Stripe Atlas: the first five years and 20,000 startups

Edwin Wee Community

In 2016, we launched Stripe Atlas to help founders turn their ideas into startups, and in turn, collectively grow the GDP of the internet. Since then, over 20,000 businesses have started with Atlas and have generated over $3 billion in revenue. We surveyed over 1,000 Atlas founders to get a snapshot of this generation of entrepreneurs and their needs—here’s what we found.

Atlas founders are launching and growing their businesses across 162 countries. From Istanbul, Duygu Kutluoğlu Kılıç incorporated her restaurant menu startup FineDine, raised venture capital, and expanded it to 64 more countries. From San Francisco, Casey Newton started the Platformer newsletter and grew it to 50,000 subscribers in less than a year.

Atlas founders challenge the common definition of a technology founder. Ninety-one percent of Atlas founders are not in Silicon Valley. In fact, outside of the US, some of the places where we’re seeing the fastest growth are Nigeria (400% year-over-year), United Arab Emirates (165%), and India (66%). Twenty-eight percent of founders told us that they identify as minorities in their country, and 24% are immigrants. Just 12% of founders identified as female. (This is slightly better when compared to the portfolios of major startup accelerators or venture capital firms.) Over time we hope to help more female founders start and scale. Forty-three percent of Atlas founders are building businesses for the first time—nearly 10,000 of them started in just the past year (an indication of an upward trend in entrepreneurship after nearly three decades of decline).

Stripe Atlas founders are ambitious and adapt quickly. Forty-five percent said the pandemic accelerated their business, and they’ve found ways to finance and hire to meet new demand. Nearly two-thirds are bootstrapped today and about half are planning to raise capital soon. So far, Atlas businesses have raised a total of $4.1 billion in capital, nearly twice that of Stripe itself. The conversational commerce platform Yalo, which started in Mexico City, recently raised $50 million in investment, demonstrating how investors are increasingly funding high-growth tech businesses outside of previously “traditional” geographies. Atlas businesses have also been multiplying their headcount! Veri, a glucose monitoring startup in Helsinki, grew from 4 to 15 employees in the last year.

In total, Stripe Atlas businesses employ 99,000 people today and they’re hiring over 120,000 new employees within the next 12 months, for a total of 219,000 jobs around the world (the equivalent of hiring the population of Des Moines, Iowa).

Blog post > atlas 5 year > employee count

Entrepreneurship directly contributes to increasing GDP. The people building these companies represent the opportunity ahead: their entrepreneurship and innovation create jobs and positively impact their local communities (79% of Atlas businesses are hiring domestically). Founders are creating new economic opportunities at a crucial moment as communities recover from the pandemic. 

When asked what their greatest barrier to entrepreneurship was, a plurality of founders (43%) said, “bureaucracy”. Would-be entrepreneurs with great ideas have told us that they’ve abandoned starting a company because of process roadblocks or lengthy response times, like receiving a tax ID number over fax machine. We believe forming and running a company should be efficient end-to-end, and governments can digitize or optimize services to help entrepreneurs meet regulatory requirements, as Estonia has been doing with their e-Residency program. Survey respondents also gave us over 800 recommendations on how government can better support entrepreneurship—and some of the most common were “access to grants or loans”, “simpler taxes”, and “better local incentives or resources”.

Download the full survey results

Although the growth of Atlas startups has been massively outpacing global economic growth, we don’t think we have found the ideal recipe for supporting founders worldwide yet. As exciting as the last five years have been, the right combination of product and policy innovation could still help more founders start and grow a business today. Stripe continues to work closely with founders to find ways to make entrepreneurship more accessible. We are building new ways Atlas can help founders this year—we’re excited to help the next generation of entrepreneurs get started.

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Stripe builds financial tools and economic infrastructure for the internet.

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