The Stripe Ecosystem in One Giant Visualization
It seems Stripe is living up to the hype.
The fintech unicorn was just revalued at $9 billion after its latest round of funding led by General Catalyst Partners and CapitalG, the investment arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. The new financing, which almost doubled Stripe’s valuation, occurred despite a general slow-down in venture capital funding over recent months.
Why are investors doubling down on Stripe? It’s because the company seems poised to continue revolutionizing online payments, and it’s creating a ripple effect that is spreading throughout the entire e-commerce landscape.
The above infographic, courtesy of payment analytics software Control, gives insight into the rapidly evolving Stripe ecosystem – a key differentiating factor that investors are banking on with this five-year-old startup.
Breaking the mold
As is often the case with game-changing companies, Stripe was born out of frustration. Co-founders John Collison and Patrick Collison created the payment-processing platform after seeing an opportunity to improve the cumbersome online payment experience not just for entrepreneurs, but also for web developers and customers.
Stripe lets business owners set up an online payment system and start accepting payments in as little as 10 minutes, with a process that’s as simple as embedding a line of code.
Cutting Red Tape
To fully understand how freeing this is for business owners and web developers, consider how limited online payment processing used to be.
Traditionally e-commerce companies accepted payments online by connecting with third-party software such as PayPal, or by spending time and money setting up a merchant account and building a network for securely storing sensitive credit card information. While larger companies with teams of developers could do this, smaller companies were limited in their options.
Furthermore, setting up a merchant account required an arduous waiting period – sometimes even months – before approval could be granted and payments could be accepted. Once payments were processed, they were subject to days-long holding periods while they were put through various levels of regulatory bureaucracy.
How Stripe Works
Stripe is a PSP (Payment Service Provider) that lets business owners collect payments, including recurring payments, and transfer them directly to their own account instantly.
It does this by eliminating the need to store credit card information, which is what limited business owners before. Previously, when setting up an internal online payment system, web developers had to adhere to strict regulations surrounding the storing of credit card information, as per the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This is a complicated process that often requires a lot of paperwork and costly third-party consultation.
While any business or individual merchant collecting or handling credit card information is still required to maintain PCI-compliance, Stripe takes care of a lot of the legwork. Customers can enter their credit card information, which goes directly to Stripe’s secure servers, so site owners don’t have to store sensitive user data. Stripe processes the payment, checks for fraud, and takes a fee of 2.9% plus 30 cents. Business owners see the money in their bank account instantly, rather than having to wait days for clearance.
To customers, the payment experience is much the same, but faster and without the need to leave a current web page to visit a third-party page – as is the case with PayPal.
The Stripe Ecosystem
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Stripe is the ease with which web developers can build their own integrations that can merge with Stripe’s technology to fulfill other business requirements.
In many ways Stripe is like a giant lock into which web developers can insert their own custom-built “key”, unlocking a payment process that’s tailored to e-commerce. This has created a third-party integration ecosystem that spans nearly every aspect of running a business, from analytics to accounting, email, expenses, and shipping processes.
The best part? The massive Stripe ecosystem is accessible to anyone who uses the platform to run their online payment processing, and it truly allows developers and entrepreneurs to better serve their customers.
Big Players are Switching to Stripe
While Stripe was created with small business owners and startups in mind, recently some very big fish have joined forces with the payment processing platform, including Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Macy’s, and Target. With users in 110 countries and a recent foray into Asia, Stripe is now considered PayPal’s main competitor.
It’s no surprise then, that PayPal alumni saw Stripe’s potential early on. That’s why PayPal co-founders Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Max Levchin have all invested in the now $9 billion payment startup.
Why Gold is Money: A Periodic Perspective
Gold has been used as money for millennia. People often attribute this to beauty, but there are basic physical properties for why gold is money.
Why Gold is Money
The economist John Maynard Keynes famously called gold a “barbarous relic”, suggesting that its usefulness as money is an artifact of the past. In an era filled with cashless transactions and hundreds of cryptocurrencies, this statement seems truer today than in Keynes’ time.
However, gold also possesses elemental properties that has made it an ideal metal for money throughout history.
Sanat Kumar, a chemical engineer from Columbia University, broke down the periodic table to show why gold has been used as a monetary metal for thousands of years.
The Periodic Table
The periodic table organizes 118 elements in rows by increasing atomic number (periods) and columns (groups) with similar electron configurations.
Just as in today’s animation, let’s apply the process of elimination to the periodic table to see why gold is money:
- Gases and Liquids
Noble gases (such as argon and helium), as well as elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine and chlorine are gaseous at room temperature and standard pressure. Meanwhile, mercury and bromine are liquids. As a form of money, these are implausible and impractical.
- Lanthanides and Actinides
Next, lanthanides and actinides are both generally elements that can decay and become radioactive. If you were to carry these around in your pocket they could irradiate or poison you.
- Alkali and Alkaline-Earth Metals
Alkali and alkaline earth metals are located on the left-hand side of the periodic table, and are highly reactive at standard pressure and room temperature. Some can even burst into flames.
