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Patrick and John Collison: Introducing the Irish billionaires under 30

Meet the wunderkinds who’ve built a multibillion transaction titan

Patrick and John Collison are currently taking the tech world by storm. Not only is their company, Stripe, revolutionising the very nature of online sales and transactions, but it’s also received the seal of approval from Elon Musk and has an estimated valued of just under $10bn. Yet, despite making their way to the top of the Silicon Valley food chain and causing gargantuan waves in America’s east coast and beyond, the Collisons remain relatively unknown on this side of the Atlantic.

For a better understanding of who these two remarkable brothers are, here’s everything you need to know.

Who are they?

John and Patrick Collison are the founders and brothers behind US technology company Stripe.

After having moved around during their childhood, they finally settled in Dromineer, a small village in rural Ireland, before leaving Europe to attend college in the US.

At just 27, John Collison is the world’s youngest billionaire, and although things can often get lonely at the top, he’s safe in the knowledge that his older sibling, Patrick, 29, also boasts a ten-digit salary.

What is Stripe?

Over $1.6bn is spent online every day in America. This figure has doubled in the past five years and is set to double again by 2022, according to the Department of Commerce.

Yet, despite the boom of e-commerce, the technology that underlies it is dated; startups wishing to begin trade normally have to go through a rigorous process – which often includes visits to banks and payment processors – to set up shop. This would often take weeks or even months. Moreover, the software handling the transactions were written by financial middlemen and other non-coding specialists.

Seven years ago, the Collison brothers started to simplify this issue, namely by launching Stripe Inc. – a company that allows merchants to accept credit card payments on their apps and websites. Although several other organisations have tried to do this, Stripe has found success due to its straightforward business model: for example, in the UK, it charges 1.4 per cent of the total value of each transaction (plus 20p).

Stripe was an instant hit with Silicon Valley startups such as Lyft and Facebook, and in a funding round last year it was valued at over $9bn, a figure that’s several times larger than those of its nearest rivals. According to Forbes, each brother has a stake of at least $1.1bn.

Notable backers include PayPal founders Elon Musk and Peter Thiel.

What did they do before Stripe?

In 2005, at just the tender age of 16, Patrick won the 41st Young Scientist of the Year prize for his work with programming language, Lisp, and left school a year early to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – he took his place there based on a SAT score he received when he was 13.

John, meanwhile, achieved the highest-ever score received by a student for the Irish Leaving Certificate (the final examination in the Irish secondary school) before leaving for Harvard.

Beyond the lecture hall, both brothers developed iPhone apps. An early hit was an $8 version of Wikipedia that allowed people to search for information offline. In 2008, they also sold their company, Auctomatic Inc. – an eBay auction and marketplace management system – for $5m.

A year after selling Auctomatic Inc., the Collisons then dropped out of college to focus on an idea which would eventually become Stripe. They set up their base in Palo Alto, California and debuted their company in 2011.

Despite their success, a recent interview with the BBC suggests that the siblings remain humble and modest. When asked about experiencing wealth at such a young age, John said: “People now ask this a lot and I feel like they always want some really interesting answer – and I have nothing for them.”

What now for Stripe?

During their early Stripe careers, both Collisons would micromanage every detail, so much so that they would spend up to 15 hours per week on job interviews.

Realising that this would often delay important decision-making, they let go of their responsibilities in January and decided to delegate their daily duties to trusted staffers.

However, just because they no longer oversee their organisation’s minutiae doesn’t mean that they’re not securing deals. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Since early summer, Stripe has been handling a significant portion of Amazon’s transactions, according to Bloomberg. And although the details remain undisclosed, the deal – which was only revealed by Stripe’s addition of Amazon’s logo to its website – will help the company live up it its $9.2bn valuation.

Additionally, the Collisons’ mission is greater than just simplifying the way in which Americans shop online. Rather, they’re starting to channel their efforts into revolutionising how businesses will conduct their online activity in the next few decades, notably by writing software that pays employees and detect fraud.

“We think giving two people in a garage the same infrastructure as a 100,000-person corporation—the aggregate effects of that will be really good,” Patrick told Bloomberg in August.

With many years ahead of them, and with plenty more greenbacks in their back pocket, the future will certainly be interesting for these two Irish heavyweights.

Want to fuel your inner entrepreneur even more? Read about the inspiration rise of Michael Bloomberg

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