Why The Future of Stripe Looks So Bright
Stripe is the the new kid on the online payment processing block, a block already full of much larger kids poised to pick a fight, (I’m looking at you Paypal). Started in early 2010 by three entrepreneurial-spirited brothers, Stripe was built from the ground up to cater to the hardworking developer, an affront to the traditionally complicated and finance-driven construction of its peers.
Simplicity is feature one, a point which is apparent in nearly all aspects of Stripe, from the slick documentation to the site’s thoughtfully crafted user interface. That said, it’ll take more than good looks and a compelling mission statement for Stripe to compete, so what does Stripe have that their competition doesn’t?
The Collison Three
Patrick, John, and Tommy Collison are no strangers to success. Originally from Ireland, these young and talented siblings have been trend-setting and hacking their way into the spotlight since at least 2008, when they made headlines for selling their first company, Auctomatic, for a cool $5 million. Patrick, the oldest of the three, was only 19 years old.
Patrick was accepted into MIT at the tender age of 17, no doubt helped along by his winning first prize at the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition the year before. He lasted only a single term before his entrepreneurial drive and hacker spirit lured him away. Within a year, he and John – with financial backing from Y Combinator – had built and successfully sold Auctomatic to large Canadian media company, Live Current Media.
Not content to just engineer industry-shaping software, John is also an avid pianist and pilot. In 2010, and in similar fashion to his older brother, John dropped out of Harvard to focus his energy on Stripe. Tommy, still a teenager and the youngest of the three, is an accomplished writer and blogger. His work has been published in a number of Irish publications including The Sunday Times and The Sunday Business Post.
Paul Graham and Evolving Beyond Shlepdom
Were Stripe a time-traveling DeLorean, then Y Combinator would be the flux capacitor and Paul Graham, co-founder of YC, would be riding shotgun as Doc Brown. Stripe caught Graham’s attention in part because it defies what he refers to as ‘shlep blindness,’ or the tendency for many developers to unconsciously skirt the bigger, riskier, and gnarlier problems.
There are larger – and more important – problems staring us right in the face, problems that need fixing, solutions that need to discovered, and industries that need to have their foundations tickled by the paradigm-shifting hands of the non-schlep. Stripe, Graham believes, is an exquisite example of hackers refusing to fall victim to common shleppery. Integrating payment processing has traditionally been a frustrating endeavor for legions of capable coders, yet few have tried to tackle this problem head on.
Enter John and Patrick, who, once they decided to get to work on building a solution, were processing their first payment within 2 weeks. A year later they caught the attention of angel investors, Y Combinator among them. Stripe now boasts being integrated into many thousands of sites including Shopify, Forrst, and Startup Threads, just to name a few.
Stripe Wants to Date Your Developer
If there’s one thing that Apple taught us, it’s that the experience a product offers is at least as important as the product itself. In a similar way, Stripe has somehow made sexy the traditionally painful and mundane task of processing payments online. How did the Collison brothers pull it off? By putting the developer experience first. Absolutely essential to this goal was ensuring simplicity at every possible level. Ultimately, using their own experience as a guide, they set out to build a tool they wouldn’t mind working with in their own projects.
There’s no reason to doubt Stripe will continue to grow, making a lasting impact in the arena of payment processing. I’d recommend keeping an eye on the Collison brothers – if this is what they’re capable of in their early twenties, just imagine what their next project could look like.