Stripe, the U.S.-based startup that lets developers integrate payments into their site or app with a few lines of code, is stepping up its game in the world of e-commerce. From today, users of its API will be able to accept payments in 130 currencies, up from the handful that it accepted up to now. The move comes just weeks after Stripe announced a Series C funding round of $80 million, raised in part to help the company scale its business globally.
What it will mean is that a consumer in, say, South Africa will be able to buy a good or service online from a Stripe-using merchant in the UK (one of the countries where Stripe is active, which also include the U.S., Canada and Europe), and the charge for that product will automatically come up in rand, rather than pounds that would need to be converted by the customer or the seller via a separate service. On the seller’s side, it means using one service — Stripe — to turn on multi currency acceptance, rather than needing to work with local financial partners.
This can be used for physical goods but also digital and virtual ones. In the example given by Stripe itself, Dailymotion is using Stripe to power subscription payments in Dailymotion Cloud, its white-label online video platform across 35 localised versions and 18 languages.
Commissions remain the same as before: 2.9% and 30 cents on every transaction for those who process under $80,000 per month, with an additional 2% on any currency conversion. (“We break out the conversion fee rather than messing around the rates,” Stripe’s co-founder and president John Collison told me in an interview. Those rates, he says, get negotiated with many different local banks that Stripe works with behind the scenes to enable the service via its API.)
It’s a big leap forward for a company that took its first baby steps outside of North America last year when it launched services in the UK and subsequently in further countries, such as the co-founders’ home country of Ireland. Ultimately, though, you can think of this as just one step in how Stripe plans to take on e-commerce globally.
For starters, there is the fact that today’s news covers money “paid in” via Stripe, but not funds paid out. John Collison, Stripe’s 23-year-old co-founder and president, tells me that pay-outs remain limited to dollars, euros and pounds — and do not, as yet, include virtual currencies like bitcoin.
There is also the fact that Stripe is still pushing at the boundaries of what it might do as it evolves from being a useful and easy way of taking payments into a more full-fledged commerce and business platform.
“Stripe doesn’t see itself as a financial services company, but as a technology company,” Collison told me. “The kinds of things that we are adding to Stripe, like support for 130 currencies, is entirely relationship-based. It’s the kind of thing that in the past only the biggest merchants like Amazon had access to. Small merchants had a worse product offering by virtue of the payment infrastructure.”
So what else could we see coming? One thing we might look to is the company’s acquisition last year of Kickoff, the team task management and collaboration app that lets users create lists, share files and message each other. Seen as an acquihire for more design expertise in-house at Stripe, you can see how some of that team’s other talents might fit in as Stripe looks to expand what it offers its merchants.
On that note, Collison didn’t comment in response to questions about the reports that Twitter is planning to launch a commerce service where Stripe will be offering the payments backend. (On that service, Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo was also relatively vague during the company’s first quarterly earnings call last week, acknowledging the “in the moment commerce opportunity” and the role its cards platform would be using to help deliver it — “that will be the vehicle with which we think about commerce” — but refusing to give a date or other specifics.)
The Collison brothers (Patrick, John’s slightly older brother, is the CEO) came to the U.S. from Ireland to start their business — and arguably might not have been able to find the same kind of traction, attention or investor interest in what they were doing if they didn’t go the Y-Combinator/Silicon Valley route. But these days it’s interesting to see how the startup is now looking outside the U.S. as its engine for growth. Collison is quick to point out, for example, how the UK market is 2.5 times bigger than the U.S. was at the same point after its launch — a pattern it hopes to repeat elsewhere.