LIMERICK’S youngest multi-millionaire brothers came back home from Silicon Valley this week to launch their online payment services business, Stripe, in Ireland.
Valued at $0.5 billion by technology analysts in the US, Stripe is backed by Peter Thiel, the first investor in Facebook and a founder of Paypal.
However, the former Castletroy College students, who shot to prominence in their teenage years, said this week that they have no plans to sell the company, which currently employs over 60 people, and want to focus on expanding their international operations.
After leaving places in prestigious American colleges - at MIT and Harvard - on work on their start-up firms, they went on to sell their first company, Auctomatic, to Canadian firm Live Current Media in 2008 for $5m.
“We were lucky enough where we had the experience of selling a technology company pretty early in our careers and we saw what that is, and I guess straight afterwards you want to get back to solving meaningful problems with people you admire and enjoy working with. That’s what we get to do with Stripe,” said Patrick Collison.
The 24-year-old said it is impossible at this time to put a true value on their company - which allows businesses to easily accept cash online - as it is still in its infancy.
“Internet company valuations tend to rise as well as fall, so this very much remains a hypothetical number,” he said of the company’s reputed $500m worth. Earlier estimates put the company at a $1bn valuation.
“We’ve been very lucky, in that we’re coming up to the second anniversary of our public launch and there has been a huge adoption of Stripe at a much faster rate than we expected. It’s not because we have any kind of slick marketing or clever way of selling it to people,” he said.
The company is based in San Francisco but Ireland is the first euro zone country in which it has officially launched the service.
It is already available to businesses in US, Canada, UK and Ireland, while it is in beta testing in a number of other countries, including Australia.
While PayPal offer a similar service, he said “it never really advanced since the last internet bubble”.
The long term goal is to make Stripe available in every country in the world, many of which have no good options for merchant online transactions, other than banks.
“Before Stripe you’d have to go to a bank and convince them to give you what is known as a merchant account, going through all this complexity and bureaucracy, dealing with banks for months on end. Stripe eliminates all of that and you can start accepting payments from someone anywhere in the world pretty much instantly,” he explained.
He said when they started the company he and his brother John, 22, worked “all day, every day”, which he feels is not sustainable in the long term.
He said they are not motivated by money “but love working with people building new things and exploring new ideas”.
“Only about 2% of consumer spending in the world happens on the internet today and I think that could be a much larger number,” said Patrick, who won the BT Young Scientist competition in 2005, aged 16.
On the day of its Irish launch, John Collison said they got the idea for Stripe while working in a 100 sq ft office in the Technological Park in Limerick on their first web venture.
“The next ten years of Irish tech businesses will be really exciting to behold.
“The web economy lets anyone in Ireland, or anywhere, sell to a global audience. This shift can’t be overstated,” he tweeted.