“The world of online payments is the last Google-sized problem on the internet”: Iain McDougall, UK Country Manager, Stripe
Exclusive interview for Payments Revolution magazine
Stripe is a US-based technology company that provides APIs and tools to enable businesses to accept and manage online payments. With investments from the likes of CapitalG, VISA and American Express, co-founders Patrick and John Collison have led the business to become one of the most innovative companies in the fintech industry.
How does Stripe stand out in the payments industry?
We have a fundamental goal to increase the GDP of the internet. We’re passionate about helping technology businesses get started and scale online, with a view to accelerate the globalisation of businesses through the internet and technology.
We’ve been operating in the UK for a few years and it’s our largest market outside of the US. We’ve had a particularly good run in the UK which is due to the strong concentration of start-ups in the market, especially in the fintech sector. There are incredibly innovative companies that are built on top of Stripe, such as Zopa and Monzo, and some that are on-demand platforms with global reach such as Deliveroo. These conditions have been particularly good drivers of our success in the UK.
Whilst our focus is primarily on developers, start-ups and the fintech community, increasingly what we’ve seen is interest from larger organisations. It’s either businesses that are taking a foray into online e-commerce for the first time, or established companies who are going through a process of re-inventing themselves with new products and channels to the market. ASOS Marketplace is a great example of how an established retailer is looking to technology to create a new channel to reach a new demographic in the market.
How does Stripe think about other verticals to target in addition to fintech?
The core of what we’re doing as a company is to shift a great percentage of commerce to online. It’s bizarre that the internet has been around for 25 years, yet only 5% of global commerce is happening online.
When we think about different industries and verticals we think of it against this global backdrop. It’s extremely easy for information to flow around the world, easy for individuals and businesses to communicate seamlessly through social media platforms, yet historically it’s been difficult for people to send each other money in an equally seamless way.
We see this as a problem in design and code rather than finance. As a technology company, we’re determined to offer our platform to help companies build their businesses and give them seamless access to the world’s underlying financial infrastructure.
“Typically how we think about international growth is to anchor ourselves around the world’s innovation hubs”
What’s your largest growing geographical market?
We’re growing fast globally which is great. Typically, what we’ve done in terms of how we think about international growth is to anchor ourselves around the world’s innovation hubs.
There are few of those; the bay area in San Francisco, London, increasingly Singapore, Stockholm, Paris and others. We’re seeing great opportunities for growth internationally and we fundamentally believe that developers are changing the world. We’re very well aligned with this notion, and give them the tools they need to globalise and monetise their fantastic ideas, and not be concerned about how they’re going to manage the complexity of integrating to the world’s financial infrastructure.
Co-founders John and Patrick Collison experienced this problem first hand as they built businesses online, and that’s really at the heart of why Stripe was born.
We see the world of online payments as really the last Google sized problem on the internet; in the same way that Google organises the world’s information and makes it available in a democratic way, similar to how Facebook has connected the world socially, Stripe is about building the equivalent of this in global financial infrastructure and enabling people seamlessly to exchange money anywhere in the world.
What are the main challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
The challenges that we see to our success are less about Stripe as a company, and more so about the economy and technology ecosystem. We exist to help more technology businesses get started and solve the problems we’ve seen in the past.
We’ve geared ourselves to looking at that with payments as a starting point, but there are other inhibitors for businesses getting started beyond just tech and payments. We launched Atlas last year which is geared towards getting businesses started. The platform is about incorporating businesses as companies, getting a bank account set up seamlessly, giving access to the basic professional services such as the legal, tax, and accounting that they need to get started. Our technology takes care of this to not only help companies get started, but also accelerate the globalisation of the business.