When Square started nine years ago, it was simply focused on helping businesses make transactions on the fly, thanks to its iconic mobile card reader. Since then, it has branched out to look at new technologies designed to make commerce easier for business owners and consumers, from creating an online marketplace to the production of its own point-of-sale hardware solutions, dedicated apps, and a platform that lets larger entities keep their existing workflows while having to transact the Square way. We’ve borne witness to its evolution from a simple solution provider to one where it offers a well-rounded selection of tools for any business owner.
In 2015, I examined the success of Square, concluding that a big contributor was its appeal to small businesses. Today, as the company pursues an up-market strategy, it has set its sights on beefing up an arsenal of tools to entice fledgling entrepreneurs, giving them more resources to be successful. On Thursday, Square acquired do-it-yourself website builder Weebly in a $365 million deal (for those interested, Weebly raised $35.7 million in venture funding. Now Square has an option to provide entrepreneurs for firmly establishing their own online presence and extending their reach by facilitating virtual sales.
“Square and Weebly share a passion for empowering and celebrating entrepreneurs,” Square chief executive Jack Dorsey said in a statement. And while this certainly lets his company provide tools across the entire spectrum, Weebly’s acquisition also opens up opportunities internationally. In its release, Square said that nearly 40 percent of Weebly’s paid subscribers are outside of the United States, which could expedite Square’s offering abroad — currently Square is available in Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia (only its developer payment toolkit API).
Prior to the acquisition, Square did have a place for business owners to set up shop, in a manner of speaking. It launched Square Market in 2013, but that didn’t really fare too well. The company is painting a picture that it wants to grow with its customers, helping them from humble beginnings as a freelancer to establishing a brick-and-mortar store, before ultimately expanding to their second, third, fourth, and additional properties. The pick up of Weebly may certainly aid in that because businesses are looking for their own properties to manage, not have it reside on Facebook, Square, Amazon, or other marketplaces — they want a destination that they control and can customize based on what their customers want, not limited by the platforms itself.
Weebly has moved beyond its DIY website building space, as has its competitors Squarespace and Wix, both of which have since gone public. Besides the drag-and-drop approach to creating websites, these providers have branched into search engine optimization, marketing, and e-commerce. These are definitely things that can make life easier for business owners who just want to focus on customer relationships instead of deciphering important keywords, which sales platform to choose, and other obligations that’ll distract from their efforts to make a transaction.
Square and Weebly are definitely not strangers — it wasn’t as if Dorsey thought one day: “Hey, we need a website builder as part of our offering. Is Weebly any good? Let’s buy it.” In fact, Weebly has been a part of the Build with Square program since 2016. Perhaps the expectation is that just like the Square experience entrepreneurs seek out with their commerce set-up, they’ll want the same with their online marketing programs.
In its S-1 filing, Square declared, “Most of the sellers that use our services are small businesses, many of which are in the early stages of their development…” With Weebly’s acquisition, it’s looking to show that its experience can be extended to all facets business owners may be looking to solve. It happens to be the second purchase Square has made in this month — last week, it picked up Zesty to shore up its Caviar food delivery offering in a bid to go after the corporate dining space.
Perhaps best put, I’m reminded of a quote Altimeter Group analyst Brian Solis once said about Square’s potential. “The thing about Square is that its biggest advantage is that it could empower SMBs to become more of a digital business,” he explained. “Digital Darwinism knows no sides — it’s an equal opportunity disruptor. SMBs struggle with this and it’s devastating to the economy if they don’t adapt.”
Now Square hopes it can help its customers better adapt to the changing landscape of business and weather the onslaught from bigger competitors.