Fintech

Meet the Apple veteran building Square’s bitcoin wallet for the masses

No, it's not Jesse Dorogusker. Thomas Templeton, who followed Dorogusker from Apple to Square, is working on a key crypto project for Square.

​Thomas Templeton, Square's hardware general manager

Thomas Templeton is Square's general manager for hardware.

Photo: Square

The Square executive leading Jack Dorsey's big plan for a bitcoin wallet is a veteran hardware technologist with a quirky hobby: taking pictures of countertops.

"My wife gives me a hard time because my camera phone is full of baby pictures and countertops," Thomas Templeton, Square's general manager for hardware, told Protocol.

Templeton takes photos of countertops at coffee shops and stores where he gets fresh ideas for improving Square's ubiquitous point-of-sale registers. The practice, he admits, is "a little weird" and typically prompts a shop owner to ask: 'What are you doing?'"

It's a good question for his new challenge, too, which is something harder to capture in the wild: making a hardware device that safeguards the private keys used to unlock cryptocurrencies. Right now, it's a niche product category that caters to the most hardcore crypto HODLers.

But it's one of several bitcoin-related bets Dorsey is making to solidify Square's role in the crypto world — and that makes Templeton's job, which is to make the device appealing and user-friendly to the same kind of people who trade bitcoin on Cash App, all the more crucial.

That could mean a lot of conversations with bitcoiners, just like Templeton chats up Square merchants today.

"I talk to them and say, 'Your setup is a little bit unique and I'm taking it back to the design team,'" he said. "Every business is different. If you think about countertops — there are some really deep countertops, some narrow countertops, some really high ones."

That same wild diversity can be found in Square's target market, which Templeton acknowledges is complicated. Jesse Dorogusker — Templeton's boss, whose portfolio now includes both hardware and the Tidal streaming service — said the plan is to "to make bitcoin custody more mainstream." But some people buy bitcoin as an investment, some use it to hedge against unreliable local currencies, some speculate and some just see it as a glimmer of the world's financial future.

As Dorsey's profile in the crypto world has grown, so has bitcoin's importance to Square. Bitcoin revenue tripled year-over-year to $2.7 billion in the second quarter when it made up more than 40% of Square's total sales.

Crypto wallets, which are typically small USB-drive-like devices, are popular among retail crypto holders who want to make sure their assets don't get hacked. It's currently a niche market, valued at $202 million in 2020, but growing fast along with the value of cryptocurrencies.

Chris McCann, a general partner at Race Capital, a venture capital firm which has made crypto investments, said "it's hard to see how hardware wallets would be a material revenue driver" for Square in the near term. But he called the company's move "a hugely positive and exciting step for the ecosystem" and a way for Dorsey and Square to "expand the market much broader than what it is today."

Square's objective, Templeton said, is "to bring bitcoin [wallets] to the masses, to the next 100 million people around the world," adding, "We believe bitcoin is for everyone."

He said he's in the process of building the wallet team, which already includes hardware security lead Max Guise, whose name is on several patents related to physical unclonable functions, a key technology. Templeton declined to discuss details of the plan so far, saying they're early in the process.

But it's clear from what Dorsey and Dorogusker have said that the goal is to come up with an easy-to-use mass consumer product with broad appeal. "The more seamless the experience is, the more people will try it," McCann said.

The ideal would be what Apple accomplished with products like the iPhone, the investor added: "Marrying the best of hardware and software into one package would greatly help self-custodianship."

Templeton certainly understands the challenge — and that comparison. Before joining Square in 2011, he was part of the Apple team that helped develop the iPhone camera. (Dorogusker, who joined Square from Apple shortly before Templeton, served as a director of engineering at the tech giant.)

Templeton joined Square when its hardware team "was still pretty small," and they developed what he called a "really iterative process."

"As soon as we have a product, there are a million things I want to change about the product for the next version," he said. "As soon as you ship [a product], you're already going, 'Oh, my god. I wanted to change this. I wish we did that. This wasn't enough."

His habit of taking countertop photos is part of his process of figuring out ways to make Square products easier to use. "We want to be as frictionless as possible," he said."How can we provide tools that are flexible enough, where they don't have to rip out their countertop or change their setup to use Square?"

Templeton said his team was constantly making tweaks to the point-of-sale lineup, like adding an extra screen or changing the aspect ratio to cut a second or two in the payment process and make life easier for customers and staff.

"Seconds might not seem like a big deal, but when it's rush hour, those seconds add up," Templeton said.

The challenge, though, isn't to just design a beautiful device. It's making sure it can be manufactured — thinking about "tolerances," or how much variation is acceptable as product after product comes off an assembly line.

Before Apple, Templeton worked in the chip industry as a staff engineer at Xilinx.

"I spent a lot of time in factories early in my career and those helped, and I do think those helped when designing products," he said.

