Going up against the likes of Amazon, eBay, and other e-commerce giants is daunting, but it's not impossible. In fact, John Collison did just that when he co-founded Stripe, a San Francisco-based digital payments company.
With an impressive list of clients, including Lyft and Facebook, the Inc. 30 under 30 alumnus and the world's current youngest self-made billionaire has managed to build something of an empire in the online payments space--even giving incumbent online payment stalwarts like PayPal pause. Now, the 27-year-old entrepreneur wants to help you outpace incumbents too.
Speaking at The Next Web's two-day tech conference in Amsterdam, today Collison explained his solution to diversifying the e-commerce industry: Create a business that helps grow other businesses, naturally.
"Here in Europe, the size of online giants has everyone's attention," said Collison, during his keynote speech on the event's final day. He proposed a new future for the e-commerce industry: "The alternative to giants is not other giants. It is the massive long tail of small and medium-sized platforms."
Only 3.4 percent of the world's economy is online, a statistic that Collison says we should prepare to see soar over the next decade. With this potential for evolution, Collison believes "we should focus on the ecosystems... enabling hundreds of thousands of new companies with innovative platforms." In other words, let's encourage the growth of new platforms and focus less on established companies.
In delivering this advice, Collison drew upon his own experience. In addition to its larger, more high-profile clients, the Stripe platform claims to have helped enable entrepreneurs in more than 125 countries start businesses--an example of how platforms can reduce the barriers to entry in the online economy.
He touched upon Europe's General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, that takes effect today. Collison believes that this series of laws, intended to protect the digital rights of the E.U.'s citizens, may discourage entrepreneurs from entering the European economy as "ecosystems can be sensitive to the smallest shifts."
But these ecosystems can become more stable, he believes, if people encourage the creation of smaller businesses and develop technologies that welcome new players online. "That's the future we're working on at Stipe, and that's the future I hope you'll join me in working on."
He ended the talk with a call to action, of sorts--appealing to the audience to consider the benefits of a more diverse online economy, and to recognize the dangers if that does not come to be.
"We have two paths ahead. One path is toward more centralization, more oligopoly, stalling innovation--a proprietary internet managed by a few players. The other is a more diverse, decentralized online economy with more players and more constantly being created," Collison says. "Let's make that second one happen."