A quick guide to Stripe’s culture
A great deal of your fulfilment at any company is determined by the extent to which the values of the people and the organisation align with your own.
It’s hard to assess culture from the outside and most companies are not good at describing their own nature. (How do fish describe water?) They also have incentives to say things that sound attractive rather than things that are true.
We’ve tried to assemble this guide to Stripe with both challenges in mind. This is our best attempt to share an honest description of our culture today. We hope you find it useful in deciding whether Stripe is the kind of place in which you’d like to spend your time.
We haven’t won yet
People often worry that they’re joining Stripe, or any nascently successful startup, too late. Have all the large problems been solved? Are there still important decisions left to be made and things to be built?
The good news: it’s not too late. Many of the most important problems that Stripe will ever solve are yet to be solved. You will, within weeks of joining Stripe, work on problems that no one here has solved before. (And you’ll occasionally end up working on problems that no one anywhere has solved before.) There are a lot of avenues that lead to trajectory-altering impact.
The bad news: our success is far from being assured. Most companies that have ever got to Stripe’s stage have plateaued - or worse. We consider lots of things to be “broken” today - and the more successful we are, the faster things will come to break in the future. (If you’ve ever played a tower defence game… scaling a fast-growing startup feels a lot like that.)
Move with urgency and focus
Our users entrust us with their money, their businesses, and their livelihoods. Millions of businesses around the world (individuals, startups, and large enterprises) are open for business only if we are. When we mess up, miss a deadline, or slow down, it matters. We take that responsibility seriously.
Great Stripes bring intensity and discipline to their work. We don’t care about unnecessary face time and Stripes have a great deal of flexibility around when and where they work because they know best what is needed to get their jobs done. Many Stripes prosper here while ensuring that they have dinner with their families or friends almost every evening.
But working here will mean some late nights, some weekends, and (especially if you end up in a position of significant responsibility) paying attention to email even during off-hours. Depending on your role, you may end up in meetings with colleagues dialling in from San Francisco, Tokyo, and Paris. There is no way to schedule that meeting such that everyone attends it during traditional work hours. Our business is intertwined with the global economy, so while Stripes take holidays, Stripe does not.
You will also be surrounded by exceptionally motivated, driven people. They span a diverse range of life circumstances, values, and working styles. This has the advantage of ensuring that you’ll almost never be annoyed about that slacker in the next cubicle (and not just because we don’t have cubicles). But it can also be stressful: if you compare yourself to others, you will almost always see someone working harder, staying longer, or being more successful.
We’re not a very competitive culture in the sense that someone else does not need to lose for you to win. Your colleagues won’t work to undermine you as they might in a winner-takes-all environment. However, we are a very competitive culture in the sense that, if you set a high bar, you’ll probably inspire someone working with you to try to push it higher. Success at Stripe means seeking out the ski slopes that are just a bit too steep.
We’re moving quickly, changing regularly, and aren’t very prescriptive in most things. We expect a lot of autonomy from Stripes both in the work they do and in their own development. We believe in performance management and feedback, but we’re not rigid in terms of career paths and box ticking. That said, don’t confuse lack of top down direction with lack of interest from the top: high performers are recognised, enabled, and rewarded. There are “conventional” forms of recognition at Stripe, like equity refreshes and bonuses. However, we get most excited about giving high performing Stripes the room to work on the most interesting and high-impact problems.
We care about being right and it often takes reasoning from first principles to get there.
Many behaviours are blindly copied and repeated far beyond their useful lives. We make a habit of trying to tease out the best version of an opposing argument. When criticised, we try to seek the truth in the accusation rather than activating our defensive shields. We invite people who many of us disagree with to come speak at Stripe, and we welcome views that don’t obviously mesh with our own.
Rigour doesn’t mean not-invented-here syndrome. We’re interested in the world around us and think that other companies, industries, and academic fields have much to teach us. We actively hunt in other fields for inspiration and ideas that challenge our assumptions and that we could learn from.
