EP 322 – Stripe’s Strategy Shift: How Open Payment Systems Benefit Primer – Gabriel Le Roux – co-Founder and CEO of Primer

by | May 22, 2024

"What we are saying is, hey, right now you have this unified infrastructure that allows you to do payment experimentation. And guess what, if you want to try and test different services, now you have access to an app store of services, you go in, in the Primer dashboard, they can just like toggle on and off, like the services you want to use. You can add test them, AB testing in the world of payments is simply impossible, right?"--- The Asia Tech Podcast welcomed Gabriel Le Roux, a co-Founder and the CEO of ⁠Primer⁠ back to the show for a quick catch up. Gabriel had written a post on how Stripe's new openness would change the payment space and I wanted to record about it.

Some of the topics that Gabriel covered in detail:

  • A pivotal shift towards modular payment systems, emphasizing flexibility and customization over the traditional one-size-fits-all solutions.
  • The shift towards merchant-centric services, diverging from the historically provider-focused models, where businesses had to adapt to the limitations and structures of their payment service providers.
  • The recent announcement by Stripe to open up its services aligns with a broader industry trend towards interoperability and flexibility.
  • How Primer’s technology enables businesses to adapt their payment methods and procedures on a country-by-country basis seamlessly.
  • The concept of “future-proofing” businesses through scalable payment infrastructures, allowing small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to implement a robust payment system early in their development phase, which can scale as they grow and expand.
Read the best-effort transcript

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:09
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Gabriel Le Roux, a co founder and the CEO of Primer is back with us today. Gabriel, thank you so much for coming back to the show. First of all, how are you doing?

Gabriel Le Roux 0:23
I’m doing I’m doing great. It’s good to be back, Michael. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 0:26
I wanted you to come back around like six months later, and it’s five months later. And frankly, the last time we recorded this, yeah, because lesson recorded this was in December. I know. It’s like a blur for me as well. But I was thinking before we got on the call that like the weather must be so much better today. That was recorded last time. No.

Gabriel Le Roux 0:45
It is it is actually a little bit better. I’m sitting in London right now. We finally having some some sunny days. So yeah, it’s definitely better. Oh, he’s flying. I can’t believe it’s been already five month. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 1:00
we recorded we recorded on December 13. So I think I published it on December 23. I was looking at it before I was like, Wow, I can’t believe it was that long. I literally thought it was in February when we did it.

Gabriel Le Roux 1:09
Same here. Same here. Wow.

Michael Waitze 1:12
So I wanted to record with you again, because I remember what we talked about last time, right? Like, it was all about the evolution of payment needs, like the impact of integrated payment ecosystems, all the data driven stuff, you’re doing an AI, all the things you were building it primer, we can talk about that too. But it was really the genesis of this call was you publish something in again, I don’t know if it’s a week ago, or three weeks ago now, about stripe. So one of the big payment providers made this big announcement. And I really wanted you to kind of go through what that was and what the implications were. And then where primer fits in there and why it matters so much as I cool. Yeah, that’s cool. Go for it.

