I read the "22 Immutable Laws of Marketing" many many years ago, and it repeatedly spells out the folly of large companies who became huge on the back of just ONE product then thinking that they needed to have alternatives or provide more choice and broadened their range to the overall long term detriment of the main product or business that made them huge in the first place.
EDIT: Just to clarify - it is not just Stripe Press. I am including initiatives like acquiring the Indie Hackers site (which I enjoy BTW) a while back etc. I can totally see that these are all related to Stripe's audience of tech startups, but it still has the ring of, say, a candy company who starts diversifying into a clothing line etc.
End of the day - every employee who is distracted by looking after the assets & numbers for these side projects is an employee who is not focused on their core payments system.
> I must admit to being somewhat uncomfortable that Stripe seems to be spreading themselves out into areas outside their core business
The vast majority of Stripe employees (and there are now more than 1,000) work on our core functionality today. But we see our core business as building tools and infrastructure that help grow the online economy. ("Increase the GDP of the internet.") When we think about that problem, we see that one of the main limits on Stripe's growth is the number of successful startups in the world. If we can cheaply help increase that number, it makes a lot of business sense for us to do so. (And, hopefully, doing so will create a ton of spillover value for others as well.)
As we grow, we have to get good at walking and chewing gum -- just as Google or Amazon have. However, while we go and tackle other problems, our aim is not only to continue to improve our core payments infrastructure, but do deliver improvements at an accelerating rate.
This approach lends itself to spending on many cheap things which, e.g. in this case, might not even have quantifiable benefits.
I'll extend OP's curiosity and wonder how the team behind Stripe press plans on measuring the success of their initiative, and what milestone hits/misses are needed to determine the success or failure state of the project.
Separately, my background includes vendor risk assessments. This is the kind of thing that makes me question long term investment in a platform. It's admittedly a lower risk than many technical findings, but it's not something to discount when evaluating the use of a startup for critical infrastructure (payment). Knowing Stripe's size, the various risks that PCI participants have to account for (and that's just PCI DSS specifically), and the trouble many larger organizations and startups have in meeting those obligations also makes me that much more likely to strictly score Stripe on the next vendor risk assessment when I see spend of this sort on ancillary/non-critical measures.
I'm sharing how I think because I'd be surprised if others in my field didn't think the same way.
Off topic. Why is the Stripe Brazil so slow to start working in Brazil? I believe Brazil has an huge space to growths in online payments, and if it process "boletos" (a Brazilian way to pay stuff) besides credit card will be very helpful.
The content blocks that scroll left to right lack signifiers and weren't intuitive for me to scroll them left to right.
I would say having some low opacity arrows (or something similar) would help.
Running a small press is a pretty cost-efficient way of doing this. To me, it's more like Intel's days of sponsoring high-school science fairs. It's low-key, long-horizon marketing that doesn't instantly lend itself to ROI calculations, but that can be a boon in a lot of ways both obvious and oblique.
Stripe benefits when every new indie hacker or entrepreneur planning to start their business uses their free resources to learn how to go about doing this. The goal of marketing is to be in the mind space of your potential buyer when they feel the need your product serves. If you use Stripe's free resources to learn about building an online business, you're more likely to pick them to accept payments over Braintree/Paypal, etc.
Also, the easier they make starting a business by providing these free resources, the more smart people will take the leap to launch their startups (or side-projects) thereby expanding their overall market.
Lastly, spending your content marketing resources on evergreen content like this has very high leverage — it's a one-time investment that pays off for a very long time, unlike a blog post about a current trend that goes stale quickly.
Goes without saying, but the more businesses Stripe gets using their core product, the better the core product itself gets by amortizing development costs over a larger user and transaction base.
It's almost akin to a successful tech company starting an annual conference — you wouldn't lambast them for 'losing product focus' on spending a similar amount of productivity (as a book line) in a non-tech-stack branch, would you?
Now, if they doubled-down on Stripe Press to the detriment of Stripe the service, then they would indeed be making a silly mistake. :)
It may be useful to think of a product/project as a bucket that gets filled via a Zeno's paradox, with possibly negative contributions. At a reasonably small scale (few hundred employees), it may be better to explore new buckets than to add another fractional (and potentially negative, independent of employee quality) unit to core skills.
>End of the day - every employee who is distracted by looking after the assets & numbers for these side projects is an employee who is not focused on their core payments system.
Having said that neither effort was big enough to really hit them hard in my example. If you're big enough you can fail a lot in smaller efforts.
I would agree with you in general, but I don't think your critique fairly applies to Stripe Press, while other things - such as the amazing Stripe Atlas - are very much a great integration/complement of Stripe's core product.
When Netflix started doing original content, "Netflix Original" was essentially a seal of quality, and I was typically excited enough to at least check out each one. As they've pumped out so much quantity lately, that quality bar has dropped significantly.
I hope Stripe Press is successful enough to keep putting out great content, but not successful enough to succumb to the same fate. Patrick's love (at least Patrick – I'm sure others) of books that he's discussed at length gives me some hope.
