‘The most expensive thing I own today is a bicycle’ says Limerick internet entrepreneur
Patrick Collison and his brother John have turned Stripe into a growing force in the online payments world
Patrick Collison: “We’ve had our co-founder bust-ups, but the difference is that we got them out of the way at age three and five.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Few people head up their own multinational company before they turn 25. Not only can Patrick Collison say that he has achieved that milestone, but the company, Stripe, has got the backing of some of the tech industry’s biggest names.
The young Limerick-born chief executive has also been named, along with his younger brother John, on Forbes magazine’s “30 under 30” – a list of young disruptors, innovators and entrepreneurs who are changing the world.
Together with John, Patrick has built up a team of talented engineers and developers who have turned Stripe into a growing force in the online payments world.
It’s used by some of the biggest companies in the US, including Walmart, and new customers are signing up every day. From a staff of three, it now employs 62 people, and it is hiring all around the world.
The company’s momentum has picked up pace in recent weeks – it has opened beta trials of Stripe in Belgium, Germany and Australia and accounts for millions of dollars in transactions every week – but Patrick is modest about the company’s success to date and says Stripe has a long way to go.
“It’s all relative. It’s an enormous success relative to our expectations and where we started out. It’s now a cliché thanks to Facebook, but this is something we worked on in our dorm rooms at college,” he says.
“To now be something that is present in multiple countries and used by all these companies we look up to admire and respect, that’s crazy.
“But if you look at it on an internet scale, yes we’ve had some very nice success to date but we certainly haven’t won, or anything close to that.
“We’re processing millions of dollars a day, which is a nice number and very meaningful, but about a trillion dollars gets spent on the internet every year.
“By far most of the challenge is still ahead of us. It’s like when you’re climbing a mountain. You haven’t gone up all far and you see this great view beneath you, and you think you’ve come up so high, but 90 per cent of the mountain is still above you; I feel something like that about Stripe.”
Stripe was set up with one broad aim in mind: to make it easier for developers to accept payments online. Feedback from initial users was taken on board, and one of Stripe’s first users later became an employee.
The company was set up in 2010 and began providing services in 2011, starting with the US. Almost a year later, it moved beyond the bounds of the US into Canada, before opening officially in the UK last month.
The most recent addition to the company’s markets is Ireland, which got access to the service earlier this week when it came out of its beta testing phase.
The launch meant Patrick returned from San Francisco – where he and John are now based along with the majority of the Stripe team – to Dublin where he got a chance to meet some of Stripe’s Irish customers, as well as catch up with family.
It is also, he says, nice that friends and family can now use the product that he and his team have spent so much time developing over the past couple of years.
Stripe isn’t the Collison brothers’ first tech start-up. The pair hit the headlines in 2008 when their business Auctomatic was bought for a rumoured $5 million by Canadian company Live Current Media.
It was a quick process, with about 10 months between the company’s incorporation and the acquisition.
While he acknowledges that the deal was a major event for the pair, he says that in the grand scheme of the technology sector, it was a drop in the ocean.