Newsmaker: John and Patrick Collison
Technology superstars John and Patrick Collison will hit our TV screens this evening to talk about their wildly successful payments business Stripe in advance of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, for which they are nominated.
The co-founders started the company in their teens. Today it is valued at $5bn.
They never anticipated how successful Stripe would be. “We didn’t set out to hire a whole of bunch of people or build this big thing,” says John (pictured on the right). “There was so much uncertainty as to whether it could possibly get off the ground. And so now, having had it work out to at least some degree, it’s nice to sort of look back fondly on those really scrappy times when you were working out of the living room or whatever the case was,” adds Patrick.
Despite their modesty, it has always been clear that the brothers were set for greatness.
In 2005, at the age of 16, Patrick won the 41st Young Scientist of the Year Award for creating a new type of programming language.
He left school a year early to study at the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology. John, meanwhile, scored the perfect Leaving Certificate – eight A1s – and took up a place at Harvard.
In early 2010 they began working on Stripe together. At the time Patrick was working on several side projects and they could not understand why it was so difficult to accept payments on the web. They sought to solve the problem.
“Being curious about the world around you is a very useful trait to have. You probably won’t spot the opportunities which are masquerading as problems if you don’t have that,” says John.
Stripe now powers Facebook’s ‘Buy’ button as well as delivering e-commerce features for Twitter. It has also partnered with Apple on its Apple Pay service. It has proved to be an incredibly lucrative venture, creating the fastest ever billion-euro fortune in Irish history.
The Irish brothers now live in San Francisco, with a ‘Financial Times’ profile revealing that their pad has a number of mattresses stacked up behind a door so that Stripe staffers can crash on the floor when visiting.
“I think in all of the companies we look at or the examples that people tend to use, they’re all big or established – they have logos and offices and they are fierce fancy.
“In Patrick and I’s case, we didn’t set out to hire a whole of bunch of people or build this big thing. In our case it was an awful lot of late nights sitting up coding – looking like a shiny company comes much later.”