How Irish brothers Patrick and John Collison's firm Stripe made them tech billionaires
Tipperary brothers join global super-rich list of tech billionaires with company
Meet the tech geek brothers from Co Tipperary who currently share a combined fortune of €23 billion.
Brainboxes Patrick and John Collison are now technically Ireland's second richest people, being pipped at the top for the moment by Hilary, Alannah and Galen Jr Weston and family, whose companies include Penneys, Brown Thomas and Selfridges.
Fresh-faced Patrick (32) and John (30) still have quite a jump to make it into the top ten list of billionaires who earned their wealth from technology.
But the brothers from Dromineer, about 10km from Nenagh, are on cloud nine, having turned Stripe, an online payments processor, into the most valuable private company Silicon Valley has ever produced.
Stripe is an internet payment procurer which allows companies to quickly process online payments from customers.
Handling almost 5,000 transaction requests a second, it takes a cut of around 1.4 per cent and a flat fee of 20c per transaction and, thanks to lockdown, its usage has gone off the charts.
It's a far cry from playing cops and robbers when growing up in a sleepy hamlet on the shores of Lough Derg, where they lived in a remote area mostly populated by cows.
Every day, they'd each check out at least two books from the local library, on everything and anything, which they'd devour in a night and return the next morning.
One day Patrick selected a couple of books about the internet and computer programming - and that was that.
"Instead of using the internet, I used to borrow books from the library about the internet," he recalls. "I read everything I could find. It was like staring through the glass to this amazing world out there, but none of it was available."
At the ages of 13 and 11, Patrick and John researched, prepared and delivered a formal pitch to their parents, proposing that they buy a special German satellite connection that would finally give them access to the World Wide Web.
"After that, we were off down a rabbit hole," smiles Patrick.
Meanwhile, their parents, both from scientific backgrounds and entrepreneurs busy with their own projects - their father ran a 24-room hotel and their mother set up a corporate training company - left them to blossom.
Suddenly, every minute of their spare time was spent programming, teaching themselves coding and, for a bit of extra fun, hacking each other's websites to reinforce the importance of cyber security.
After being ranked runner-up when he was 15 in 2004, Patrick was crowned Young Scientist of the Year in 2005 for developing a programming language and artificial intelligence system.
He managed to complete his Leaving Cert cycle in 20 days rather than over two years, and enrolled in MIT in Boston at the age of 16.
John followed him to America a couple of years later and won a place in Harvard.
Together again, they spent their spare time developing iPhone apps and working on a software company and dropped out of college to concentrate on Auctomatic Inc, a software company that built tools for eBay, which sold in 2008 for $5m when they were just 19 and 17.
Two years later, having spotted a gap in the market, they set up Stripe which, within a couple of years, was being touted by developers and investors in Silicon Valley as the company to watch.
While Patrick insists they didn't set out to build a large company, just solve the problem of a lack of a global payment mechanism for internet trading companies, Stripe has far exceeded all expectations.
Founded in 2010, Stripe's valuation has almost tripled in the past year, surpassing anything achieved by companies such as Facebook or Uber before they went public, and, according to John Collison, the company is now 'bigger [by payment volumes] than the entire ecommerce market' was when they started working on it.
The Collison brothers now own a company worth $95 billion, which boasts former Bank of England governor Mark Carney on its board.
Nine of the 20 wealthiest people in the world are tech tycoons and here's who the Collisons will be chasing in the years to come.
1 JEFF BEZOS
NET WORTH: $183 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: AMAZON
Amazon creator Jeff Bezos (57) is currently the world's richest person.
The American founded Amazon in late 1994. The company began as an online bookstore and has since expanded to a wide variety of other e-commerce products and services, including video and audio streaming, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
It is the world's largest online sales company, the largest internet company by revenue, and the world's largest provider of virtual assistants and cloud infrastructure services through its Amazon Web Services branch.
Bezos' net worth dropped after he gave his ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos $38 billion worth of Amazon stock as part of their divorce settlement in mid 2019.
2 BILL GATES
NET WORTH: $126.7 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: MICROSOFT
Bill Gates (65) announced last March that he had stepped down from the board of Microsoft, the software company he co-founded with Paul Allen in 1975 and led as CEO until 2000. In February last year his foundation said it would spend up to $100 million on coronavirus relief and vaccines.
3 MARK ZUCKERBERG
NET WORTH: $103.6 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: FACEBOOK
Mark Zuckerberg (36) is founder of Facebook, which has nearly three billion users.
It was also the first big tech company to announce plans to pay all workers a $1,000 bonus to help offset the economic impact of the coronavirus.
4 LARRY PAGE
NET WORTH: $90.9 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: GOOGLE
Larry Page (47) is one of the co-founders of Google and was the company's CEO. In 2015 he moved to become CEO of Alphabet Inc, a post he held until 2019.
5 LARRY ELLISON
NET WORTH: $90.3 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: SOFTWARE
Larry Ellison (76) bought the Hawaiian island of Lanai in 1985 and he plans to create "the first economically viable, 100 per cent green community."
In 1977 he co-founded Oracle.
6 SERGEY BRIN
NET WORTH: $88.2 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: GOOGLE
Moscow-born Sergey Brin (47) co-founded Google alongside Larry Page in the late 1990s and is also involved in Alphabet, Google's parent company.
7 STEVE BALLMER
NET WORTH: $70.2 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: MICROSOFT
Steve Ballmer (64) became Microsoft's 30th employee in 1980 and the first business manager hired by Bill Gates.
He would later become its CEO. Ballmer is now the 11th richest person in the world. He owns the LA Clippers basketball team.
8 JACK MA YUN
NET WORTH: $61.4 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: E-COMMERCE
Jack Ma Yun (56) is the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate.
9 MA HUATENG
NET WORTH: $62.3 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: INTERNET MEDIA
Ma Huateng (49) is the founder, chairman and CEO of internet and technology company Tencent, Asia's most valuable company.
10 MACKENZIE SCOTT
NET WORTH: $55.4 BILLION
SOURCE OF WEALTH: AMAZON
Scott (50) is a novelist and philanthropist. She is also the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to whom she was married for 25 years.
Thanks to her divorce settlement, she is now the third wealthiest woman in the world.
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