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Driving eCommerce Forward: The Story of Braintree


The ideas that have changed society came from the bright-heads of many innovators and entrepreneurs.

From Steve Jobs transforming our attitudes towards electronics, to Jeff Bezoz who changed the way online commerce works - we've seen how a unique idea can have an influence on many people.

But not all heroes wear capes.

This is the story of Braintree and how even religious motivation can produce a successful start up:

The history of humanity is full of innovators and entrepreneurs who believed their visions and hard work could progress our society, both technologically and culturally, to a stage where most of the population enjoys long, comfy, and healthy lives.

We all know Steve Jobs and how with Apple, he transformed our attitude towards electronics or Jeff Bezos who changed the way online commerce works with one simple software.

From Thomas Edison to Elon Musk, we've seen how ideas can transform our culture - and create a fortune in the process!

But not all heroes wear capes - especially not the hero whose success story in the online payment sector, unfortunately, remains unknown for most people: the founder of Braintree, Bryan Johnson.

Married with a child and a company that had no money, Johnson was left to hustle with door-to-door sales of credit card processors to companies to earn money. It's at this point that he got the idea for Braintree - a payment gateway that enables businesses to accept online and mobile payments.

This is the story of Braintree and how one man's hard work and motivation to help other people can drive a whole industry forward!

Genesis 1.0

Bryan Johnson was the middle child of three brothers and a sister, who didn't let the divorce of his parents stop him from achieving his goals. Raised in Springville, Utah, he couldn't resist the urge to help others, so at age 19 he became a Mormon missionary, which was customary for young men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Shortly after joining, Bryan went to Ecuador, spending the next two years providing his services to those that needed them the most.

After returning to the US, he recognized that the only way to help millions is through innovation in services that technology can provide.

During that period the internet revolution was at its infancy and not many people could see where our world was heading - but Johnson saw the future, and decided to help build it!

In 1999 he enrolled in Brigham Young University, a private research university located in Provo, Utah, owned by the LDS Church. He launched three startups to be able to afford his studies from 1999 to 2003, when he graduated.

The first one, selling cell phones, not only paid for his education, but also for many other students that he employed. Through this period, Johnson hired other college students to sell service plans along with cell phones - and he was earning a $300 commission per sale!

The success of his first startup led Johnson to launch Inquist together with three other partners. It was a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) company that combined the features of Vonage and Skype. The company ended operations in 2001 when together with his brother, Bryan launched his third start-up - this time in the real-estate business. Although this company didn't reach the desired outcome, it served as a lesson to Bryan: get back in the tech world!

He later enrolled in the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and got his MBA in 2007. During this period, he was selling credit card processing services to businesses, becoming the number one seller in the country, breaking sales records in his first year.

But this success didn't make him happy. He was fed up with working for big corporations, where his effort and talent didn't create any real value for him. He promptly quit and began planning the realization of his idea for Braintree: a new online payment service provider.

The Birth of a Payment Giant

Soon after, Bryan started to ask around. He went back to Utah where ten of his previous customers resided. He pitched the idea for Braintree and by managing to get 9 out of 10 to say yes, he had a $6200 monthly income. Enough money for him to hire people part-time and kick start the company.

Later on, in 2009 they were introduced to OpenTable by Chuck Templeton, who served as an advisor for the company. OpenTable had close to 11,000 restaurants worldwide using their services for reservations- a problem waiting to happen.

They stored credit card data for reservation and to do that they had to be PCI compliant. It was a problem they didn't want to bother with so they reached out to Braintree for a solution - which they gladly accepted. It resulted in a 1.2 million dollar contract with a $90.000 paid upfront.

In 2010 they launched their initial platform and started a collaboration with Hotel Tonight, a last-minute hotel booking app. Hotel Tonight as an app was made in only two and a half months and needed a money processor. Their first choice? Braintree!

A year later, they received the first investment of $34 million from Accel which put Braintree's name on the map. Giants like Uber, Shopify, Airbnb, and many more started working with Braintree, catapulting it to a staggering growth of 4,156%!

That same year, Bill Ready from Accel, who served as the company's advisor, stepped in as CEO while Bryan Johnson became the chairman. A year down the road with Johnson and Ready in their respective positions, the company had earned enough money to splurge on acquiring Venmo.

The $26.2 million acquisition led Braintree to grow further, announcing that they were processing $12 billion in payments annually in September 2013 - and $4 billion of that was on mobile!

When a small startup company manages to grow to a point where they process $12 billion annually through their services, everyone in Silicon Valley notices. Two weeks after, on September 26th, 2013, Paypal reached a deal with Johnson and bought Braintree for an incredible $800 million.

Braintree Today

Braintree today has expanded its services and upped its global network with the launch of Braintree extend and Braintree In-Store Payments. Braintree is currently present in 45 regions/countries worldwide and works with 130 currencies.

They operate in 7 locations like Chicago, New York, London, and Sydney to name a few, and have 500+ employees. No signs of stopping anytime soon.

The Main Takeaway

Bryan Johnson had set a goal in life to earn enough money so that he'll be able to retire by the age of 30 and live comfortably for the rest of his life. Having no money to support his family or his company, he hit rock bottom but he never gave up. He worked as a part-time door to door salesman while running a company and getting his MBA at the same time.

He used all the street skills and knowledge that he had acquired while going door to door and applied it to what would later become a multimillion-dollar company. He never stopped working for a second, he never doubted the amazing team he had with him and he never gave up on his dream to earn enough to live comfortably. Today he is still changing lives with his inspirational story and Braintree continues to thrive.