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Tech giant Adyen: “Culture and technical integrity has been our foundation for growth”

In only 14 years, Adyen has gone from a small startup to a listed company with a market cap of almost half a trillion Swedish kronor. Maintaining the company culture and keeping a high level of technical integrity were two of the key messages in the keynote from Adyen on the main stage at Techarenan Summit.

Adyen made headlines a few years ago when they completed one of the largest European IPOs in the tech sector ever. But the listing itself had no intrinsic value, says Ingo Uytdehaage who is the CFO of Adyen. Today, Adyen which was founded only fourteen years ago has employees all around the world, some of the most well known brands on its client list and a market cap of almost half a trillion Swedish kronor – 50 billion euros. On the Techarenan Summit stage, Ingo Uytdehaage, CFO, shared the story of how they built the company from a startup to a global player.  

We have built our business on some clearly defined values: Keeping the culture, developing a single platform and developing by merchant-led innovation, says Uytdehaage.

Even if you haven’t heard of Adyen it is likely that you have made a payment through the company’s platform. Today, Adyen help merchants such as Spotify, H&M, Telia and Facebook to accept payments online or in stores around the world through one single platform.

One of the company’s main focuses during the growth phase, and still, has been to maintain the culture while scaling. The company has created a formula from all the lessons learned on how to build for the long-term while retaining speed and culture. One key ingredient in the formula is that winning is more important than the ego. 

– In the international environment that we are working in with such a complex product it is important that everybody chips in and work and that we all act and think as one company, Ingo Uytdehaage says on the main stage at Techarenan Summit.

Culture is considered a key success factor and the formula of the company is the foundation. The management board meets every new hire before they join the team to make sure that every new person is a formula-fit.

– We really make sure to get to know every single person who works here. It costs a lot of time to meet every new hire before joining the team but for us it is a very important part of building a successful company.

You’ve been listed for a couple of years now. Has the company culture changed after the IPO?

– It is a common concern when you get listed that everything will become short-term. But we really have an opposite experience. I mean it is pretty fair to say that our culture has not changed at all after the IPO.

Another main focus for the Dutch payment company is to develop the platform in accordance with the company’s merchant driven innovation process, completely based on merchant needs. 

– In order to help our merchants in the best way we always work to respond to their needs quickly. And rather than developing products in isolation until we feel that they are perfect, we bring them up to a standard where we can test them with our merchants and then iterate based on insights we gain from doing so. It is very important to deeply understand the needs of our customers.

But even though some of the customers are amongst the world’s largest companies, Adyen has kept it’s “only one platform motto” rather than developing customer specific special solutions.

– On the short-term it can always be tempting to develop new features to one specific merchant. However in the long term this often brings problems and we avoid this by only acting on those needs that we see can really benefit all merchants. By applying this principal we are able to continue building our platform in a scalable manner.

How have you been affected by Covid-19?

– It has of course had a great impact on us. We have a lot of customers in the travel and retail business and we try to help them to get through this hard period as much as we can. On the other hand we see other verticals that have been very successful during this period. For example, the e-commerce transactions that have heavily increased during the crisis. 

How are you handling the internal challenges risen from Covid-19?  

– We have a lot of focus on our staff and their health. Later on, when possible, we love to get back to the office because we think that the office is a place where people like to meet and work together. But this new situation has really been an eye opener for us to travel less. So in the future we will use new technologies in order to find new ways to work together, but at the same time, be at the office, because I think you can accomplish even more when you meet in real life.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to scale their company in the same way as Adyen?

– The key thing for me to build a company is building a culture where you can operate safely as a team member and where you get a lot of freedom, because that often results in a lot of creativity within the team. Do not forget about the health of your team. You hear stories about crazy startups where you work all day and night, but that is often not sustainable. Create a culture where it is cool to be efficient rather than to stay in the office late at night. 

Lisa von Garrelts
lisa@techarenan.com

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