Irish-founded Stripe accused of failing to give back to San Francisco

Stripe came out against Proposition C, an attempt to tackle some of the city’s inequities

Patrick and John Collison of Stripe. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Patrick and John Collison of Stripe. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

The tech billionaires are turning on each other. Earlier this week, Salesforce. com founder Marc Benioff used an interview with the Guardian to call out his fellow tech entrepreneurs, including Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey, for opposing a measure designed to help ease San Francisco’s homelessness problems. And not even Irish-founded Stripe was safe from his ire.

He accused the payments company founded by Limerick brothers Patrick and John Collison (above) of being unwilling to give anything back at scale to the city where they made $20 billion.

The argument is rooted, as they often are, in good intentions. While Silicon Valley is busy churning out billion-dollar unicorns and high value start-ups, the demand for housing in the Bay area has left workers on average pay – nurses, public transport workers, teachers, hospitality staff, cleaners – priced out of the market.

The proposal, Proposition C, would put a tax on companies earning more than $50 million in revenues each year, a tax that could fund housing, mental health services and so on. But opponents to the plan say it’s not that simple, and the city needs to figure out what programmes are most effective before funding more.

Which is how Stripe found itself on the opposing side of Prop C, and in Benioff’s crosshairs.

Chief executive Patrick Collison on Friday outlined the company’s position in detail. Stripe isn’t dodging increased taxes, he said, with any measures introduced by the mayor London Breed to tackle the crisis likely to lead to increased taxes anyway. Their objection to Prop C is quite simple: it is likely to make the homeless problem worse.

There was also a slight rebuke for us all in the statement.

“With problems as complex as homelessness, there are rarely clear-cut answers. Any of us could turn out to be wrong. Today, the world is pulling us towards polarised discourse and emotionally-charged, soundbite analysis,” he wrote. “We’re all familiar with the forces at play. We think this is important to resist.”

Regardless of who is right, the row is unlikely to improve the image of Silicon Valley in anyone’s eyes.