Friday 24 November 2017

Dublin Web Summit: My start-up now worth $500m would have stalled back home

Patrick Collison, whose online payment company Stripe is based in Silicon Valley, speaking at the Dublin Web Summit in the RDS
Patrick Collison, whose online payment company Stripe is based in Silicon Valley, speaking at the Dublin Web Summit in the RDS

Peter Flanagan New Technology Correspondent

IRELAND'S workforce isn't good enough to support a meaningful environment for start-up companies, according to one of the leading technology entrepreneurs in the country.

Patrick Collison, whose online payments company Stripe is based in Silicon Valley and is valued at around $500m (€380m) just three years after it was started, said it would have been impossible for him to set up the company in Ireland.

"I don't think we could have done it," he said.

"It's two main things. One is there isn't the investment initiative here. If we had started in Ireland there's no chance we would have secured the investment we did in the early stages of the business. That just doesn't really exist here, and that would have had a cascading effect of making other things harder for a new company.

"The other thing is the ability to get the right people. A lot of the people we work with in California have started their own companies in the past and are really self-motivated and incredibly good at what they do. I think it would have been really hard to bring those people to Ireland.

"There isn't yet that same sense of things here so com- panies that are in Ireland end up hiring a different kind of person and that would have made a different kind of company," he added.

Stripe has very few employees -- about 30 -- and part of that is because it can access the "right" people, Mr Collison added.

The Limerick native was speaking at the Dublin Web Summit in the RDS, where he emphasised that he would need "twice as many staff" here as he does in the US.

"I believe Ireland has a better education system than Silicon Valley but the world's best people gravitate to the valley. That doesn't happen in Ireland. We have staff from Sweden, Kenya and a host of nations. We wouldn't have had access to them if we had stayed in Ireland."

Expansion

Mr Collison's comments echo similar sentiments from the likes of Google, who have previously criticised the lack of language skills in this country; while it emerged earlier this year that about half of the staff at PayPal's new facility in Dundalk were from overseas.

Stripe is one of the highest profile start-up companies in the US, attracting backing from high-profile investor Peter Thiel and heavyweight venture capital firm Sequoia Capital.

Mr Collison said that while the company was looking at expansion in Europe, it had not yet decided whether it would open up in Ireland.

"I'm not sure about an Irish office at this stage but we are looking at where we want to base ourselves in Europe and Ireland, and the IDA in particular, have done great work in that regard."

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