Finance tech firm offers door for non-US start-ups

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Online payments start-up Stripe on Wednesday (Feb 24) set out to give Internet entrepreneurs around the world behind-the-scenes business benefits of locating in the United States.

The San Francisco-based finance tech firm which handles customer payments for websites or mobile apps unveiled its new service called Atlas.

The Atlas service lets entrepreneurs anywhere set up US corporations, bank accounts and more without ever having to leave their home countries.

"Atlas is a toolkit to start a global business," Stripe co-founder and president John Collison said.

"If an entrepreneur is based in Egypt, Brazil, Pakistan - no matter where - they can get a US corporation, a US bank account, a US Stripe account, and expertise to answer their questions."

Services provided by Atlas include tax advice; legal guidance, and tools and resources from cloud-computing titan Amazon Web Services, according to Stripe.

Atlas involves an online process intended to remove hurdles from an incorporation process that was already in place but which involved cost, hassle, and time to navigate the system, Collison said.

"If you wanted to do this before now, you most likely had to hop a plane, fly to the US and rack up legal bills," Collison said.

"We are not changing the framework, we are just making it easier to get started." Startups in developing countries, for example, will be able to tap into US banking resources and online commerce capabilities that might surpass those available at home.

Ideally, Silicon Valley-style energy will spread as startups thrive and grow into local success stories instead of entrepreneurs resorting to coming to the United States, Collison reasoned.

"We think there is a lot of talent in places outside Silicon Valley," he said.

"We would like to see successful businesses started by people in these countries." Stripe has tested Atlas with a few start-ups, and launched a private 'beta' test phase on Wednesday to make sure it is running smoothly before opening it more broadly.

"We think this is going to be a learning experience," Collison said.

Stripe has spread to 24 countries since launching in late 2011. It is among a number of financial technology start-ups and one of the tech "unicorns", venture-backed firms with a valuation over US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion).

The list of operations using Stripe for online payments included The Guardian newspaper; cloud-computing powerhouse Salesforce, and US presidential campaigns seeking donations.

Stripe, founded by Irish brothers John and Patrick Collison, makes its money by getting a small percentage of online transactions.

"We only make money when they make money," Collison said.

"We are incentivised to support growing businesses."