Stripe Atlas & Relay Show Stripe’s Ambitions Beyond Payments

Stripe

Stripe, which started as a developer friendly “full-stack” credit card payment processor,1 recently launched Relay (“Let customers buy your products directly within other mobile apps.”) to make it easier to integrate buy options into other apps. From their announcement:

We’re launching Relay, an API for stores to publish their products, and for apps to read them. Relay makes it easier for developers to build great mobile e-commerce experiences, and for stores to participate in them. (…)

For stores, you can use Relay to enable instant purchases in third-party mobile apps: one of our launch partners, Twitter, is using Relay to enable anyone to start selling within tweets. (You can try it out on this Tweet from @WarbyParker.) Or you can submit your products to be shown in a growing number of apps like ShopStyle and Spring.

Now Stripe has launched Atlas:

With Stripe Atlas, entrepreneurs can easily incorporate a U.S. company, set up a U.S. bank account, and start accepting payments with Stripe. Starting today, it’s available to developers and entrepreneurs globally.

The New York Times:

Stripe, the San Francisco-based e-commerce start-up, thrives when other businesses do well. So the company wants to help many more businesses get off the ground. That is the reason behind Stripe Atlas, a new product the company unveiled this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. It aims to make it easier for entrepreneurs to set up small businesses in the United States…Determining eligibility requires little more than filling out a form. After that, Stripe will incorporate an entrepreneur’s company as a business entity in Delaware, and provide the entrepreneur with a United States bank account and Stripe merchant account to accept payments globally.

The target audience is all of the entrepreneurs outside the United States who want access to the country’s well-developed banking infrastructure and business services. Stripe is particularly interested in attracting entrepreneurs from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Asia, among other regions. Eligible entrepreneurs will also be offered access to basic tax and legal consulting and business services from partners like PricewaterhouseCoopers, and will receive free credit to run their online business on the Amazon Web Services hosting platform.

Both new Stripe products are classic marketplace / long tail topics. It makes you wonder why marketplace giants Alibaba and Rakuten, who both still haven’t found sure-fire ways to go international, aren’t doing something similar for their marketplace sellers.

Think about it:

  • With Relay it becomes easier for online retailers to integrate into other mobile apps. (Great for small companies looking for distribution!)
  • With Atlas it becomes easier to set up shop in the US and to start your US business. (Great for small non-US companies!)

Stripe just became a perfect partner for small online retailers. One big customer group for Stripe might become Chinese companies looking for ways to sell goods overseas online. The same group Amazon is going after with its ocean freight services.

But an even more important part here might be the mindset at Stripe. Relay and now Atlas show both that Stripe, by making everything easier for small and medium size companies, is moving from payments provider to business services provider.

It is only a small step from here to more sophisticated solutions for online retailers for aspects not solved by today’s shop tech, for example. (In fact, Relay is such an example already.)

Ben Thompson at Stratechery (paywall):

Stripe is making it clear that it sees itself as much more than a payment processor: there is a lot of duplicated backend work undertaken by all kinds of businesses, and I think it’s safe to assume that incorporation is only the beginning of Stripe’s attempt to own as much of this market as possible.

In an interview (paywall) Thompson did with Stripe-CEO Patrick Collison the latter has this to say on the company’s strategy:

BT: Is this the first real manifestation of Stripe as a business platform as opposed to a payment platform?

PC: I wouldn’t call it the first in that whether it’s Connect, our stack for running a marketplace, or our subscriptions infrastructure, or Relay, we look at it as more of a continuation of basically the strategy to date. Certainly I think whether it’s the 1st or the n-th you will see a continuation of this trajectory.

Stripe is player to watch now.

See also: A New Breed of E-Commerce Tech Is Needed


  1. Like a simpler alternative to Paypal: Simpler implementation (their API has been praised numerous times), simpler (as in: no hidden) fees. Both mean a lot to small and medium size companies. 
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