Payments giant Stripe says it’s reentering the crypto market

Payments company Stripe announced it’s building out a new crypto team to help build out the “future of Web3 payments,” according to public statements posted to Twitter on Tuesday. Stripe, which had once been among the first to support Bitcoin payments before leaving the market a few years ago, has been watching for the right time to get back in.  But how those plans will play out is still largely unknown.

Reached for comment, Stripe declined to share any additional insights or details about its strategy, pointing only to its new public statements and its earlier blog post.

In January 2018, Stripe had announced it was ending support for Bitcoin payments that April, saying that the cryptocurrency had become less useful for payments for a variety of reasons.

The company noted then that transaction confirmation times had risen, leading to increased failure rates, and fees had also grown substantially. However, Stripe said then that it still remained “very optimistic” about cryptocurrencies overall and particularly projects like Lightning and others that could enable faster payments. It also referenced other developments like OmiseGO and said there were a number of high-potential projects based on Ethereum in the works, as well.

Now, after sitting on the sidelines for years, Stripe is reentering the crypto space.

According to a post by Edwin Wee on Stripe’s user relations team, Stripe is looking for Web3 engineers and designers to flesh out its new crypto team. While Stripe didn’t want to explain its vision, Wee’s post offers a bit more insight into how the company sees the market today.

“Crypto holds the potential of faster and less expensive payments, particularly in underserved markets,” he wrote.

“In 2018, we said that Stripe would ‘look for opportunities to help our customers by adding support for crypto in the future.’ That time has come,” Wee announced.

The team is being led by Stripe’s Head of Engineering, Guillaume Poncin, who also posted about the job openings. There are currently four roles listed for crypto engineers in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and in remote positions, but Stripe isn’t saying how many total employees it is looking to bring on out of the pool of job applicants.

While there’s no harm in a $95 billion company dabbling in crypto once again, it’s unclear at this time how significant this announcement is in terms of Stripe’s broader corporate strategy.

That said, the market for crypto payments has heated up since Stripe’s exit in 2018. In addition to numerous crypto payment startups entering the space and increased acceptance by larger brands and retailers, payments giant PayPal has also taken major steps to embrace crypto in recent months.

In November 2020, PayPal announced it was now possible for all U.S. users to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies on its platform. It recently expanded that to international markets and to its payments app Venmo. More importantly, it launched a feature that would allow U.S. consumers to check out using their cryptocurrency at any PayPal merchant, significantly broadening the potential for using crypto for online payments.

Elsewhere, cryptocurrency exchange Binance has partnered with e-commerce giant Shopify on crypto payments, while Coinbase has been making buying and spending crypto more accessible through integrations with PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay, as consumer adoption grows.

Stripe, meanwhile, is not alone in thinking about crypto’s potential in “underserved” markets. Square this summer announced it was allocating the remaining $25 million of its $100 million investment in support of minority and underserved communities, with $5 million of that total going to the Square, Inc. Bitcoin Endowment.

“From those with no credit history who cannot open bank accounts, to people living in places with limited access to banks, to populations that have historically been discriminated against, Bitcoin can help level the playing field and build a more inclusive future,” Square had said. Perhaps Stripe now agrees.