Bitcoin-Friendly Payment Processor Stripe Raises New Funding, Partners with Visa and American Express

Payment processor Stripe has raised new funding from Visa, American Express, Sequoia Capital and other investors, valuing the company at $5 billion, The New York Times reports. The new funding comes six months after a previous funding round of $70 million, at a $3.5 billion valuation. Stripe didn’t disclose the amount of new funding, and said only that it was “less than $100 million.”

American Express and Sequoia Capital were existing investors in Stripe, but Visa and venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers are new investors, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The most interesting aspect of the deal is the acquisition of Visa, one of the world’s largest credit card companies, as an investor and a partner. Stripe and Visa announced a partnership to improve digital transactions, and expect to collaborate on initiatives such as payments security, as well as software like website “buy buttons.” Stripe, currently available in 25 countries, hopes to take advantage of Visa’s global reach to expand its international presence.

“As Stripe thinks about the best ways to move the overall payments ecosystem forward, the biggest determinants on the financial side are the credit card networks,” Patrick Collison, co-founder and chief executive of Stripe, told The Times. “We hope to continue working closely with them.”

“Stripe is not competing with the card networks,” added Michael Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital and Stripe board member. “The fact that Visa has chosen to invest in Stripe, not in PayPal, is of absolutely huge significance.”

In fact, PayPal, which recently separated from its former parent company eBay and is now an independent company, is positioning itself as a competitor and an alternative to credit card networks. Stripe, on the contrary, collaborates with the major credit card networks and positions itself as a complementary service.

Stripe launched in September 2011 to challenge legacy payment processors and now processes billions of dollars a year for thousands of businesses, from newly-launched start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. The company focuses on mobile payments, one of the fastest growing segments of the payments sector. Forrester Research estimates that Americans will spend $90 billion through mobile devices in 2017. Stripe takes 2.9 percent of most transactions processed via its platform, plus a flat commission of 30 cents per charge.

Stripe is known as a bitcoin-friendly company. The company, which first started testing bitcoin in March 2014 with an open beta program, launched operational support for bitcoin in February.

“We want to enable merchants to add new payment instruments as easily as possible, and are really happy we’ve been able to provide Bitcoin support to Stripe Checkout users with just one extra line of code,” said Collison.

American Express and Visa haven’t been overly bitcoin-friendly so far – and MasterCard has been openly and bluntly opposed to Bitcoin – because the three credit card networks understand very well that bitcoin could start eating their lunch someday soon. However, it appears that all three companies are exploring uses of bitcoin and the blockchain. Funding and collaborating with Stripe could be a way for American Express and Visa to gradually integrate selected aspects of bitcoin and blockchain-based fintech into their own operations.

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