Last September, Apple pegged Stripe as one of its premier partners to power integration with Apple Pay, a huge coup for the digital-payments startup backed by Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, and Sequoia Capital. But it was just one of many big wins for Stripe over the past year, during which it also scored high-profile partnerships with the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Alibaba. “We’ve long been beating this drum of becoming the universal infrastructure for merchants to run their businesses online, and we’re happy to see it’s finally coming to fruition,” says Stripe president John Collison, 24, who cofounded the startup with his brother Patrick in 2010.
At its core, Stripe helps app makers and website developers accept payments online. We take for granted the ease at which we’re able to send a digital photo from New York to London in an instant, but prior to Stripe, sending and receiving a digital payment online was extremely complex and technically wonky, a massive roadblock for merchants looking to sell their goods online. Stripe has worked to strip down that process, creating a straightforward back-end system others can embed in their websites and mobile apps that makes it simple for businesses to facilitate and manage transactions. Before popular ride-sharing startup Lyft switched to Stripe, for example, it used a “mishmash of Chase, Braintree, as well as a team of people manually cutting checks to drivers,” recalls Collison. “But with Stripe, Lyft was able to replace all that with just a few lines of code—that’s a very big deal.”
Stripe is now available in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and a slew of European countries, and can accept payments in 139 currencies, including Bitcoin. The company has raised over $130 million in venture capital, and in fall 2014 General Catalyst announced a $10 million fund dedicated to investing in startups building on Stripe’s platform.
No doubt handling the so-called “plumbing” of payments means Stripe will never be as sexy as other players in the commerce space, like Square. But Stripe’s invisible approach—it serves only to assist third-party merchants, taking a small cut of each transaction with no monthly or hidden fees—is also one of the biggest reasons for its success. “We don’t make a Stripe app or Stripe mobile wallet,” explains Collison. “We’re agnostic: Our allegiance is to the seller, and we think people should be able to pay however is fastest and easiest for them.”
[Illustration: Marco Goran Romano]