Fintech Start-Up Stripe Enters the Middle East With UAE Launch

Christopher Pike | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • Online payments company Stripe opens its first Middle East office in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.
  • It comes just weeks after Stripe's latest funding round, which pushed the company's value to $95 billion.
  • The pandemic led to a rapid growth in e-commerce, benefitting digital-based solutions companies like Stripe, which is now valued at $95 billion after its latest funding round.

One of Silicon Valley's most valuable private fintech companies has chosen Dubai for its first expansion into the Middle East and North Africa.

Online payments company Stripe is expanding into the Middle East, just weeks after its latest funding round, which pushed the company's value to $95 billion, making it one of the most valuable private fintech firms in the world.

"The opportunity for start-ups in the UAE is enormous," Matt Henderson, Stripe's business lead for Europe, Middle East, Africa told CNBC's Hadley Gamble on Monday in an exclusive interview. "The opportunity for Stripe is very large as well."

Stripe, started in 2010 by two brothers from Ireland, competes directly with PayPal, Adyen and Square. Its software platform allows businesses to accept online payments.

Co-founders Patrick and John Collison, who are 32 and 30 respectively, are each worth over $11 billion.

Why Dubai?

"The UAE has clearly got a booming digital economy," Henderson told CNBC. Businesses operating online in the UAE can now use Stripe to accept online payments.

Gym management software Glofox, already a global user of Stripe, said in a statement that Stripe's launch in the UAE "can be a catalyst for global brands like ours to expand the products and services we're able to offer to fitness businesses in the region."

The benefit of bringing Stripe's technology to Dubai, Henderson adds, is that "there are a lot of great local businesses that haven't yet globalized. One of the ways that will help them grow and therefore help them to resonate with investors is opening up these new markets."

Lockdown measures across the globe helped accelerate e-commerce, and the UAE is no exception. According to the International Trade Administration, the UAE's e-commerce market is forecast to be valued at $27.1 billion by 2022.

"We've already seen just last year more than $600 million of investment into start-ups in the UAE," Henderson told CNBC. "The ingredients are there for a much, much bigger trajectory."

"You've got this combination of talent, of investment, and entrepreneurship as well," he added. "So we see that there's going to be a lot of exciting emerging technology businesses in the UAE."

The Careem ride-hailing app is displayed on an iPhone at a shopping mall in Dubai.
Christopher Pike | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Careem ride-hailing app is displayed on an iPhone at a shopping mall in Dubai.

The UAE is home to several regional success stories.

Ride-hailing app Careem, headquartered in Dubai, was bought by Uber for $3.1 billion in 2019. And Anghami, the first legal music streaming platform in the Middle East and North Africa, last month announced they will be the first Arab tech company to list on New York's Nasdaq.

Road to IPO?

Stripe is reportedly the most valuable private company ever to come out of Silicon Valley after its valuation nearly tripled in less than a year. It is worth more than both Uber and Facebook were before they went public.

Former Bank of England governor Mark Carney sits on Stripe's board, along with Christa Davies, the chief financial officer of insurance company Aon.

Tesla founder Elon Musk and billionaire investor Peter Thiel were early investors in Stripe.

Despite rumors that Stripe is primed for a public listing, Henderson told CNBC: "We're actually just really focused on growth mode, investment mode, and really serving our users."

Henderson said the company aims to maintain "a culture of frugality, and we try to conserve our own resources and do things in as automated a way possible."

While it's not yet known how many staff Stripe will add in the UAE, it plans on sticking to its capital efficient model, Henderson said, adding: "I think that has served us well." 

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