- Transition, Post Transition Metals, and Metalloids
There are about 30 elements that are solid, nonflammable, and nontoxic. For an element to be used as money it needs to be rare, but not too rare. Nickel and copper, for example, are found throughout the Earth’s crust in relative abundance.
- Super Rare and Synthetic Elements
Osmium only exists in the Earth’s crust from meteorites. Meanwhile, synthetic elements such as rutherfordium and nihonium must be created in a laboratory.
Once the above elements are eliminated, there are only five precious metals left: platinum, palladium, rhodium, silver and gold. People have used silver as money, but it tarnishes over time. Rhodium and palladium are more recent discoveries, with limited historical uses.
Platinum and gold are the remaining elements. Platinum’s extremely high melting point would require a furnace of the Gods to melt back in ancient times, making it impractical. This leaves us with gold. It melts at a lower temperature and is malleable, making it easy to work with.
Gold as Money
Gold does not dissipate into the atmosphere, it does not burst into flames, and it does not poison or irradiate the holder. It is rare enough to make it difficult to overproduce and malleable to mint into coins, bars, and bricks. Civilizations have consistently used gold as a material of value.
Perhaps modern societies would be well-served by looking at the properties of gold, to see why it has served as money for millennia, especially when someone’s wealth could disappear in a click.
The 7 Major Flaws of the Global Financial System
Since the invention of banking, the global financial system has increasingly become more centralized. Here are the big flaws it has, as a result.
The 7 Major Flaws of the Global Financial System
Since the invention of banking, the global financial system has become increasingly centralized.
In the modern system, central banks now control everything from interest rates to the issuance of currency, while government regulators, corporations, and intergovernmental organizations wield unparalleled influence at the top of this crucial food chain.
There is no doubt that this centralization has led to the creation of massive amounts of wealth, especially to those properly connected to the financial system. However, the same centralization has also arguably contributed to many global challenges and risks we face today.
Flaws of the Global Financial System
Today’s infographic comes to us from investment app Abra, and it highlights the seven major flaws of the global financial system, ranging from the lack of basic access to financial services to growing inequality.
1. Billions of people globally remain unbanked
To participate in the global financial sector, whether it is to make a digital payment or manage one’s wealth, one must have access to a bank account. However, 1.7 billion adults worldwide remain unbanked, having zero access to an account with a financial institution or a mobile money provider.
2. Global financial literacy remains low
For people to successfully use financial services and markets, they must have some degree of financial literacy. According to a recent global survey, just 1-in-3 people show an understanding of basic financial concepts, with most of these people living in high income economies.
Without an understanding of key concepts in finance, it makes it difficult for the majority of the population to make the right decisions – and to build wealth.
3. High intermediary costs and slow transactions
Once a person has access to financial services, sending and storing money should be inexpensive and fast.
However, just the opposite is true. Around the globe, the average cost of a remittance is 7.01% in fees per transaction – and when using banks, that rises to 10.53%. Even worse, these transactions can take days at a time, which seems quite unnecessary in today’s digital era.
4. Low trust in financial institutions and governments
The financial sector is the least trusted business sector globally, with only a 57% level of trust according to Edelman. Meanwhile, trust in governments is even lower, with only 40% trusting the U.S. government, and the global country average sitting at 47%.
5. Rising global inequality
In a centralized system, financial markets tend to be dominated by those who are best connected to them.
These are people who have:
- Access to many financial opportunities and asset classes
- Capital to deploy
- Informational advantages
- Access to financial expertise
In fact, according to recent data on global wealth concentration, the top 1% own 47% of all household wealth, while the top 10% hold roughly 85%.
On the other end of the spectrum, the vast majority of people have little to no financial assets to even start building wealth. Not only are many people living paycheck to paycheck – but they also don’t have access to assets that can create wealth, like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or ETFs.
6. Currency manipulation and censorship
In a centralized system, countries have the power to manipulate and devalue fiat currencies, and this can have a devastating effect on markets and the lives of citizens.
In Venezuela, for example, the government has continually devalued its currency, creating runaway hyperinflation as a result. The last major currency manipulation in 2018 increased the price of a cup of coffee by over 772,400% in six months.
Further, centralized power also gives governments and financial institutions the ability to financially censor citizens, by taking actions such as freezing accounts, denying access to payment systems, removing funds from accounts, and denying the retrieval of funds during bank runs.
7. The build-up of systemic risk
Finally, centralization creates one final and important drawback.
With financial power concentrated with just a select few institutions, such as central banks and “too big too fail” companies, it means that one abject failure can decimate an entire system.
This happened in 2008 as U.S. subprime mortgages turned out to be an Achilles Heel for bank balance sheets, creating a ripple effect throughout the globe. Centralization means all eggs in one basket – and if that basket breaks it can possibly lead to the destruction of wealth on a large scale.
The Future of the Global Financial System?
The risks and drawbacks of centralization to the global financial system are well known, however there has never been much of a real alternative – until now.
With the proliferation of mobile phones and internet access, as well as the development of decentralization technologies like the blockchain, it may be possible to build an entirely new financial system.
But is the world ready?
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