"Designing for high volume is different from designing for dozens or hundreds or thousands of units," he added. "I'm designing to make millions of these. How can we design something and be able to make it scale?"

To get answers, Square is doing something that would have been all but unthinkable at Apple: It's reaching out to the bitcoin and crypto community, including hardware makers it may even end up competing with.

When he unveiled the plan on Twitter, Dorsey said Square wants to "build it entirely in the open, from software to hardware design, and in collaboration with the community."

That's not just for show: Guarding the device's secrets closely would just generate suspicion in a community used to verifying every transaction out in the open on the blockchain. Just as blockchain protocols are published openly in white papers, it's likely at least some more sophisticated buyers of the hardware wallet will want to inspect its specifications and understand its security.

And looping in key players could generate goodwill. Crypto marketplace Coinbase chief product officer, Surojit Chatterjee, welcomed Square's move.

"It's great to have more mainstream companies coming into crypto," he told Protocol. "It makes the crypto pie bigger and bigger, and brings more users to the crypto economy."

Square's aim, Templeton said, is to grow what is still a relatively small and limited market — and "not to cannibalize, or take market share" from existing players in the market.

"This is very, very complicated," he said. "There's lots of aspects to what we want to do. And there's been a lot of good work in the community to date and we want to leverage that and build upon that and engage with people that worked on this for years to make our product better."

Climate

The West’s drought could bring about a data center reckoning

When it comes to water use, data centers are the tech industry’s secret water hogs — and they could soon come under increased scrutiny.

Lake Mead, North America's largest artificial reservoir, has dropped to about 1,052 feet above sea level, the lowest it's been since being filled in 1937.

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The West is parched, and getting more so by the day. Lake Mead — the country’s largest reservoir — is nearing “dead pool” levels, meaning it may soon be too low to flow downstream. The entirety of the Four Corners plus California is mired in megadrought.

Amid this desiccation, hundreds of the country’s data centers use vast amounts of water to hum along. Dozens cluster around major metro centers, including those with mandatory or voluntary water restrictions in place to curtail residential and agricultural use.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Every day, millions of us press the “order” button on our favorite coffee store's mobile application: Our chosen brew will be on the counter when we arrive. It’s a personalized, seamless experience that we have all come to expect. What we don’t know is what’s happening behind the scenes. The mobile application is sourcing data from a database that stores information about each customer and what their favorite coffee drinks are. It is also leveraging event-streaming data in real time to ensure the ingredients for your personal coffee are in supply at your local store.

Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as stream data “in motion” instantaneously, you — and millions of customers — won’t have these in-the-moment experiences.

Keep Reading Show less
Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Jennifer Goforth Gregory has worked in the B2B technology industry for over 20 years. As a freelance writer she writes for top technology brands, including IBM, HPE, Adobe, AT&T, Verizon, Epson, Oracle, Intel and Square. She specializes in a wide range of technology, such as AI, IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and CX. Jennifer also wrote a bestselling book The Freelance Content Marketing Writer to help other writers launch a high earning freelance business.
Workplace

Indeed is hiring 4,000 workers despite industry layoffs

Indeed’s new CPO, Priscilla Koranteng, spoke to Protocol about her first 100 days in the role and the changing nature of HR.

"[Y]ou are serving the people. And everything that's happening around us in the world is … impacting their professional lives."

Image: Protocol

Priscilla Koranteng's plans are ambitious. Koranteng, who was appointed chief people officer of Indeed in June, has already enhanced the company’s abortion travel policies and reinforced its goal to hire 4,000 people in 2022.

She’s joined the HR tech company in a time when many other tech companies are enacting layoffs and cutbacks, but said she sees this precarious time as an opportunity for growth companies to really get ahead. Koranteng, who comes from an HR and diversity VP role at Kellogg, is working on embedding her hybrid set of expertise in her new role at Indeed.

Keep Reading Show less
Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

Climate

New Jersey could become an ocean energy hub

A first-in-the-nation bill would support wave and tidal energy as a way to meet the Garden State's climate goals.

Technological challenges mean wave and tidal power remain generally more expensive than their other renewable counterparts. But government support could help spur more innovation that brings down cost.

Photo: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

Move over, solar and wind. There’s a new kid on the renewable energy block: waves and tides.

Harnessing the ocean’s power is still in its early stages, but the industry is poised for a big legislative boost, with the potential for real investment down the line.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Entertainment

Watch 'Stranger Things,' play Neon White and more weekend recs

Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

Here are our picks for your long weekend.

Image: Annapurna Interactive; Wizard of the Coast; Netflix

Kick off your long weekend with an extra-long two-part “Stranger Things” finale; a deep dive into the deckbuilding games like Magic: The Gathering; and Neon White, which mashes up several genres, including a dating sim.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt

Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins