Monday 18 February 2019

Limerick-born Patrick Collison was coding at the age of 10 and he and younger (by two years) brother John set up and sold their first company, Shuppa, which later merged with Auctomatic, while they were still teenagers.

In 2005, at the age of 16, Patrick Collison was the recipient of the 41st Young Scientist of the Year for his work with Lisp, which was based around a new programming language. Patrick spent his last year at Castletroy College in Limerick studying at home so he could finish school early. He went to MIT in 2006 to study maths. His brother John scored the highest possible score in his Leaving Cert and was bound for Harvard.

Both brothers dropped out of college early to work on the idea that would make their fortunes. They had tinkered with phone apps and an offline version of Wikipedia but it was their disruption of the online payments industry that made the world sit up and take notice. For years, commerce had run ahead of the development of the technology that supported it. The connections between the banks, the payment companies and the vendors were unwieldy and expensive. It was into this breach that the Collison brothers stepped. From 2010, their company, Stripe Inc, built software that businesses could link with websites and apps to instantly connect with credit card and banking systems and receive payments. The idea got the seal of approval from other Silicon Valley startups, with initial backing from Tesla founder Elon Musk and PayPal's Peter Thiel.

Businesses such as Lyft, Facebook, DoorDash, and thousands that aspired to be like them, turned Stripe into the financial backbone of their operations. If you bought anything online in the last two years, the odds are quite high that the payment was processed by Stripe.

The company now handles tens of billions of dollars in internet transactions annually, making money by charging a small fee on each one. Last September, Stripe was valued at $20bn (€17.5bn) after the company raised $245m (€213m) in investment from Tiger Global Management, Sequoia and DST Global.

The company now plans to create a new engineering hub in Singapore to join its existing network of hubs, which includes Dublin, Seattle and San Francisco. The brothers are judged to be worth around $1bn each, a figure which has fallen in euro terms due to currency fluctuations.

The brothers now back start-ups themselves as well. Stripe put money into UK banking app Monzo in 2017, while other investments have been in fellow fast-growing tech firms Intercom, Slack, and Exec.

Last summer Stripe also led an investment round of $8m (€7m) in a Nigerian payments startup firm, Paystack.

Despite their fantastic wealth, the brothers share a modest apartment in San Francisco and spend their free time hiking, cycling or studying: they hire teachers to tutor John (28) in law and Patrick (30) in physics at weekends. Their biggest luxury is a private plane.

Online Editors

Also in Business