Gabriel Le Roux 1:51
Okay, so I think you know, like just taking a step back here. So, you know, last time we chatted, we discussed about primer, and I think it’s good to share a bit of context. Primer was started like, four years ago with but by myself and my co founder and we both used to work at Braintree which was a company that got acquired by PayPal. But back in the days in Braintree was wasn’t steel is like a payment service provider. And the one thing that we realized with with with microphone is how like, you know, online businesses were looking to expand our stack with more and more and more and more services, to create any commerce experiences to provide like the best possible user experience for the end user. And to essentially like transform payments into a growth lever. And when I say that, you know, when I say using multiple services across across the payment stack, these can be pretty much anything, right payment service providers. Fraud solutions, operation management, software, communication services, essentially any tool that you know, you want to use, or the merchant want to use across the payment lifecycle, right. And so, in order to do that, today, it’s very, very complicated. You have to do multiple integrations, it’s very, very, you know, complex, you need to create, like, you know, connection between services, which are typically like, you know, not talking to each other. And that’s pretty much where we’re solving, we’re saying, hey, you know, if you want to actually like, you know, transform the way you leveraging payments, if you want to leverage all those different services, here we are primary is this unified infrastructure that allows you to connect to IoT services and create sophisticated workflows. Now, why this is critical is because like, we’ve always been thinking about payments, as, you know, this open ecosystem of services that should be leveraged on the merchant side. And that’s never been like, you know, the story of the payment service providers, which have always been saying, hey, you know, use us for everything, we are the ultimate and the only solution you should use to power payments, right? And our view is no, no, no, no, the world needs to be open. You know, there is no one size fit all like, you know, merchant want to use all the best services out there to power there, you know, product and services. And that’s why like, you know, when the, the announcement was made, you know, a couple of weeks ago, by stripe saying, hey, you know, we are sort of like opening up right now, we actually like quite excited because we are like finally, you know, like large provider out there which are in typically like very, very much like, you know, closed ecosystem are thinking about opening up their product and services, to essentially like, you know, provide what the merchant has been asking for years and we’ve been very much like driving that change out there in Ecosystm. And we’ve been the one like, you know, defining the innovation of payments, and to see like more established players like essentially like, you know, replicating what we’re doing or validating what we’re doing is very Hey, can

Michael Waitze 5:00
I ask you this? What do you think? Encourage them to do it? And I guess there are a bunch of different topics to cover here. But do you think they’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, but that just technologically, like, you know this from from just building software and being involved in the building of software, you build this thing, you bolt something onto it, you build some more software, you build some software on top of it. And then when someone says to you, hey, can we just use this? In a way, sometimes it’s not only because you just want to get them inside your walled garden. But it’s because when you originally built your software, you just thought, hey, let’s build more services to help our customers kind of thing and then separating it out, it just gets technically really hard. Anyway, what encouraged them to do this?

Gabriel Le Roux 5:38
I don’t think it’s like, you know, it’s probably like the technical aspect of things. But it’s also like a fundamental like, you know, shift in the way like, they’re thinking about themselves and thinking about their business, right? I mean, you know, at the end of the day, like, you know, if you’ve been pushing this narrative of like, we’re going to do everything, right. And you should use us for everything, like, it’s quite a massive like shift to say, hey, now we actually like opening up and providing optionality. The question that I want you to ask yourself is, to what extent like, you know, their ecosystem is actually open by? And, you know, and that’s probably like a big question, we need to ask ourselves. Now, the reason for that changes well is the, the world out there has changed, merchants understands payments a lot more, they want to use the best services across the payment lifecycle. So this notion of like, you know, one provider to do, everything is simply not resonating anymore at all. If you go and talk to anyone out there, they want to use, you know, the best services for each and every aspect of their payments. And so it’s not so much a we want to do it because it’s, we think it’s a nice thing to do, you have to be open, you have to provide optionality, you have to be flexible. That’s been part of our DNA from literally the day we started primer, right, we were like, We need to create that unified, open infrastructure. That’s the only way to go. When it comes to like, you know, creating the best and the optimal way of managing payments.

Michael Waitze 7:21
So what changed for you guys, like there must have been a high five moment, I don’t know if that translates to the rest of the world. But there must have been a moment where like, you and your co founder woke up, and you were just like, you went to the office, you started chatting with each other, and you’re like, wait a second, this, we’ve been talking about this for years, now, this thing just happened. I’m sure that other payment providers are going to do the same thing, right? I mean, if they can technically do it, they’re gonna have to do it at some level, right? Because if the biggest people are doing it, even the mid level player is gonna have to do this. What was that moment like inside a primer? And like, what’s the significance for you guys?

