February 13, 2024

5 minutes read

Founders, stop sleeping on Stripe

Why SaaS entrepreneurs should focus on the Stripe App Marketplace now.

Felipe Aragão


Stripe has been a key player in the online payments industry for years, becoming almost indispensable for SMBs operating online. Despite its significant impact, the Stripe App Store, launched in 2022, remains surprisingly underexplored by developers and entrepreneurs. This space offers a unique opportunity that many seem to be overlooking. With Stripe's vast user base and the app store's nascent state, the potential for growth and innovation is immense. The question is, why are developers not jumping at this chance?

The scale of Stripe

Stripe is not just another payment processor; it's a behemoth in the fintech world. According to their 2022 annual report, Stripe powers millions of businesses across the globe, with over 100 of these handling more than $1 billion in transactions annually. This scale is a testament to Stripe's reliability, security, and ease of use. For developers and entrepreneurs, this represents a vast sea of potential customers and a platform that's proven its worth and endurance in the fast-paced world of fintech.

What are Stripe Apps?

Stripe Apps represent a leap forward in how developers can create tailored solutions for businesses using Stripe. Introduced at Stripe Sessions in May 2022, this initiative marks a new era of collaboration between Stripe and the developer community. You can watch the keynote speech here, where John Collison highlights the importance of this move:

"But what about everything else? It’s like any operating system: core functionality needs to work perfectly out of the box, but the breadth of functionality of the platform is also really important, having an app to solve every use case. For things like customer messaging, you might want to use something like Intercom; for contracts, DocuSign; or, you might just to build your own tool. But often these workflows are highly integrated, so for years our users have been asking us for the tools of their choice to interoperate with Stripe… We’re thrilled to launch today Stripe Apps and the Stripe App Marketplace, where you can find or build best-of-breed tools that work naturally with Stripe."

This initiative also saw the launch of the Stripe App Marketplace, which you can explore here. Starting with 51 apps from notable partners like DocuSign, Mailchimp, Ramp, Xero, and Intercom, the marketplace quickly expanded. By October 2022, Stripe opened its doors to all developers, signaling a significant opportunity for innovation and growth in the fintech ecosystem.

Why does this matter? For years, startups have been leveraging Stripe's API to build their businesses. However, Stripe Apps and the Stripe App Marketplace introduce a more streamlined, efficient way for developers to offer solutions directly to Stripe's customers.

This shift is illustrated by Ben Thompson's coverage of the launch, showcasing Stripe's evolution into a "thin platform" that supports a wide array of third-party applications.

Previously, developers could create integrations using extensions and plugins, but these were somewhat limited and are now being phased out in favor of the more integrated Stripe Apps. This new framework not only simplifies the development process but also significantly expands the potential for creating innovative solutions that serve the needs of Stripe's customers.

The Marketplace opportunity

Despite the clear advantages and the backing of a fintech giant, the Stripe App Marketplace remains surprisingly underpopulated. With just over 130 apps available, the marketplace is ripe for new entries. This scarcity is not due to a lack of interest or potential but perhaps a lack of awareness among developers about the opportunities that lie within.

Comparing this to the Shopify App Store, which has seen exponential growth since its inception, highlights the potential for similar success within the Stripe ecosystem. Shopify's app store, now boasting thousands of apps, only began to see significant growth several years after its launch. This pattern suggests that the Stripe App Marketplace is currently in a similar early stage, offering a unique chance for developers to establish themselves in a less crowded space.

Moreover, the marketplace provides free distribution within Stripe's massive user base. With Stripe.com attracting millions of visits per month, the visibility for new apps is substantial. For developers, this means an unparalleled opportunity for organic distribution and growth, akin to the early days of the Shopify app store.

The app publisher experience

Stripe is renowned for its exceptional API and developer experience (DX), often cited as a benchmark in the industry. From comprehensive documentation to a supportive community, Stripe has made it easy for developers to build payment solutions. This developer-first approach is evident in the creation of Stripe Apps, which extends the same level of thoughtfulness and support to those building on the Stripe platform.

However, developing a Stripe App differs from using the Stripe API for payment processing. Stripe Connect, for example, is a crucial component for third-party developers, allowing them to integrate more deeply with Stripe's functionality and offer their solutions directly to Stripe's customers. This dual use of the Stripe API presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for developers, distinguishing the experience of building for Stripe from other platforms.

In summary, the Stripe App Store presents a fertile ground for developers willing to explore this relatively untapped market. With Stripe's continued growth and the marketplace's current low saturation, the potential for significant impact and success is enormous. Developers should consider this not just an opportunity to build innovative solutions but to position themselves prominently in a growing ecosystem that's at the forefront of fintech innovation.