Adyen are enabling rather than disrupting their way to Fintech Unicorn status.

I struggled with the headline for this one. I knew there must be a story here, because it is not every day that a company that few of us have heard of, in a city that is far away from the big funds (Amsterdam), raises $250 million at a $1.5 billion valuation.

So Adyen must be doing something interesting. As I dug in to find out what, this headline was the obvious one:

“Adyen is a European Fintech Unicorn with American money.” That story is becoming so common now as to be almost boring – see Saxo Bank and Klarna.


Adyen is similar to SAXO Bank, because both bootstrapped before raising a massive round. Adyen raised a $16m Series A in June 2014 and then a monster $250m round only a few months later in December; yet the company was founded way back in 2006.

This is clearly an experienced team. The founders (Pieter van der Does and Arnout Schuijff) are a couple of serial Dutch payments entrepreneurs who had sold their earlier venture (Bibit) to WorldPay.

The numbers look good. Adyen reported $95 million in revenue for 2013 and they are setting expectations of 100% growth in 2014. That would make for a price to sales ratio of about 7.5 which is not unreasonable for a high growth business with scale.

If you start far away from the big VC Funds, bootstrapping is how you have to do it. The discipline enforced by bootstrapping ensures that you don’t deviate too far from today’s market needs. You cannot afford to bank on a long-term disruptive proposition because you have to deliver what customers want right now.

In the payments space that means improving the credit card experience for consumers and merchants rather than replacing credit cards with something disruptive like Bitcoin. That is what Apple did with Apple Pay and that is what Adyen has done.

Adyen is similar to Klarna, because both operate in the sweet spot between e-commerce and payments. Adyen’s customers include high velocity startups that process a lot of orders online such as Airbnb, Facebook and Spotify. Adyen created enough value to convince firms of that caliber. This is not simply an improved user experience on top of another firm’s infrastructure. To put it another way Adyen is a “full stack” payments company.

One common thread across all three of these European Fintech Unicorns (Saxo Bank, Klarna and Adyen) is the investor – General Atlantic Partners.

One interesting thing to note is that when talking about what they will do with all this new capital, Adyen talks more about Asia than America. Even a few years ago, the big frontier for a European company was America and Asia was put in the “we will cross that bridge when we get to it” category. Now there are two big frontiers and it is far from obvious which one to go for first. The seminal event here was the Alibaba IPO which I think of as the Netscape moment for Globalization 2.0.   Adyen works with Apple Pay in America as well as Alipay in China, Boletos in Brazil and Qiwi in Russia and claims to work in 187 countries. Bits don’t stop at borders, so e-commerce is global and so is Adyen.

What else is happening in the Fintech scene in Amsterdam? This Friday, the Fintech City Tour goes there to find out.


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