Gabriel Le Roux 7:54
Well, I think for us, it’s just like, extra validation that, you know, what we’ve been driving for years now is actually resonating with like, you know, established players, right. But the reality is that the true innovation is, is being driven by us, right? Like, we are essentially saying, like, Hey, listen, like, you know, the world of payments goes beyond like, you know, the sort of like, you know, PSP aspect of things, you need to have, like this new framework to integrate, and to manage payments. And this is what being driven by Pharma. You know, we’re working today with like, really very large enterprises across the world, which are using us to really transform the way they’ve been like managing their payment stack. But, you know, I think for us, it’s just an interesting transition. And, and any phase that we’ve seen, like in the world of like the payment service providers, and you know, the likes of stripe trying to make like their product more like, modular, it’s also interesting, because they’re going to need to have distribution channels to for these products and services. And this is where like, we are, like, extremely well positioned to do that. I was

Michael Waitze 9:01
thinking the same thing. That’s what I was gonna ask you like, that’s what I said. It was like a high five moment, because for you guys, you’ve been sitting there talking about this, and kind of proselytizing, right, trying to convince other people that this is the way it should be. And you woke up one day, and like, there it is. And now what do you what do you do now? And how does it change your business? Do you think because now, you’ve been not convincing, but telling your clients, these walled gardens have to fall, the whole ecosystem has to be more open. Now you can go back and knock on the door and go, you see what they just did, they just modularize their business. So now you can use this thing to then pick and choose all these other services that you want that’s going to make your clients happy to know.

Gabriel Le Roux 9:39
I think you know, like, in principle, yes. Right. So the more like, you know, the world becomes modular, the more options are being provided to our clients. So it’s a trend that is growing in the right direction for sure. All right. And so I think, you know, this notion of like the PSP is trying to be more modular is going to drive like a lot of, of it Innovation and changes as to how like those companies have been, you know, managing their products. And yet ultimately, it’s going to provide like more options to to the merchants, which is something that we’re going to be driving, right? This notion of like, you know, having access to services and a few clicks, and to have the ability to enable them on primer, without the need to go and you know, talk to an engineer is, is is, is so unique. If you think about it, yeah. Because now you can also like test services that typically would take ages to be tested. Right? And so

Michael Waitze 10:35
because we didn’t talk about this last time, but can it can you can you can you dig deeper on that because this is actually kind of important. I don’t think we talked about this last time, this idea that like these services now are easily integratable. Across the board means that I want to see if this thing works, that doesn’t work good for you. But I can just click on this button, enable this, disable that, try this one. You know, what, actually, a was actually better than B. Anyway, this is the best solution. I’m just clicking this go back to work doing the things that I want to do, which is either selling my products or doing other things. Yeah, exactly.

Gabriel Le Roux 11:05
So there’s this, this concept of this, these two things like on the merchant side, you want to have the the best possible way of accepting and managing payments. But what you don’t want to do is to relearn payments all the time. Have your team like, constantly integrating new API’s and all that, right? So what we are saying is, hey, right now you have this unified infrastructure that allows you to do payment expert. And guess what, if you want to try it and test different services, now you have access to an app store of services, you go in, in the private dashboard, they can just like toggle on and off, like the services you want to use. You can add test them, AB testing in the world of payments is simply impossible, right? Because you need to go and do some integration, it’s going to take some time, if you do an integration, you’re actually committing to using the product eventually, allocate resources, all that what we’re seeing is, hey, what if you have one single API one unified infrastructure, and now you can do whatever you want with your payments, you want to test like something in the checkout, like a PMF is a vine up later, or wallet, you can do it, you want to test a full provider, like you know, because you’ve been seeing like, you know, high cases of fraud, you know, with your payments, you can do it and maybe one will be like better suited for the US and other one will be better suited for a different product line, you want to try to create like, ways to present a payment from the checkout with dynamic presentment, you can do. So all things that would typically be super technical, are now like, accessible by anyone, you don’t need to be an engineer to start doing these things. So we’re making payments like, approachable, easy to use. And while this is like very useful on the merchant side, and very unique, this is also so unique and so relevant for all the services within the ecosystem. Because now they can get super fast activation of their product and services.

