Online Payment System, Stripe, Makes Its First International Move

Canadian startups stand to benefit



Stripe, the online payments system that has built a reputation as the simplest way for online retailers to start accepting credit cards instantly, has just launched in Canada, its first non-US country. This is the first step in what Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison describes as the company's effort to bring Stripe to every country on earth. "We want to enable anyone anywhere in the world to easily accept payments," Patrick said in an interview Tuesday. "And going from one country to two is a bigger deal than going from 2 to N."

Canada was a particularly difficult case, because the rules and requirements for accepting credit cards in Canada are Byzantine. During Stripe's beta in Canada, hundreds of companies tried the system, including Shopify, one of the fastest growing companies in Canada.

"The single thing [the beta testers] reiterated," says Collison, "was that we should emphasize just how problematic it was to accept payments online before this." Tobias Lütke, founder of Shopify, told Collison that the difficulty of accepting payments in Canada is one of the reasons the country's technology sector is as small as it is. In blurbs gathered by Stripe, Lütke notes:

"The first time I dealt with online payments was when I opened my online snowboard store here in Canada. My only option was to go through my bank which seemed reasonable enough. Boy was I wrong. It took months of pleading and convincing. By the time we could accept payments we had spent thousands of dollars on unnecessary security audits and were sitting on unsold inventory. Later, with Shopify, we integrated almost 100 different payment systems on behalf of our customers and none have been as easy to use as Stripe. With Stripe, you can setup a new store in minutes. Americans have been enjoying Stripe for a while and I'm thrilled that it's finally available for Canadian businesses and startups."

In talking to Collison, it's clear that his ambitions are much, much larger than simply making it easy for mom and pop storefronts to have the same access to payment tools as giants like Amazon. In the meantime, though, developers are raving about Stripe's differentiating features: It allows merchants to accept credit card payments instantly, without waiting for approval from a bank (Stripe does its own risk analysis on potential users), its code is dead-easy to install, and the resulting shopping experience is Apple-like in its simplicity, due to the company's single-minded focus on streamlining the payment process as much as possible.

That doesn't mean Stripe doesn't have competition, however. Startups including Braintree, WePay and a revamped PayPal are all pursuing the same market, and giants like Google and Amazon offer similar, if less-popular, payment solutions. If "the market will decide," in this case Stripe's $500 million valuation and explosive growth over the past year indicate the company will be a strong player in this space.

This post will also appear on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

Presented by

Christopher Mims is the science and technology correspondent for Quartz. His work has appeared in Wired and Scientific American, as well as on the BBC.

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