Adyen, a tech firm far from Silicon Valley, is churning out billionaires


AMSTERDAM-BASED Adyen says it saves merchants millions of dollars by streamlining card-payment transactions. The fintech firm, thousands of miles from Silicon Valley, is making its founders a lot more.

Chief executive officer Pieter van der Does, chief technology officer Arnout Schuijff and former innovation director John Caspers have all become billionaires since Adyen's June initial public offering, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

That kind of wealth creation, rare for a European company, puts Adyen in a similar league to US tech titans Facebook and Twitter.

The stock has almost tripled since the IPO, highlighting how investors are clawing for a piece of a business at the forefront of a rapidly evolving payments market that's projected to grow by US$1 trillion through 2022.

"Adyen really made a splash when they hooked up with Airbnb and Uber in the early days," said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst David Ritter. "The valuations of some of these companies are hard to justify in a conventional way, but their growth reaches are very impressive."

Adyen joins US rivals Stripe, PayPal Holdings and Square as tech firms that control more than three-quarters of the market for facilitating commerce between merchants and consumers.

Mr Caspers is the latest billionaire to emerge from the company, which also counts Spotify Technology and eBay among its customers. Although no longer involved in Adyen's daily operations, Mr Caspers said in an e-mail that he remains active by engaging investors and regularly speaking with his fellow co-founders.

He still holds a 4.65 per cent stake worth US$1 billion. He also netted more than 30 million euros (S$46.4 million) in Adyen's offering, Europe's largest last year for a tech company.

Adyen's valuation of about US$21.8 billion ranks it alongside ABN Amro Group, the second-largest bank in the Netherlands.

Adyen spokesman Hemmo Bosscher declined to comment on the wealth of the company's co-founders.

Other stakes, controlled through small groups of early Adyen investors, are approaching US$1 billion. An online overview for one of them - Adinvest, led by former investment banker Neil Sunderland - says it typically invests up to five million euros in tech companies, giving potential returns above 1,000 per cent.

Mr Sunderland, 73, told Bloomberg he was invited to invest in Adyen along with other existing shareholders before it was profitable. He also recalls being impressed by the professionalism and knowledge of the founders.

"It was clear from early conversations they had the expertise to make something from their efforts," he said. "They have very high standards and are thoroughly nice people. I mean it very sincerely that they're probably the best management team I've ever worked with - and I've worked with a lot."

Electronic transactions globally are expected to grow more than 10 per cent a year through 2021, according to Capgemini's latest World Payments Report.

Adyen's founders and early investors aren't the only one getting rich off this trend.

The Irish brothers behind Stripe are two of the world's youngest billionaires, while Square makes up most of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey's US$5.1 billion fortune. Dutch royal Princess Mabel van Oranje owns a stake in Adyen now worth about US$400 million.

Adyen - which means "start over again" in Surinamese - is the second collaboration between Mr van der Does, Mr Caspers, Mr Schuijff and his brother Joost, who has a US$660 million stake in the company.

They first worked together on Bibit Global Payment Services, which was sold to Royal Bank of Scotland Group in 2004 for an undisclosed sum. Adyen was born two years later. BLOOMBERG

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