Thinking rigorously has many natural applications in our daily work. For example, we think the traditional way that candidates are interviewed in the technology industry is suboptimal. We’ve invested significant effort in fixing it, by introducing work-sample tests, dispensing with whiteboard programming, de-emphasising credentials, and actively working to combat unconscious bias, among other changes. But that doesn’t mean we’re satisfied with our current process either. We suspect that there are a lot of significant improvements still to be made.
Part of being rigorous is being judicious. Stripes have measured reactions to things. We engage in testing and strenuous discussions with colleagues - but we don’t yell.
Trust and amplify
By the standards of the rest of the world, we over-trust. We’re okay with that.
We treat each other with the same humility that we bring to our business. Many companies have a “no arseholes” rule. We think that bar is far too low. We want to work in a company of deeply good people who treat their colleagues exceptionally well. No matter how talented, we won’t hire jerks.
There’s a delicate balance between rigour and trust. The most successful Stripes push the collective quality of thought and work to new limits. However, no matter how strong the disagreement, we believe firmly in the importance of trusting each other’s intentions.
Stripes do what’s best for the organisation overall.
Because Stripe is highly interdependent, really good Stripes have a strong sense of overall ownership of the whole company but are non-territorial regarding their nominal domains. There are no bonus points for building large teams.
Not-my-job attitudes grate at Stripe: we admire, recognise, and reward people who do the opposite. Expect to routinely contribute to projects across the company. Expect to receive feedback from engaged co-workers who have fewer hang-ups about your projects than you do. You won’t always agree with the feedback you get, but you should consider it seriously and with humility: it comes from a smart colleague who, like you, sincerely wants your project to succeed.
In the same way that we look for the best versions of ideas from other fields outside of Stripe, valuable internal contributions transcend team borders. A Stripe in Legal or User Ops can chime in on Product or Partnerships discussions, and an engineer may offer an opinion on a sales deal: we care about the quality of thought, not where it came from.
The Stripe service
Through the tools that we build, we want to push the world to create better products and services.
We try to take a broad view of what our work adds up to and believe in taking seriously the full long-term consequences of what we create. We won’t just climb the profit gradient.
While we’re opinionated in determining what to build, we strive for neutrality in deciding who gets access to the results. That means you will not agree with the values or goals of every Stripe customer. If you voted in the last U.S. presidential election, we processed almost all donations for the other candidate: every major campaign in 2016 ran on Stripe. We think that it is a positive good to increase access to financial infrastructure, irrespective of the customer, so long as the business is operating within the laws of their jurisdiction. We have a variegated team and our values as a company are not simply the union of our values as individuals. Within our core principles, individuals with many different sets of values are welcomed.
We are micro pessimists but macro optimists.
Internally, we’re always thinking about what’s broken, which problems could lie around the corner, and where the unaddressed risks lie. But an important aspect of Stripe culture is macro optimism. We believe that Stripe will be far better in the future than it is today. When considering ideas, we think “how might it work?” is more interesting than “why will it fail?”
We believe we’re yet to see most of the impact of the internet. And we think that ambitious, energetic, and deliberate efforts directed towards progress are surprisingly effective in improving the state of the world around us.
Stripe processes hundreds of billions of dollars a year for millions of businesses around the world. Over 85% of Americans purchased something from a Stripe merchant in 2020. We handle more than 250 million API requests per day.
But we’ve set our sights higher: only a small fraction of the world’s commerce is mediated through the internet today. We seek not only to increase global participation in the online economy but also to rethink how that economy works. We need more Stripes to help us get there. We hope you’ll be one of them.
In the spirit of thinking rigorously, we’d love your open and honest feedback on this guide. Let us know what you think
Your feedback has no impact on your application (there are no right or wrong answers!) and what you share with us won’t be reviewed by your recruiter or members of your interview panel.