I should mention up front, I’ve never worked for Stripe, and they didn’t pay me to write this. In fact, they don’t even know I’m doing it. (Hi, Stripe! If you like this, send me a t-shirt!) I’m simply sharing an example of the kind of thing I look for when I recommend companies to young people.
This article is part of a feature series on the best startups to launch your career this year.
“Start your career with a credit card payment processor!”
Hmm. Not a very appealing concept.
There are lots of fun, interesting startups out there. Why look at something as boring as finance? It’s not even the exciting finance stuff like cryptocurrency or microlending. It’s processing credit card payments. It’s the plumbing of the finance world.
And yet, I’m going to try to convince you that a job at Stripe could be one of the best ways to launch a startup career.
For something as boring as processing credit cards, Stripe has a pretty ambitious mission:
Increasing the GDP of the internet.
And it’s clear from their product lineup and growth that it’s working. What started as just credit card payments has expanded multiple aspects of online financial transactions: fraud prevention via machine learning and AI, revenue-based loans, push-button company formation and incorporation, custom issue debit cards, and lots more.
Startups are great places to pursue a mission and aim for a bigger impact. It’s exciting to join a company and see your efforts help move the needle on big problems. But companies like Stripe operate at a different level.
It’s the proverbial “selling pickaxes to the gold miners.” Every increase in efficiency at Stripe, every little improvement, every small win, is multiplied by the fact that their products power a huge number of other businesses. Like Isaac described in his article about Carta: it’s all about leverage. And Stripe gives you a pretty big lever.
Ask any programmer building software products how they’d prefer to accept credit cards, and the almost universal answer you’ll get is “Stripe.”
Ask any web designer for a list of the top companies they look to for design inspiration, and inevitably near the top of those lists is Stripe.
Ask Silicon Valley veterans which companies have the best reputations as places to work, grow, and have fun, and (you guessed it): Stripe will be near the top.
They routinely prove themselves to be an execution powerhouse. There are few aspects of their business that are not best-in-class.
And that’s exactly what makes it a perfect place to launch your career. Seeing every aspect of the business operating at the top of their respective fields gives you an incredible perspective to carry with you to later jobs.
Especially in startups, being able to contribute outside the narrow scope of your job title is critical. If you’re in a sales role, being able to chip in on marketing is a huge win. And with the experience you’d gain at a place like Stripe, you’ll have a front-row seat to marketers, designers, and product developers at the top of their game. That’s invaluable experience to carry with you in the early stages of your career.
It won’t be easy
Stripe, like any great company, attracts great talent. It’s part of how they’re able to be best-in-class in so many areas.
All that great talent means that it’s crucial to find ways to stand out. Firing off a resume into the online application form and hoping for the best is a great way to be disappointed (even if that’s the official advice from Stripe themselves!).
Instead, think about ways you can differentiate yourself. Go the extra mile: for whichever role you apply to, try to figure out who the hiring manager is and introduce yourself. Show your work in public. Make the decision to interview you a no-brainer.
A big part of that is personalization. Stripe probably sees a ton of applications for their open positions. Most of those applications probably demonstrate approximately zero effort—they are the “shotgunned resumes” sent to any available job opening, anywhere.
Seeing every aspect of the business operating at the top of their respective fields gives you an incredible perspective to carry with you to later jobs.
For a couple hours of effort, you can do a whole lot better. A personalized pitch describing why you are excited about Stripe, what you can bring to the table, and a quick project to demonstrate your skills—that’s a solid recipe for jumping to the top of the pile of identical resumes.
Looking for opportunities at other cool startups? Check out this collection of the best startups to launch your career this year.