gave me the opportunity to help create a new entity, ”he explained.
He cited companies such as Red Bull, Virgin and Coca Cola who have been able to diversify their businesses into many different industries using their brand.
“We were taking inspiration from these types of companies, but we were pushing that forward and applying it to fintech, which hadn’t really been done before,” he said.
Now that the rebranding is complete, he dives headfirst into Cash App.
“When you study motion design, you mainly study storytelling. The idea is to get the people behind what you do from a narrative and creative point of view. And that’s the main idea, I guess, of graphic design or motion design from that perspective or that brand. It’s communication, isn’t it? It’s solving visual problems. By definition of the job, that’s what I do in my day job. I look at that specific product or feature and look for the most engaging way to send it to consumers that is always informative, but still state of the art and creative, ”he said.
He said he married that creative aspect with the nuts and bolts of being in a technology-based business that gives a lot of learning.
“Here at Cash App I can do an animation or I could come up with a concept and run it. And then they release it and I see all the metrics, I see the impressions it gets. So you have that extra pressure, I guess, to be a little more calculated on the things you do because you see the results and it affects the business. So I think it was more of a learning perspective, but also integrating the research What do people gravitate towards, what works and what doesn’t? It’s like an iterative process of learning.
“From a technical point of view, creating the visuals that we produce requires a lot of technical knowledge. And then there’s like the creative aspect to make it look or just in a narrative way, make it meaningful and make it feel smart and intelligent. And then this is the strategic part, where do you unroll it, where do you place it? Would I like it? I’m not saying I’m doing it all in a bubble. Obviously, I work with a team of people who are as competent as they are talented. But you know you’ve had to learn how to work cross-wise with a bunch of different players who might not understand exactly how to create amazing 3D animated graphics and how long it takes to do it, especially because I’m directing a team now, ”he said.
“In addition, we are playing in a relatively new field. Apps like Cash App didn’t really exist, ”he says, naming apps like Venmo, Chime, Coinbase and Robin Hood as competitors.
“It’s almost like we’re kind of competing against all these competitors who really like one thing. We have to be able to do all of these things as well, but then create an ecosystem so that everyone can connect in a thoughtful way. And that’s still the challenge, ”he said.
Block’s name and vision is futuristic, and follows Facebook’s October name change to Meta.
Solomon’s work centers on creating stories for this future.
He describes today’s global digital landscape as “the wild and wild west”.
He observed that the global cryptocurrency grows due to the allure of decentralization, digital wallets grow and this year there has been an explosion of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) which has given artists like him opportunities to earn money on digital art.
“I’ve seen people in space, like people I knew, being just a regular motion designer, and then he’s sold maybe over $ 100 million worth of art this year alone, which is enough. crazy. At one point he held the record for best-selling. Like space right now is so crazy. And it’s moving fast, “he said.
So how is Cash App pushing the future?
“You have pretty much most of the capacity of an average bank. You have a bank account, a bank account number, a routing number. You can get direct deposits so you can send money to your friends and we also just enabled the option to send someone or give someone stocks or bitcoin. So let’s say we had dinner we want to split the bill now you can say do I want my money in cash or do I want to change bitcoin or do I want to change stock this which, you know, is a feature that you haven’t really seen before in that sense. So again, that kind of changes the idea of the exchange of value and currency, ”he said.
He observed that with different jurisdictions, banking laws are different, making expansion difficult.
“That’s why Bitcoin is a huge initiative, because there isn’t a lot of regulation there. So it’s easier to create a Bitcoin wallet that we can launch internationally,” he said. declared.
Regarding the central bank’s main concern that cryptocurrencies are being used to launder money, he countered that people are laundering billions of fiat money.
“I think if you just focus on the negatives and miss out on a few opportunities as well,” he said.
He used his recent purchase of two pieces of art with Bitcoin at Fitzroy Hoyte’s Think Art Studio as an example.
“How do I buy this without having to go to an ATM or make a traditional bank transfer which would take forever?” We could just use Bitcoin because it is a decentralized platform. Mark (Pereira from Zed Labs who facilitated the transaction) used his wallet and I was able to use my Cash app as they both use a bitcoin address. Using this, I could just send a Bitcoin to his address. I think it shows the power of the platform, ”he said. Zed Labs was featured in Express Business last week.
He compares traditional banks to Blockbuster and Cash App and crypto to Netflix. Cash App is developing its ecosystem to serve its customers.
“In terms of creating a great, well-designed, user-friendly app, I guess, that lets someone download the app and just have a fancy suite of easy-to-use tools, which I think will be very valuable to a different group of consumers and I think we’re just focusing on expanding that into the United States and, of course, around the world.
“As far as the Caribbean is concerned, I think there is a huge opportunity. Like me, the idea of even going to a bank is always a little crazy. Since I haven’t been to a physical bank in I can’t tell you when, just because I’m able to do everything over the phone. Even for making simple transactions, withdrawal fees and cash take so long in Trinidad and Tobago. And you know, the one thing that you can’t really get over is time, and time is precious. So when you create a platform that helps people move money, send money, see money, spend money. I think it is useful.