Interning at Stripe was one of the best experiences of my career. Now that I’ve chosen to return there after graduation, I’d like to share some of my thoughts. I’d also like to give the usual disclaimer: this is just my opinion. These are my views, tainted by my background, shaped by my experiences. Any critical feedback that I give here I do with the hope that it will help make Stripe an even better place.
Stripe is a great company, founded on solid engineering discipline, with a great future. I strongly encourage those who have the chance to work at Stripe to do it.
I’ll be honest: I came in to Stripe utterly unfit to answer questions posed by my friends like, “Oh, you’re interning at Stripe? What do they do?” An innocuous question sure, but equally difficult for me to answer. It wasn’t until my first day that I learned the answer. I’m really passionate about what Stripe does; it’s both worthwhile in the long run and engaging on a daily basis.
So what is Stripe? If you ever get the chance to meet with someone on the PR team, they might say something like:
Stripe is a software platform for building an internet business. Stripe helps companies like Lyft, Kickstarter, Facebook, and others sell to anyone, anywhere, and in new ways.
This is heavily steeped in PR rhetoric, but nonetheless does a good job of setting the stage. There’s a lot of meaning squished into those two sentences, so let’s un-squish it.
- Stripe is a software platform. It’s software that enables other software. But what kind of software does it enable?
- Stripe is for building an internet business. Stripe’s software aims to simplify the process of conducting business online. This is purposefully broad, but for example, Stripe helps businesses accept payments, keep track of customers, analyze fraud, simplify subscriptions, and more.
- Stripe has big-name customers. This isn’t just some random startup. Stripe is the go-to choice for established companies, in addition to smaller upstarts.
- Stripe helps others sell to anyone, anywhere, and in new ways. Companies in more than 20 countries and customers around the world can transact using Stripe. Stripe also focuses on how to make complicated problems simple, leading to new, better products for businesses.
That’s “what Stripe is,” but that’s not “what excites me about Stripe.” I don’t run an internet business, certainly never one headquartered overseas. Nevertheless, Stripe appeals to me individually.
Stripe puts developers first. While Stripe’s product is for businesses, it’s the software developers at that business who directly consume the product. Those developers take significant time and effort to build their app or product on top of the software platform that Stripe curates. Being a developer, I can’t help but smile that a company has its priorities this far aligned with my peers.
This is a two-way street as well. It’s awesome to work at a company that my peers recognize as a valuable and reputable tool for building the things they want to. When I tell my friends I work at Stripe, I say it like a badge of honor, because I feel like I’ve contributed back to the developer community.
In line with this, Stripe’s business intentions are clear. Stripe earns money on every transaction. It’s in Stripe’s best interest to help businesses grow, because Stripe can’t profit without first helping other businesses to profit. This is uncommon in internet companies. Some make money by advertising, which usuallyAdmittedly, I have a rather antagonistic view of advertising in general.
amounts to a company stealing its users personal information. Other companies use marketing campaigns to trick customers into buying something that’s useful, but which they might not really need. On the other hand, Stripe provides a real need and profits alongside them, not in spite of them.
This idea of helping businesses grow isn’t just an afterthought: it’s another of Stripe’s core values. Phrased a little differently, Stripe arms upstarts to compete with well-established contenders. Companies like Amazon have the size and sway to chat with a bank, set up an account, and procure the ability to charge credit cards. The college freshman making a business from a laptop in a dorm room might not have that luxury. Stripe enables upstarts like this to start accepting payments from day one.
That’s a pretty cool image. The internet should be a place where anyone can carve out their own homestead, rather than only those with an army big enough to fight for them. By arming upstarts, Stripe empowers future generations to use the internet to change their little (or big!) part of the world.
So for a number of reasons, Stripe’s mission excites me. The future Stripe sees for the internet is a future I’d be proud to say I helped create. But Stripe’s vision is only the foundation upon which company culture is built. Stripe’s culture inspires personal growth and a drive to achieve great things.
The people at Stripe were I don’t mean to imply that this is no longer the case! While writing this, I am not currently at Stripe; I’m addressing my experience.
ridiculously talented, pervasively thoughtful, and humble. By “ridiculously talented,” I’m talking about the feeling where you walk into a meeting and feel like the least talented person there—every time. To exemplify “pervasively thoughtful,” at company-wide all-hands meetings, it seemed like everyone was two steps ahead with an insightful question. And throughout it all people at Stripe were humble. Certainly each person is different, but these traits stood out among people at Stripe.
At the top of it all are two confident and passionate co-founders: John and Patrick Collison. In a company full of talented and thoughtful people, this duo topped the charts. Richard Hamming talks of “first-class” people in his seminar You and Your ResearchYou and Your Research, by Richard Hamming. Worth the read.
. Whenever I think of the kinds of people Hamming describes in this talk, I immediately think of these two, because hearing them speak inspires a sense of drive to become better. Just, truly great men.
It’s important to me who I surround myself with. I was reminded this summer that “we are 5% ourselves, and 95% our cohort.”Qasar Younis of Y Combinator mentioned this at an event for YC interns. He made some wild remarks that evening, but this one is spot on.
The people at Stripe embody the type of person I would like to become.
Speaking from a broader perspective, the culture at Stripe is fueled by a sense of urgency. While Stripe has been around longer than most startups, it’s by no means well established. People at Stripe still act as though they have something to prove, even though they’ve come a long way. They work hard without overworking themselves, trying to prove themselves every day. This urgency arises from a fear that Stripe might not reach its full potential—a fear of not achieving Stripe’s dream for the internet.
I want this dream to come true. I want to become the kind of person that abounds at Stripe. Stripe’s plan is worthwhile and challenging, and the group of people at Stripe are talented and thoughtful enough to see it through. Overall, I’m excited to be a part of Stripe, and I look forward to seeing where we go.