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Stripe, and ‘Schlep Blindness’


Stripe is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting businesses that not many people have heard of. I hadn't come across them myself until James mentioned them last week in his excellent Dots talk on banks becoming 'dumb pipes'. And then suddenly I see news about them three times in past 7 days.

Back in 2012, Paul Graham wrote a post about what he called 'schlep blindness'. A schlep is a tedious, unpleasant task. Developers, he says, like to think that they can start a company by just writing code and avoid all the more tedious aspects of creating and building a company. But schleps are inevitable, and actually largely what a business consists of: "A company is defined by the schleps it will undertake. And schleps should be dealt with the same way you'd deal with a cold swimming pool: just jump in".

So 'schlep blindness', he says, is the unconscious way in which we avoid ideas that involve painful schleps, and this is dangerous. Graham uses Stripe as an example of solving a problem that is nigh on universal but one which schlep blindness prevented people from even considering fixing – the idea of fixing payments.

Stripe provides a way for businesses and individuals to accept payments over the web, so developers can utilise the Stripe API instead of having to establish a merchant account to collect debit and credit card payments. Since coming through Y-combinator they've secured funding from people like Sequoia, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Chris Dixon and Andreessen Horowitz and they are already processing billions of dollars for companies of all sizes. The service is now extended to over 140 countries

In the past week I saw that Twitter were working with them for their commerce initiative, and then they're integrated with the new Apple pay, and The Guardian use Stripe to power their existing UK subscriptions and I believe the new Guardian membership programme too. Stripe was founded by two Irish brothers who are in their mid-20s. Earlier this year the company was valued at $1.75Billion. There's a lot of money in being the digital enabler. And there's a lot of money in schleps.


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