Online payments start-up Stripe has set out to ease the way for foreign businesses to gain access to otherwise unavailable resources in the US. With 'Atlas,' the firm is targeting entrepreneurs from developing economies.
Irish e-commerce start-up Stripe launched "Atlas" on Wednesday, saying it would enable foreign technology and Internet entrepreneurs to easily set up a business entity in the US without having to leave their home countries.
The offering is meant to be particularly helpful to emerging-country or developing-country based entrepreneurs who are seeking a global customer base or trying to build a US presence.
For now, "Atlas" is only available as an "invite-only private beta" version, which will be tested by selected early adopters before the service is released to a wider client base.
Stripe says it is working with more than sixty accelerators, investors, and partners from around the world to get Atlas in the hands of promising startups.
Dos and don'ts
Entrepreneurs should not adopt "Atlas" without careful evaluation, the company warned in a disclaimer on its website: "While incorporating in the US can make many things much easier, it also comes with long-term legal and tax implications. You should think carefully about whether it's best for your business and consult advisors as necessary."
Stripe also noted that "there are a number of business categories that we can't support in the US." The long list ranges from telemarketing and timeshares through securities brokers, bankruptcy lawyers, gambling, drug paraphernalia and porn.
"Atlas" promises customers to incorporate their company as a business entity in the US, in addition to setting up a US bank account and starting a Stripe account to accept payments from around the world. The company will also offer guidance about US laws and taxes.
Back office for online payments for small companies
The San Francisco-based company has spread to two dozen countries since it was launched in 2011 by Irish start-up whiz kids John and Patrick Collison.
The two brothers set out to make it easier for individuals and businesses to accept payments over the Web. They soon found backing from the founders of online payment giant PayPal, Peter Thiel and Elon Musk (though neither was affilated with PayPal by the time they invested in Stripe).
The Collison brothers moved to Silicon Valley in 2007 after their software company "Shuppa" failed to draw financial support from their home country's economic development agency, Enterprise Ireland. About one year later, they became overnight millionaires, when they sold that company, renamed Auctomatic. Patrick was 19 and his brother John was 17. Two years later, they founded Stripe in Silicion Valley.
With Atlas, it appears the brothers are hoping to help fellow technology entrepreneurs from countries around the world get into business and access US resources without having to uproot the way they had to.
PayPal founders Thiel (l.) and Musk were among the first to recognize the Collison brothers' eye for innovation
Stripe is a player in a burgeoning fintech scene
Today, the online payments "ecosystem" is booming, with startups popping up like earthworms after a spring rain. In early December last year, San Francisco was the site of the sixth annual "Future of Money & Technology Summit," where start-up entrepreneurs, investors, and other stakeholders met to talk about the burgeoning field of "fintech," or financial technology.
Big banks have also taken notice, recognising that it could present both threats to their core businesses as well as opportunities, and have begun to hedge their bets by putting in place observation posts in centers of fintech ferment. Deutsche Bank, for example, has moved to open three "innovation labs" in Berlin, London, and Silicon Valley. The labs are meant to serve as incubators, where a startup's technology can be trialled and developed, in some cases in collaboration with Deutsche Bank clients.
Deutsche plans to evaluate at least 500 ideas per year at the new labs and consider them for possible investment. It has teamed up with Microsoft in Berlin, HCL in London, and IBM in Silicon Valley.
Barclay's Bank, another global giant, set up a fintech accelerator in 2013, two years before Deutsche, with bases in London and New York City. Both Barclay's and Deutsche are amongst a number of banks engaged with Fintech Innovation Labs, organised by Accenture and the City of London, which has a presence in London, NYC, Dublin, and the Asia Pacific.