Patrick Collison — CEO of Stripe (#353)

Credit: O Hello Media, Eric Ananmalay

“If people around you don’t think what you’re doing is a bit strange, maybe it’s not strange enough.” — Patrick Collison

Patrick Collison (@patrickc) is chief executive officer and co-founder of Stripe, a technology company that builds economic infrastructure for the internet.

After experiencing firsthand how difficult it was to set up an online business, Patrick and his brother John started Stripe in 2010. Their goal was to make accepting payments on the internet simpler and more inclusive. Today, Stripe powers millions of online businesses around the world.

Prior to Stripe, Patrick co-founded Auctomatic, which was acquired by Live Current Media for $5 million in March 2008. In 2016, he was named a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by President Obama. Originally from Limerick, Ireland, Patrick now lives in San Francisco where Stripe is headquartered.

Also, as you can tell from seeing just a selected segment of his reading list shared in the show notes below, he’s one of the most well-read people I know. Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

Want to hear my interview with one of the founders of Duolingo? — Listen to my interview with Luis Von Ahn, the co-founder of Duolingo, in which we discuss what 2-3 books and resources he’d recommend to entrepreneurs, language learning tips, early mentors and key lessons learned, and how to recruit and vet technical talent (stream below or right-click here to download):

#135: Luis Von Ahn on Learning Languages, Building Companies, and Changing the World


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Patrick Collison:

Stripe | Website | Twitter


  • What does Chris Sacca have to say about Patrick Collison? [06:03]
  • For the well-read Patrick, what makes a book particularly great? What titles get recommended and gifted most? [09:37]
  • Why The Dream Machine by M. Mitchell Waldrop has a special place on Patrick’s bookshelf (which lends further insight into how he vets his reading list). [13:53]
  • On the importance of giving ideas — whether they’re wrapped up in books or companies — time to fail before venerating them as innovations, and not writing off an idea you might tackle uniquely just because someone else has already tried it in a different way. [20:44]
  • When beginning Stripe, what did Patrick and his brother, co-founder John, know when entering a seemingly saturated market that nobody else knew? [28:50]
  • What does Y Combinator’s Paul Graham mean when he uses the term Collison installation, and what decisions were made in Stripe’s early days that — in retrospect — turned out to be really important? [35:04]
  • The tendency of many startups to overvalue PR and marketing, the siren song of high praise, and the shocking shortage of good software from companies that should — but don’t — understand its importance for driving organic traction in today’s marketplace. [46:32]
  • The future of your company is probably not going to hinge entirely on the first name that you give it — as Patrick demonstrates by telling us how SlashDevSlashFinance, Inc. became Stripe. [51:22]
  • A day early on when Stripe hit a hurdle, how it was overcome, and how this affected Patrick on a personal level. [58:07]
  • What did the conversation between the Collison brothers look like that day? Was there anything that trained them to develop the appropriate mindset to deal with these sorts of problems on a regular basis? [1:03:44]
  • Does having such supportive parents make the sometimes odd courses Patrick and John chart for themselves easier to navigate? [1:08:27]
  • Patrick fills us in on the kind of upbringing he and his brothers had in rural Ireland as “free-range” children, and how their parents cultivated their curiosity — from including them in dinner conversations with other adults to camping all over Europe to finding a local monk to teach Patrick ancient Greek when he expressed a passing interest in learning it. [1:14:44]
  • Some wise advice from Patrick about developing your own worldview — even if you don’t happen to fall within the “prime” years between 10 and 20 — and heuristics you can use to help. [1:26:06]
  • Patrick’s recommended people lists. [1:34:37]
  • Why is Patrick so fascinated by economic history and development economics? [1:37:09]
  • How does one gauge perceived economic progress against happiness? Or put another way, why are a lot of Ethiopians generally happy until they get television sets? [1:40:30]
  • What levers does Patrick think we might we pull to better equalize happiness around the world? [1:47:08]
  • What progressive strides has South Korea made in a relatively short period of time that might serve as an example to currently troubled areas looking forward to their own development? [1:53:28]
  • Suggestions Patrick has for people who are trying to increase the speed of their decision-making process, and concepts and books that have been helpful to me. [1:58:20]
  • When I’m agitated about any number of things, “What would Matt Mullenweg say?” is a question I often ask myself. Members of your close peer group can be helpful to your decision-making process even if they’re not physically around to ask. [2:06:37]
  • In many cases, the only way you can have more complete information is to make what might be the wrong decision and then course correct. [2:10:18]
  • Patrick recommends a few books that might help with decisional course correction — or reformatting the approach to make sure you’re not wasting time devising the best solutions imaginable for the wrong problems. [2:12:05]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:16:41]