In terms of marrying down, this was not the biggest leap.
Silvana Konermann, the Swiss winner of the 2005 EU Young Scientist competition, has married Patrick Collison, the Irish entrant who came second in the competition — and who has since gone on to become a billionaire.
Tech sources have revealed that Collison and Konermann married in a private wedding in Italy in April.
The pair met as teenagers in the 2005 EU Young Scientist competition which was held in Moscow.
Konermann, who was then 17, took first place in the competition for her project: the development of a treatment to prevent urinary tract infections in people who have to use a catheter post-operation.
She was inspired to investigate the problem after her grandmother was hospitalised following a common bacterial infection for which oral antibiotics are ineffective, due to a film that develops on the catheter surface.
Konermann’s solution was to impregnate the catheter with antibiotics using a polymer hydrogel.
She is now an assistant professor of biochemistry at Stanford University in California and has a PhD in Neuroscience from MIT.
Patrick Collison qualified for the 2005 competition by winning the the Irish Young Scientist competition. He was also aged 17.
He was placed second in the EU contest for his project — creating an online programming language.
Collison has since gone to establish Stripe with his brother John. The online financial services platform has been valued at $95bn and has 7,000 employees in offices in New York, San Francisco, Singapore and Dublin.
Last December, Collison announced he had co-founded the Arc Institute with Konermann and Patrick Hsu (an assistant professor at Berkeley University) to research the causes of complex human diseases across three Californian universities.
The Stripe CEO announced his engagement to Konermann, though she was not publicly named, with a tweeted photograph in June 2019 captioned “hit our engagement metrics this weekend”, along with a diamond ring emoji.
He only publicly referenced how Konermann beat him at the 2005 EU Young Scientist competition earlier this year, when he was receiving the Science Foundation Ireland St Patrick’s Day Science Medal in Washington, along with his brother and Donald McDonald, an associate director for Translational Research at the Duke Cancer Institute.
On that occasion, Collison said that though he and McDonald had both won the Irish Young Scientist, McDonald had in 1979 gone on to take first place in the European competition — while he’d had to settle for second place behind his future fiancée.
Asked about finishing behind his now-wife in a recent Forbes profile, Collison said: “That is not, sadly, misinformation.”
Forbes reported that he took a break from their honeymoon in May to write a memo to respond to a public attack on Stripe’s business tactics.
It came from Zachary Perret, CEO of Plaid, a rival financial services company that has worked with Stripe.
Collison’s memo said “at a meta level, we should expect controversies to (unfortunately) be a part of Stripe’s current (and likely growing) profile.”
He said Stripe’s goal was not to never to be on the “front page” for news — but “it is, as in cases like this, to feel that we can fully stand behind our actions when we end up there.”