Michael Waitze 13:16
Yeah, because all they need is one person to integrate with it. That’s primer, and then everybody else can just integrate it with a press of a button, which I don’t think I fully understood last time. I’ve done a lot of work on this since the last time we talked. I think that was one of the other reasons why I wanted to get you back on the show. I imagined and again, tell me where I’m wrong. But I imagine now you know if again, if the PSP A is the best one for Indonesia, but PSP two is the best one from Malaysia that if you have an online store you frankly even an offline store. You can just click this and have like a if Indonesia use this if Malaysia use this thing, right? I mean, that’s way better than just going off for fuck sake, we’ll just use Pay Pal kind of thing. Exactly. Nothing against Pay Pal again, but yeah. Then,

Gabriel Le Roux 13:58
of course, of course, but you’ve essentially like describe like a very simple workflow on primer. Yeah. So like the way the way like, you know, the journey for someone using primary is going to be a couple, like fairly simple, or you integrate our product, you know, it’s very, it’s a very simple integration. Yeah, now you have access to like, essentially, like a bunch of tools to optimize the way you’re going to be managing payments. And you have, like, you know, our universal checkout and that’s essentially a product that allows users to have a full agnostic checkout have ways to be agnostic li like, you know, store like payment details. So now you essentially gain back control over your payments. You can also like define how to present payment methods on the checkout. I want to show like, you know, a payment methods to somewhere in Indonesia, because like, you know, that the method may not be relevant to someone in Australia, right? Yeah. But then you what you describe here is a workflow. So you describe a very simple workflow if Indonesia use this payment service provider if Australia use this other one But imagine if you could actually start doing a lot more things. You know, if you know the user is in Indonesia, and they have a riskier profile, I want to do a, you know, a full check before authorizing the payments. Yeah. And imagine if you start like doing things like, well, and if that user is, you know, VIP and the payment has been declined, I want to send him a text message saying, Hey, Michael, your payment has been declined, we’re so sorry, here is like a coupon code, or here is a link so that you can use another payment service provider or another team. So these are the things that you can start doing on primer, literally by dragging and dropping, like, you know, elements within our workflow. That’s pretty much what we’ve seen back then, we were whiteboarding things, you know, at Braintree and PayPal. Right? Instead of doing you know, my father on the technical side was like whiteboarding, like Ecosystm on the merchant. And we were asking the question, okay, how are we going to do that? Now? The answer was like, I don’t know, it’s gonna be very difficult. But, and that’s why we created primer.

Michael Waitze 16:05
I just lost my train of thought. But I can just imagine a bunch of these different workflows, right? Where it really matters. And imagine, like, because I’ve been on a bunch of sites, whether it’s, you know, if you don’t have an American Express card, like really simple stuff, you can’t pay for this. Well, you must have another option, right? And I can just see a merchant, even an SME, and I wanted to ask you specifically about SMEs, right? Because large institutions have big tech teams that can kind of do a bunch of integrations. And frankly, for them, if it takes more time, okay, there’s a trade off for how much money they can make. But small companies don’t have any integration teams. Right? So for them, it must be just a panacea of like, wait a second, now I can take payments from anywhere at any time, it’s going to change their business a lot? No, like, do you see a big difference between the SMEs and these bigger institutions?

Gabriel Le Roux 16:49
So actually, what we see is, so we we’ve been working like, primarily with, like, you know, mid market and large enterprises. So that’s been like, you know, the type of businesses we’ve been, we’ve been working with, okay, so maybe they have a lot of steam, but what they want to do is transform the way they are managing payments, and they want to compress the roadmap, and they really want to sort of like, start leveraging payment as as it grows lever. Now, what do you think is absolutely correct, the more like, you know, wall out there has been educated on the power of payments, the more primary becomes irrelevant. So even like smaller company, small companies, sorry, are starting to use primer to future proof the way they’re going to be managing payments, right? Yeah, they start using us now. And then, you know, in a couple of years, maybe they want to, you know, do a lot more things with their payments, they want to launch new markets, they want to sort of optimize the way they leverage the operational aspect of payments. And that’s it, they have a score integrated. So it’s just a matter of like, you know, a few clicks for them to start, like, you know, leverage payment as a, as a as an acid.

Michael Waitze 18:03
Again, just from a uninformed person, can I ask you another question? Does this make it easier for you to integrate with big kind of global e commerce players that also need to have, like a lot of flexibility, like I think about a company like shopee, that operates out of Singapore, but operates in every country in Southeast Asia? And, you know, all of the payment integrations could, like you said could be different? Are they a potential client of yours as well? Of course, yeah.

