Bill Ready

Gold in the conference business is naming a speaker six months ahead of schedule and then watching that speaker get more newsy in the interim. So we struck gold and then some when we asked David “Thanks but no thanks” Marcus, president of PayPal to be a speaker at Southland. Tasked with the possibly impossible task of making a giant stale company innovative again, Marcus showed again last week why he’s not your average senior exec.

And one of his ballsiest moves to date was a near $900 million acquisition of industry challenger Braintree – along with his parallel decision to keep Braintree a separate business. The deal is in the earliest stages of integration, but the strategy is starting to become clear.

Braintree is keeping its brand and product and management team, but it’s hardly going to be off in some satellite office. In fact, Marcus has deemed that nearly everything developer facing in the company is reporting up through former Braintree CEO Bill Ready, while PayPal focuses its brand on the consumer. And, PayPal announced this week that as part of the larger company, Braintree has just had it’s biggest quarter ever. That’s the thing about the payments business: The network effects only get stronger the bigger you get.

The fact that Marcus has put the mantle of doing right by developers so squarely on Ready’s shoulders is a huge endorsement. I’ve gotten to know him well over the last few years, and he’s one of the more underrated CEOs out there — not a surprise since his company wasn’t based in the Valley. From a blue collar family in Kentucky, Ready scrapped his way through college, learning to code without even owning a computer. He managed to scale a company in a hyper competitive sector while being based in Chicago and, frankly, called the inflection point in mobile commerce quicker than anyone else – which is why he won lucrative deals like Uber, Fab, HotelTonight, Dropbox, Airbnb, and others.

Watching this all unfold since the deal was announced, it’s become clear: We need Ready on stage with Marcus if we’re really going to talk about PayPal’s turn around. I managed to convince them of this too. So it’s been decided: We’re gonna hear the whole story of the Braintree acquisition, the PayPal turnaround, and Marcus’ plan for winning back developers to his platform. And, yep, we’re gonna ask about bizarre Twitter meltdowns too.

Tickets to Southland are going fast, so get yours here.

(In the interest in fairness, I also invited Patrick Collison, the CEO of Stripe to do a fireside chat at Southland, but he didn’t respond to the invitation.)