Cantillon: Why isn’t Stripe based in Ireland?

Time to take young entrepreneurs seriously on this side of the Atlantic

John (left) and Patrick Collison, co-founders of Stripe, outside their offices in Palo Alto, California. The pair turned to Silicon Valley when they could not get funding in Ireland.

John (left) and Patrick Collison, co-founders of Stripe, outside their offices in Palo Alto, California. The pair turned to Silicon Valley when they could not get funding in Ireland.

Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 11:43

Amid the laudatory media coverage that greeted the disclosure last month that start-up Stripe had been valued at $1.75 billion (€1.28 billion) was one notable omission.

Why was this company, which now employs almost 100 people and has ambitions to rival the $70 billion Paypal, not headquartered in Ireland?

After all, its co-founders, Patrick and John Collison (pictured above) , are Limerick-born and bred, and the duo started their first venture, Auctomatic, in that city back in 2007 while John was still in transition year.

So why did they leave for the sunnier climes of Palo Alto, California?

The answer of course comes down to funding. When the pair – who were still in their teens at the time – tried to find funding for their nascent start-up which facilitated trading on eBay, Enterprise Ireland turned them down.

“From my limited experience, organisations in Ireland are much more risk-averse and very credentials-oriented,” Patrick said at the time.

This experience sent them off to California into the arms of specialist seed fund Y Combinator, which stumped up some funds for Auctomatic,which was later sold for about $5 million.

The experience meant that when it came time to set up their next venture, online payments service Stripe in 2010, Silicon Valley, and its access to venture capital, offered the perfect home for the pair.

But could the outcome have been different if they had secured financing in Ireland first time around and had been able to build a company of truly global scale here?

It’s worth bearing in mind perhaps, that age and inexperience should not always preclude entrepreneurs from getting funding and from being encouraged to grow their businesses in Ireland.

Another young pretender, Jordan Casey, who two years ago became the youngest European developer of an app at the age of just 12 , recently complained to this newspaper that he sometimes finds it difficult to be taken seriously.