Gabriel Le Roux 18:29
I mean, all these large ecommerce platform ecommerce merchants, with international exposure customer around a world complex, like, you know, payment flows, complex operational flows related to payments are typically the type of companies using Stripe, and we’re working with like these large enterprises across the globe.

Michael Waitze 18:54
So again, I just feel like, again, I wanted to get you on because I wanted to figure out like, what the change in your business is, I feel like it opens it up to a lot more innovation as well, right? Because once once the individual component of the payment itself just gets separated out, then all those individual services are also seeming to be up for grabs as well. No. Yeah.

Gabriel Le Roux 19:12
You’re right. So so I, you know, with primer, what we’ve been doing is we were essentially like entering the services that our merchants want to use and being like, you know, like a lot of innovation on our side to quickly add the services. So for us, it’s, the more the more the world out there becomes modular, the more options we can provide the customer that says, we are only incentivized to do what’s best for our merchants, that’s very much like, you know, our DNA. Right. And so, I think what is going to be very interesting to see like, you know, the appetite for our merchants to use some of these services and to see how they’re going to be used, right. So yeah, we’re quite excited to see like, you know, the The reaction of the merchant out there and when it comes to like, some of the services becoming more modular, Yeah, cuz I mean,

Michael Waitze 20:05
you guys are essentially agnostic to which services your customers use as long as they’re using primer to access those services. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Gabriel Le Roux 20:12
Yeah. agnostic? Because like, if, essentially, if you want to use all the services, you need to have a relationship with them. Right? As a merchant. Right. Right. So yeah,

Michael Waitze 20:21
and for you, you don’t care? does it drive growth for you guys as well, you think and like, how fast? Do you think it has an impact on you? Just this module? With the services?

Gabriel Le Roux 20:30
Yeah, I think, you know, like, what, first of all, like, primer has been growing, like, you know, extremely, like, you know, rapidly like, because essentially, like, we’re not, you know, the reason why primary exists is because we’ve seen the problem firsthand. Right? Yep. So, you know, we’ve seen like, extremely fast adoption of our product and services across like, all our key markets, right? For you. Yeah, it’s great. It’s quite amazing. And, and I think, you know, we’re working hard to make sure that, you know, we’re continuously innovating providing more services to our users, and, and for them to really grasp and understand the power of our products. But yes, I think, you know, the world out there becoming more modular is obviously, like shooting our growth. And, ultimately, that’s also going to eventually, like, you know, positively impact, you know, our merchants, right, because, you know, maybe I don’t think it’s the case right now, but maybe in a couple of years from now, you know, some of these services are going to be like, you know, extremely powerful for, like a subset of merchant in a given vertical, help them solve, like, very specific use cases, all that, and we’re going to be the sort of underlying structure to help them use these services in a sophisticated way. And so yeah, we’re gonna see, I’m sure, like, some growth out of like, the change happening in ecosystem,

Michael Waitze 21:47
where you’re gonna have to, because the way I look at it now, it’s almost like the operating system for the payments business in the sense that like, everybody can connect into the service that you provide. And like you said, you don’t really care who it is, do you? Like how easy it is for someone to integrate with you? You said, you’re building some innovation around that? Do you build your own Dev Tools is probably the wrong word. But that’s what people can actually build on your platform. Yeah,

