The $95 Billion Unicorn, The Collison Brothers’ Stripe.

Billionaire brothers John and Patrick Collison built Stripe into one of the world’s most-hyped, highest valued — and profitable! — startups, worth some $95 billion. Now they must stave off going from disruptor to disrupted.

It’s just before five o’clock, and Stripe cofounder John Collison is preparing to address his hundreds of Ireland-based employees on the top floor of his headquarters in Dublin’s “Silicon Docks” District.  Such regular Friday town halls, which are also simulcast to New York, San Francisco, Singapore and anywhere else its 7,000 employees want to tune in from over Zoom, are an almost sacred tradition at Stripe, the payments company that Collison cofounded with big brother Patrick in 2010. With Patrick away getting married, it’s up to John, 31 and with a dusting of gray hair now topping his boyish face, to field questions.

It could get contentious: There’s a social media “kerfuffle” playing out over Twitter this week: Stripe has been accused in a series of (since deleted) tweets by Zachary Perret, the billionaire cofounder of fellow fintech unicorn Plaid, of meeting with his company under false pretenses only to build a competing software tool.

Patrick, Stripe’s 33-year-old CEO, has interrupted his honeymoon to write a memo to the entire company (later shared publicly) warning that such scrutiny—and uncharitable interpretations of Stripe’s motives—will only increase over time. John, Stripe’s president, is prepared for the worst. But the staff question, when it comes, is just about a name. Is calling a new product Financial Connections a sign that Stripe is moving toward more boring monikers from now on? It’s a serious question. Artful names like Atlas (software to help with company formation) and Radar (fraud detection) sound better, John admits. But they’re terrible for search engine rankings. In the end, no one asks about the Twitter dustup. (Plaid declined to comment.)

“We will compete with a bunch of companies, and we’ll partner with a bunch,” John says with a shrug. “Everyone just needs to be a grownup and well-behaved about it.”

Even so, such “front page tests” of Stripe’s ethical reputation, as Patrick calls incidents that have the potential to bubble up in the popular press, will only prove more common as Stripe transitions from startup darling to tech dreadnought. The company, dual-headquartered in San Francisco and Dublin, processed $640 billion in payments last year across 50 countries. Its gross revenue, still mostly the 2% to 3% it collects on such volume, reached nearly $12 billion in 2021, according to sources with knowledge of its financials, up about 60% year over year. Net revenue, which excludes the cut Stripe passes along to partners like Visa and Chase, reached nearly $2.5 billion. And, unusually for a unicorn that’s still growing fast, Stripe finished the year with hundreds of millions in profit on an Ebitda basis, two sources add. Stripe declined to comment on its figures.

Its eye-popping financials explain why investors including Fidelity and Ireland’s sovereign development fund poured an additional $600 million into Stripe in March 2021, raising its total funding to date to $2.4 billion and valuing it at $95 billion. That puts Stripe behind only TikTok owner Bytedance, Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Shein and Elon Musk’s SpaceX for the title of the world’s most valuable startup. (Forbes estimates Patrick and John Collison each own about 10% of Stripe, making them worth $9.5 billion each.)

Courtesy Forbes by Alex Konrad, May 26, 2022

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