Stripe’s CEO Patrick Collison insightfully answered questions from Christian Van Der Henst, Platzi COO on how he built Stripe and gave valuable advice for entrepreneurs. I was fascinated by their conversation, which you can watch in the video below:
I highlighted some of the most interesting parts of their conversation here (and edited them for clarity).
Christian: For a little bit of context, what are Stripe and Stripe Atlas?
Patrick: I like to say that Stripe is building the roads to help entrepreneurs to charge for the service they provide. Stripe is an API for moving money around the internet.
Stripe Atlas is a service that we launched in February 2016 and that enables entrepreneurs from everywhere to incorporate a company in the US. By traveling around the world we have seen great entrepreneurs with great ideas but finding legal, logistical barriers to name a few to grow their business and compete in the market.
Christian: Why did you start Stripe in Argentina? I remember seeing a tweet from you and your brother working from Buenos Aires.
Patrick: My brother and I were living in the US, in a college in Boston and we wanted to launch Stripe. We had 2 criteria: first, we wanted a place with warm weather (believe me, Boston in the winter is not the place you want to be!) and second, with a programmer culture where we could have dinner at midnight, for instance.
Christian: Stripe has 2 co-founders, you and your brother. What are the challenges of starting a company with a brother?
Patrick: When I was in college I thought about founding a company and I was looking at my friends at college for potential co-founders… and then I looked at my brother, John, who is smarter than many of my friends at college and is someone that I have known for much longer.
Even in successful companies you will have problems, constantly. Whether it’s your brother or a friend, you should have a co-founder that you have an extensive and lengthy relationship with, where you can be direct and transparent. When I think of John, before we started Stripe, we had over 20 years of experience resolving conflicts.
Christian: At Platzi we are teaching a lot of people how to code and this is also your background. What advice do you have for someone who wants to succeed and become a great programmer?
Patrick: The high level advice I give is to build real things that ideally your friends could use. Your friends will be able to give you feedback and it forces you to understand users and how to solve the problems they have.
My first programming language was PHP and I learned it early on my teens. I come from Ireland and from a very rural part of the country and there was not a lot to do, so I started to learn Lisp, Smalltalk, Haskell and other weird languages. It is great to know all these languages but when I look back and I think about when Stripe started, I believe that the most useful thing was trying to build real things that people use.
Christian: What are the biggest challenges for a foreigner to build a company in Silicon Valley?
Patrick: The question to go to Silicon Valley should be answered by what you are building and who your customers are. For example, Stripe’s customers are entrepreneurs and developers and the greatest concentration of these profiles is in Silicon Valley, so it made sense for us to be there.
However, thinking about other tech companies in the delivery or ridesharing business, I believe it is very important to be close to your customer, so moving to Silicon Valley might not make sense for your company.
Christian: Stripe Atlas solves the problem of entrepreneurs who are not from or based in the US. What is next for Stripe Atlas?
Patrick: The idea of Atlas started when we saw an opportunity for people to run their business more effectively in the country that they want to be in. As I said, we launched in February this year and this idea turned out to be validated since we have tech entrepreneurs from diverse countries asking to use our solution. So Atlas is a service that we want to expand into other markets in two ways: first, extending the current service we have so entrepreneurs from countries that we are not in yet are able to incorporate their companies in the US; second, developing a service where companies can be incorporated in different markets and not only in the US as our current offer.
In each market we go in we try to understand very well the market and its operating system so that we can provide an effective solution to our users.
Christian: If someone is interested in applying for Stripe: what kind of technologies do you use and which profiles are you looking for?
Patrick: More than the technology, we are motivated to hire the people that are excited about the problems that we are trying to solve and building for other developers and entrepreneurs. In our case, Stripe is not a consumer company and sometimes we use the analogy that there are lots of companies building cars and at Stripe we are building roads.
For more insights from Patrick Collison on starting outside of the US and the future of payments, make sure to watch the full video of his fireside chat with Platzi during PlatziConf in October 2016.