Stripe's Middle East plans and the untapped 'GDP of the internet': Business Extra podcast

The payment platform’s EMEA lead lays out a vision for the company amid overwhelming demand for its services in new markets

More than 13,000 businesses in the Middle East have expressed interest in using Stripe since the payments platform announced its debut in the region and new office in Dubai last month.

“There's just so much momentum in the UAE and the surrounding area,” Matt Henderson, the business lead at Stripe for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, regions where the company is rapidly expanding.

“We’re really bullish about the opportunity today, but also, just so excited about how it's going to grow and the trajectory of the digital economy over the coming years.”

The company offers products that allow merchants to accept digital payments from customers and a range of business banking services. Clients include Amazon, Shopify, Deliveroo, Microsoft and Apple.

Mr Henderson joined The National’s Business Extra podcast this week to talk about the market for digital payments.

Matt Henderson, EMEA lead at Stripe
Matt Henderson, EMEA lead at Stripe

“You see [growth] in multiple ways, the start-up sector locally is really taking off and the market for digital payments has more than doubled in the past couple of years to almost $20 billion.”

In March, Stripe disclosed it had raised a new $600 million round of funding that values the company at $95 billion — nearly treble its previously reported valuation of $36bn from April 2020 - making it the most valuable private company out of Silicon Valley. Three weeks later, it announced it is entering the Middle East market with the opening of an office in Dubai.

The company partnered with Dubai-based Network International, one of the top payment processing companies in the Middle East and North Africa, to roll out its services in the region. Businesses operating online in the region can use Stripe’s platform to accept payments, the company said in a statement at the time. It will also connect its existing global clients to the region.

Demand for Stripe in its new Middle East market has come from global businesses that want to launch in the Middle East, companies from the region that want to expand globally and internet-first start-ups and small-to-medium sized companies headquartered in the UAE, Mr Henderson said.

While Stripe stopped accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment in 2018, Mr Henderson said the door isn’t completely closed to cryptocurrencies or other forms of digital money.

“Should cryptocurrencies cross the bridge from being more of a store of value to being something that’s more practical for payments then that's something that could happen,” he said.

“There's a common thread at Stripe, that as new products in the payments and FinTech space emerge, if it's something that will help businesses to succeed online, and then is true to the mission of increasing the GDP of the internet, then we'll try to find a way to use it in order to help our merchants benefit from it.”

Earlier this year, the company tapped former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney to join it board of directors. Mr Carney, who is also the UN special envoy on climate action and finance, left the regulator after being a vocal supporter of central banks becoming involved in regulating or backing digital currencies.

Asked about security, Mr Henderson said the growth of the digital economy makes it more attractive as a hunting ground for potential “bad actors”.

For Stripe, he said its scale is an advantage in the case of cybersecurity and fraud risks. “We're able to use many more data signals to identify patterns of potentially fraudulent behavior.”

He used a product called Stripe Radar as an example, “that can detect potentially risky transactions. Products like this have saved our users, many, many millions of dollars of potentially fraudulent transactions”, he said.

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In this episode

Infrastructure for the digital economy (0m 37s)

Stripe in the Middle East (2m 44s)

The evolution of the digital payment landscape (7m 40s)

Cybersecurity and digital payments (18m 22s)

Updated: June 15, 2021 12:23 PM

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