Definitely feels like this is directly channeling Patrick. It looks like Stripe Press is going to republish The Dream Machine, which he's recommended on more than one occasion.
They're also all hard cover books, probably in his own preference too.
The entire team did an excellent job, and they definitely deserve credit here. It's very well made!
On the other hand, I also ended up buying the kindle version and I can't say enough of how great the book is!
(... I think. I don't work for Stripe.)
When I was an intern at a defense company, there was this old british guy that always wore a white shirt and a black tie - even in 2010. I went to lunch with him in his old Jaguar. We were discussing car designs and asked him what he thinks about Audi's new eyelash headlights - which was cool in 2010. He said "If you turn off the lights, from a distance, I can't tell if it is a Honda Accord or an Audi A4. All these sedans look the same". It made me think and appreciate Porsche 911 and other iconic designs that have veered off of the beaten path and created something original. Original, not for the sake of being different, but truly original in the full spirit of the meaning.
Stripe, I am sorry, but doesn't live up to its design hype. Stripe's design is not original nor iconic.
Stripe is almost 10 years old. If their design looks like other SaaS companies or Material or Bootstrap or whatever it's most likely because it has been imitated or at least influenced other designers.
The visual aesthetics of Stripe's output demonstrates great taste. But it's the way that taste complements the functionality, and how they are uncompromising about functionality and usability. I've worked on too many UI's where a detail in the design has compromised the usability, performance, or functionality of a UI all for the sake of aesthetics. I swear I might kill the next UXer that tries to argue that "responsive is out of scope" just because they can't be arsed to figure it out or change their designs to work responsively.
A lot of products and services look like Stripe now, or at least try to, but very few work as well as Stripe's output.
It feels pretty original to me. What do you think it's a copy of if it's not original?
> Process control patches, or printer’s color blocks, are used to check the quality or density of colors that are used on the package.
Stripe hasn't been "just a payment processing company" for quite some time.
An optimistic view of this move is that it fits in well with their mission: these books could, in theory, inspire, educate, and motivate people to build or grow their businesses.
A more cynical(1) view is that this is simply more elaborate content marketing – getting Stripe's name out there to people who are interested in this content, who are overwhelmingly in Stripe's target market.
(1): Cynical in that it's less feel-good, but I don't at all mean that this is a bad thing.
Under that banner, releasing content aimed to help businesses be more successful is totally aligned with their goals.
They're not. They make and sell cars, and Stripe is a payments processor.
In 5 years we have had exactly one chargeback.
I am excited about nice books, but I am more excited about Stripe using some of their growing market clout to attain lower fees.
Fine, okay, maybe sometimes the diversity argument gets annoying and stale, but seriously‽
There's a reason publishers exist. If they're good, they have enough experience to not be so myopic and tone-deaf.
That’s a stretch. Publishing has been dominated predominantly by white men for a long time.
For whatever reason, those stories don’t get upvoted as much on HN :-).
* Undocumented surprise error when user tries to re-subscribe in a different currency or change currency. Solution is to recreate the whole customer.
* Docs instruct to subscribe new users to free plan which is actually a bad practice for reasons that include first bullet point.
* Lack of docs/guidance for China payment systems and seeing Stripe server and frontend errors in testing environment.
Over the past few years, we've invested in how we support users (last week, we launched free, 24x7 phone and chat support).
I'm love to hear more and see where I can help (and any cases where we may have dropped the ball)—shoot me an email at email@example.com
Is Waldrop's book on Licklider the same as this one:
This initiative looks like an extension of the same thing: Rescuing books that no publisher seems to want to print.
Stripe Press highlights ideas that we think can be broadly useful. Some
books contain entirely new material, some are collections of existing
work reimagined, and others are republications of previous works that
have remained relevant over time or have renewed relevance today.
Also, Stripe co-founder claims here in the comments that vast majority of their employees ("and there are now more than 1,000) work on their core functionality. I presume core functionality isn't sales. What the hell, man? Quick google search reveals Windows 7 development team was 960 people, more or less. Sure, microsoft has other teams that service OS dev team with their tools and whatnot, but so do we have those 'out in the open' with OSS. I can't even imagine what I could accomplish with a dev team of 1,000 competent developers.
Without Sales, Ops, etc. I imagine the number of core functionality devs to be 100-300.
(I'm sorry for this crude comment -- it just seemed like the best way to illustrate the irony and ridiculousness of that tweet).
Stripe founders are smart enough to understand what they are
Marketing & educating helps in customer acquisition. They are on it.
They can shut you down without any reason, just that you are magically high risk. Just when you are freaking out and think you will pick up the phone and call and find out what is going on you discover they don't have a phone number.
They might as well sell a book on how to win the lottery.
A passerby stoops down and picks it up.
No, I don't read the book because I don't like books that claim to be selling some secret sauce to success because they are often rife with survivorship bias.
Why does this obviously not work? Lots of businesses can grow faster than they do, maybe (probably?) even most businesses.
The economy is not a zero-sum game.
They want to grab the mindshare of devs, and they are doing the right PR stunt to do it.
If there are female tech/business authors/books you'd like to see listed, you could send through the suggestions?