Far from Silicon Valley’s stereotypes, Stripe is the latest unicorn to sit atop the list of the most valued companies in the area. With its $95 billion valuation, it’s a far cry from other tech darlings like Facebook or Uber, where the non-written mantra is “move fast and break things”.
That can hardly be applicable to Stripe, an online payment software company, that few people outside of the specialised tech world have heard about. But being unheard of to the general public hasn’t stopped the company from growing – only last year they processed over 5,000 payments per second. And that was in the middle of a pandemic, with many businesses slowed down to a trickle or completely halted.
Despite its success and recent astronomical valuation, Stripe is still a payment processing company. This means that maybe there isn’t a lot of room to grow to live up to that gargantuan valuation.
“I think they have broader ambitions as a finance IPA company,” Gregory LaBlanc, Business and Economics lecturer at Stanford University and UC Berkeley told The Fintech Times. “The jury is out whether this investment is justified, but they’re probably moving towards being the machinery that stitches together different entities financially”, LaBlanc said.
One such example is Stripe Atlas, the company’s platform to help launch startups. According to their website, Stripe Atlas promises founders to make the launch process as smooth as possible, providing legal services, help with ownership structure, and others.
“They’ve also moved into lending and if we look to the trajectory of other fintechs, like Square, they too have moved beyond their initial business,” LaBlanc stated.
Paypal also started as a closed payments system, but over time diversified and acquired other companies like Venmo, while setting up a credit card system. “The valuation given to Stripe is an expression of the faith the investors have on the team at the company to move into adjacent areas,” LaBlanc said.
This ability to grow into adjacent areas in order to expand is similar to other Silicon Valley unicorns, like Uber – with UberEats. Companies like Uber, Facebook, Twitter, aren’t directly part of the financial sector, which had always been considered stagnant until the arrival of neobanks.
“Finance was a sector that needed to be rethought,” LaBlanc stated. “You have companies like Goldman Sachs that are coming 20 years late into the game. They haven’t thought of themselves as a software company. Stripe knew they were a software company from the start and that is why they are so agile.”
Stripe’s initial success at detecting a gap in the market – the inability for swift, smooth payments online – has also allowed for the growth of the entire industry. It has expanded to over 40 countries and will use part of the $2.4 billion it has raised to date, to open more offices in Europe.
According to Stripe, one out of every two European unicorns like UiPath (Romania), Vinted (Lituania) or Docplanner (Poland), use Stripe for their online payments.