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Protocol | Fintech

Square buys Crew, a messaging app for frontline workers

With Cash App and Tidal, Square is looking less like a payments company every day. And even in its core payments business, it's diversifying.

A cafe using Square's register software and stand.

Many businesses using Square for payments also need to manage workers' schedules.

Square has acquired Crew, maker of a messaging service for retail and other in-person workers, in a deal to bolster Square's workforce management products.

It's the latest move by Square to widen its business beyond payments. Recent deals have included a majority stake in music-streaming service Tidal and a tax-preparation business to bolster Square's Cash App unit.

Square already has team-management tools such as digital time cards and shift scheduling, but Crew furthers Square's goal of offering merchants an array of integrated tools for managing their businesses beyond the payments hardware and software for which it was first known.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Crew had raised about $58 million from Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners, Aspect Ventures and Harrison Metal. Founding CEO Danny Leffel left in 2019, less than a year after the company raised a $35 million series C round. Co-founder Broc Miramontes — who previously worked with Leffel at Yardsellr, an ecommerce startup — has run the company since then.

Crew's main product is a messaging app for frontline workers. Square has a text-message marketing product and a text scheduling product for customers, but not a messaging product for workers.

Crew helps companies communicate with large groups of employees through broadcast messages, or target only certain groups, such as workers at certain locations or managers only. And workers can message with other workers. In its focus on retail workers and others who work primarily on-site rather than in an office, it's different from Slack, which is focused on knowledge workers.

"Communication for knowledge workers has become revolutionized over the last five to 10 years," said Saumil Mehta, general manager of Square Point of Sale. "And for frontline workers, there hasn't been that much investment in collaboration and communication."

This type of messaging, like many digital tools, has seen an uptick in usage during the pandemic, when businesses are trying to stay in touch with employees, Mehta said.

"You imagine a scenario where you have hundreds of employees and you don't have email addresses for many of them, maybe all of them," he said. "And all of a sudden the store's shut down and you still want to be able to communicate."

In addition to messaging, Crew also has features such as rewards and recognition for workers, employee surveys, broadcast announcements, and assigning and management of tasks for workers.

Square's existing team management offering helps merchants manage their workforce, including scheduling workers' shifts, tracking labor with timecards, handling tips and sales commissions, and analyzing sales data — and managing individual access to things such as bank accounts. Some of this also integrates into other Square products, such as time cards rolling into Square's payroll product.

In its core payments business, Square's strategy has been to layer on a suite of services to help merchants manage their businesses, from business loans to marketing products. Crew helps fill out the labor management piece. It also helps Square differentiate from the many payments-processing and point of sale offerings for merchants.

This is especially true for larger and more complex businesses. Last year, of Square's mid-market and large enterprise customers with $500,000 or more a year in payments processed, nearly all used Square's team-management products, Mehta said. About a quarter of the gross payment volume in Square's seller business in 2020 came from businesses that use Square's team-management products.

Crew has a free tier of service, which could provide leads for Square to cross-sell other paid services.

Miramontes and Crew COO Scott Van Brunt are joining Square.

Power

Google wants to (try to) make Google Glass cool again

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Image: Google

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Image: Tesla/Protocol

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Photo: Luis Alvarez via Getty

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Allison Levitsky
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Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

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