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Stripe Hires Top Google Ops Exec Claire Johnson to Lead Business Operations

A big hire for a small company.

Stripe has nabbed longtime Google exec Claire Johnson as its new head of business operations, in one of the first major management hires by the online payments software startup.

Johnson, who has been at the search giant since 2004, has most recently been leading the product, business and operations for its self-driving car efforts at the Google X division. But she has held a wide variety of jobs at Google, from working on the launch of Gmail, Google Apps and also running a consumer operations unit. In addition, Johnson has had deep sales experience, in both mobile and video ads, while there. Interestingly, she began her career in Massachusetts state politics.

With the move to Stripe — she is taking a whole day off between gigs — Johnson will shift from a giant company to a much smaller one. The San Francisco-based Stripe now has 175 employees, with about half of them being engineers. Still, after raising $120 million from investors such as Sequoia Capital, it has recently been valued at $1.75 billion.

This despite no profits, although Stripe has seen its transactions grow by eight times over the last year, said CEO Patrick Collison, while its partnerships are growing quickly, too. That includes recent deals with Twitter, Apple and many others to provide software for payments on mobile devices.

Johnson — one of the legions of top Google execs who have been recruited heavily by startups — will be brought in to organize Stripe’s internal processes and put systems into place that the fast-growing startup needs in its next phase of growth.

 Stripe CEO Patrick Collison
Stripe CEO Patrick Collison
Asa Mathat

“This is not a fluffy talking point for us — we want to build an independent company and that’s really hard and to do in a durable way,” said Collison in an interview. “You can duct tape it for a couple of years, if you are optimizing it for an exit, but we are not.”

In an onstage interview today at the Code/Mobile conference, he noted why getting the company in shape is key: “People think that this a mature market, and that online payments have already happened. But consumer spending on the Internet only represents two percent of all spending. There’s an enormous amount of expansion possible.”

That is what Johnson said was attractive to her about Stripe. “When I joined Google, it was a 1,500-person company, which I thought was huge, since I don’t think of myself as a corporate person,” she said. “It’s exciting to be able to be part of the block and tackle of building a company from a smaller base … and this company has a vision that is different and has huge potential.”

If you want to get a better idea of Johnson, who is quite a firecracker in my humble opinion, here’s a video of her talking about Google’s self-driving car efforts:

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