With their online payments processing company Stripe now valued at close to $100bn (€84bn), Patrick and John Collison have become beacons for a new generation of young Irish entrepreneurs.
When Patrick Collison won the BT Young Scientist competition in 2005 at the age of 16, it was the beginning of a trajectory that would, within the space of 15 years, catapult the two brothers to the higher echelons of the global tech scene.
But the billionaire duo have retained a strong sense of their Irish identity and a commitment to their homeland.
Stripe has just announced it will create at least 1,000 jobs in Ireland over the next five years, adding to the 300 it already has at its Dublin engineering hub. That hub is also its international headquarters.
Recently, the brothers helped to design and launch a new software engineering programme at University of Limerick. Stripe will provide residencies or paid work placements for students.
There’s also a softer side to Ireland’s richest tech entrepreneurs.
Last November as RTÉ’s Late Late Toy Show was inundated with charity donations from viewers, causing technical difficulties, Stripe almost immediately increased the processing capacity to the show, eventually seeing it raise about €5m. Patrick and John personally donated €100,000 to the appeal.
The brothers have created, as Irish Independent technology editor Adrian Weckler pointed out this morning, the most valuable private company ever in Silicon Valley.
It’s no mean feat given the type of competition there is in the United States for the kind of funding that can rapidly scale viable start-ups.
But within the space of a decade, Stripe has also become one of the most valuable companies in the entire United States.
The valuation placed on it following its fresh $600m funding round puts it on a par with well-known stock market-listed tech giants such as Snap and Zoom.
And Stripe’s valuation is bigger than the market capitalisations of other US stock market icons such as General Motors, retailer Target, and ConocoPhillips.
But the brothers’ route to success is one marked by determination and perseverance.
They went to primary school at the gaelscoil in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, and later attended Castletroy College secondary school in Limerick.
Their mother Lily (62) and father Denis (66) at one point ran the Sail Inn hotel and restaurant at Lough Derg in Dromineer, Co Tipperary.
Lily has a natural science degree in microbiology from Trinity College and a Masters from UCD.
She did a brief stint lecturing at the Sligo Institute of Technology between 1985 and 1987, and had previously worked for Abbott Laboratories in the town. She was the managing director of her firm, SQT Training, between 1989 and 2013.
Their father, an electrical engineer, also had an entrepreneurial spark.
“Entrepreneur is a long, fancy French word, but it didn't seem like something you aspire to,” Patrick Collison told Bloomberg in 2017. “It seemed normal, because whatever your parents do seems normal.”
Their younger brother, Tommy, was diagnosed in 1995 at the age of one with spastic diplegia, also known as bilateral cerebral palsy. It set their mother on a path to understanding the condition that eventually saw her write a book to help others caring for those diagnosed with it.
Tommy works at the Lambda School in San Francisco, an online computer science and job training programme, where he is head of communications strategy and business development.
Patrick, meanwhile, enrolled at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2006. John followed a couple of years later, taking up a place at Harvard. They developed apps for Apple’s iPhone in their spare time.
And when Patrick was still just 18 and John was 16, they founded a firm called Shuppa, which was a play on the Irish word for shop, síopa. It was designed to manage Ebay auctions.
But they couldn’t attract enough funding for the venture – rumour has it that Enterprise Ireland even turned them down.
So they upped sticks to Silicon Valley and renamed the business Auctomatic. They sold it in 2008 for $5m. The following year, they dropped out of college and started working on their idea for Stripe.
In 2011, it launched, with Patrick as chief executive and John as president.
Fast forward 10 years, and the brothers now sit atop a tech goliath.
“They have the advantage of coming to California without being tainted and polluted by what's in the water supply and air of Silicon Valley,” Mike Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital and Stripe investor, told Bloomberg a few years ago.
“They're more humble and well-rounded,” he said. “There's such an improbability to their story – that these brothers from a little village would come to build what could well be one of the most important companies on the internet.”
And yet, they have.
Stripe is still, as far as the Collisons are concerned, at an early stage in its development.
“We're still quite early in Stripe’s journey,” John Collison told the Irish Independent last November. “And when I say that, you might roll your eyes, given that we've been at this for 10 years. But we’re still growing at quite a fast rate and still investing very heavily in future growth.”
The payback for Ireland from Stripe’s success might be just beginning.