How Stripe moves fast

Building a culture of relentless execution

Patrick McKenzie recently published a blog post titled "What working at Stripe has been like," discussing his four years at the company. It's a wonderful reflection on his personal experience, but for us, the most interesting section was "What Stripe does differently."

This is, after all, the company that Y Combinator founder Paul Graham just called "the next Google." This is the company that has experienced what McKenzie calls "hypergrowth" over the past few years. Last September, it was valued at $35 billion.

The secret to Stripe’s success, in McKenzie's view, owes to one simple decision. One simple choice, that is embedded into the culture.

As he puts it, Stripe "set its operating cadence to 'run'".

"Could that be done faster?"

"I don’t think Stripe is uniformly fast. I think teams at Stripe are just faster than most companies, blocked a bit less by peer teams, constrained a tiny bit less by internal tools, etc etc. There are particular projects which have been agonizingly long to ship; literally years after I would have hoped them done. But across the portfolio, with now hundreds of teams working, we just get more done than we “should” be able to."

The culture of speed at Stripe manifests itself in a few ways. Here's a sampling from McKenzie:

  • moving forward with projects without waiting to hire the right people (and thus waste months)

  • doing worthy work now, instead of waiting to incorporate it in quarterly planning

  • consistently asking in meetings “Could we do that faster? What is the minimum increment required to ship? Could that be done faster?”

All of these choices require a certain tolerance for risk and failure. But the potential upside is incredibly high, if your teams consistently choose the fast approach.

Stripe's focus on pace comes from the top-down. CEO Patrick Collison keeps a list of "fast" projects on his website.

Amp it up

Frank Slootman is the CEO of Snowflake, which recently made history with the largest IPO of all time. In a blog post from 2018, he expresses a similar love of speed:

"It is breathtaking how slow, substandard and unfocused many companies out there get through the day. And think nothing of it. The lack of energy is palatable. There is performance upside everywhere. As a leader, your opportunity is to reset in each of these dimensions. You do it in every single conversation, meeting, and encounter. You look for and exploit every single opportunity to step up the pace, expect a higher quality outcome, and narrow the plane of attack."

He champions what he calls "performance-centric thinking." As with Stripe, this isn't a step-by-step strategy or a set of tactics. Instead, it's a series of decisions made at every level of the company.

It means asking that crucial question: "Could that be done faster?"

And if the answer is yes, it means following through. Again, and again, and again.

Want help increasing your team's pace? Reach out to hello@laskie.co and let's see how we can help.