Gabriel Le Roux 22:09
so we have like, you know, the so I mean, our doc’s are public, right? Yeah. But we actually, like, you know, integrating primary is very, very simple integration, right. And, and that’s obviously, like, you know, fundamental, if you want to, you know, be used by a lot of companies out there. What’s interesting is our integration is very simple. But the moment you have prime integrated, like, our product is so powerful, right? So And essentially, we’re saying, like to, to emergency, you integrated with us once, and then like, anything else can be done, like, you know, from like, the primary dashboard from the private product, right? Enable services, screening workflows, you can just publish them, you don’t need to sort of like, you know, ask for like engineers to help you do all these things, which would, that’s typically the way it works today, by the way, yeah. Right? You go and talk to businesses, and they’re gonna tell you like, hey, we have 24 months roadmap of things you want to do to optimize payments. And our view is like, why do you why are you doing like, but we also understand, right, because different API’s, you need to trade and the data may be impacted and the underlying work stream like like, reconsideration may be impacted. You may have teams, you know, around the business, which are consuming payments that now also going to have to work on a few things. were we saying is, Hey, okay, we understand all that. But it doesn’t make any sense for for you to do everything yourself. It does make sense for you to use the services. Yeah. But technically, we should be the underlying infrastructure to power all this. So no, you’re not going to spend 24 months, you’re going to spend a few weeks I was gonna say

Michael Waitze 23:55
24 days, probably I would I want to, I don’t want to put any pressure on you. But it’s more likely that it’s 24 days and 24 months. You know, I think I might have said this to you the last time recorded. But I always feel like for early stage companies, the biggest problem is just having your potential customers discover you. And I don’t think it’s just like a marketing problem, per se. Right. But like you say, if you walk into a potential client, and they’re like, we’ve got a 24 month roadmap, they may be saying that, because they don’t know how easy it is to integrate with you, which then gives them access to all the services they were going to integrate over the next 24 months. Yeah.

Gabriel Le Roux 24:27
Yes. What about my market education? Right. And, and so yeah, I think, you know, obviously, like, the reason why they have those long and big roadmaps is because no one out there could solve, like, you know, their vision. Yeah. It goes to show like, you know, that the current, you know, technology out there, we’re not suited for the vision, the ambition that, you know, the merchants have with their payments. Yeah. And so, yeah, I think you know, from, from our view, this law work, we’re doing our education, explain how primer can be used, the use cases or that and Um, and yeah, we were doing a pretty good job. And we’re seeing like now like more and more merchants coming to us being like, Okay, we know what you guys are doing. Let’s actually work

Michael Waitze 25:11
together. Yeah, it sounds like you’ve invented something new. And when one merchant uses it, yeah, but I really believe this. And then when one merchant use it, another one finds out that like, oh, we integrated our stuff in like three weeks or like, wait a second, which kind of magic allows you to do that kind of thing? Right? Absolutely. Okay, well, I think I got what I wanted. I just wanted to understand what this change was, was going to mean for you guys. Again, I’d love to have you back on in six months, because I want to learn more. I do want to talk about it today. But I want to learn more about the growth, your funding and stuff like that. And just like the more on the business side, but we can do that. Maybe we have your co founder, come on, if you want. Anyway, I got what I wanted today, I really appreciate your time. And as I learned more and more about payments, the whole thing that you’re doing actually gets more and more interesting to me. So I really appreciate your time today.

Gabriel Le Roux 25:55
Well, I follow for a primer on LinkedIn and our website, because there’s always a lot of things that we are pushing out there. And yeah, it’s a very exciting time for anyone in payments. And it’s also a very exciting time for merchants. Right? Yeah. You know, and and that’s something that we are powering as the world’s first unified payments infrastructure out there.

Michael Waitze 26:19
Yeah. And look, the thing that I always say to the merchants is, or about the merchants is they’ve always had these ideas about how they can make their businesses better and more flexible, right. They want to do what’s best for their customers as well. Absolutely. And I’ve been, as I said earlier in the conversation, I’ve been on plenty of websites where I wanted to pay for something I wanted to give you my money. And just like the system that you wanted to use for your payments just didn’t work for me and I just had to leave and go buy it somewhere else. That’s a fact. Actually.

Gabriel Le Roux 26:46
It is a fact and it shouldn’t actually be no

Michael Waitze 26:49
no, anyway, okay. And the other thing I will say to you is this, if you ever want to come back on if you have a big story or big announcement, or you know what I mean some new thing that’s happening. Don’t wait just make an appointment and call me and we’ll talk about it for 15 minutes. I don’t care. I’d love to have you back on.

Gabriel Le Roux 27:03
Absolutely. Thanks a lot Michael.


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