The story begins in London, when the TrasferWise Co-Founder, Taavet Hinrikus, was still Skype employee. He was receiving his salary in Estonian kroons (the official currency before Estonia joined the Eurozone), and had to deal with fees, while exchanging it to British pounds. And as he was already a part of a revolutionary Skype, it was only a matter of time until he found a solution to his problems with international payments. That is how TransferWise was created.
This should be no surprise that his solution was not blatantly obvious, if you take into consideration the extensive period of time when this issue was bothering thousands if not millions of people. When Taavet was making his first steps in the industry, Bitcoin and PayPal were already there, and one would be pretty naive, thinking they were not looking for the solution themselves. But Hinrikus was first, which gave his TransferWise a deserved boost, as he managed to solve the problems with high fees and charges and the low level of customer service (trust me, if you’re dealing with big international money transfers, you want to feel as if you have anyone to speak to in case of trouble).
Ten years later, Estonian firm announced that they are planning to be directly listed in London, which would (according to them) mean more transparency, fairness, and also fewer costs for the investors. This is a sentiment that occurs in the FinTech industry really often.
Bloomberg commented on how TransferWise may not look like a FinTech monopolist, but it really makes enough profit. It’s excellent news for the European market, that a home-grown Unicorn is celebrating more and more successes. Although this used to be a trend, it’s not something you see every day anymore.
Rebranding and the company’s investors
Now, TransferWise is known as ‘Wise’, and it became really profitable. In 2011 Taavet was joined by Kristo Kaarmann, who helped him with making his company profitable, which finally happened in 2017. Since then, they are noting profits year by year, and going public has always been their ambition. Kristo states that they had always done things differently. That is why, instead of making a normal IPO (like others), their company is doing the direct listing.
In 2014, they were still gaining presence on the markets in the United Kingdom and in Europe generally. And only a year later, Taavet spoke at the TechCrunch event, where he openly criticized the tactics that they were previously using. One of those marketing stunts involved 100 naked people running around London. All this to highlight consumers’ problems with charges and the banks. Although the company was still only dreaming of joining the top percentile, they have already crossed their paths with the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority.
Kristo and Taavet are undoubtedly brave and have a really original approach as to how they are conducting their business. They first got Valar Ventures to invest in their endeavour, and then Richard Branson joined in. All this in the early rounds of investment. What is impressive, is the fact, that they managed to gather $33 million worth of funding while being still a 3-years old company.
Peter Thiel of Valar Ventures spoke of TransferWise in 2013, when he stated that the Estonian company represents true innovation by enabling its customers to retain their money and wealth internationally.
Also, Branson spoke about the company back in 2014, explaining why he even got involved with it. He highlighted that in his opinion, TransferWise tackled the status quo, which is the kind of mentality that he always had and adored in others. What he found exciting, was how they managed to simplify doing businesses without borders.
In 2015, the company received a whopping $58 million from Andreessen Horowitz, thus becoming their first-ever European investment. If you want to get to know more about TransferWise investors, the plans for the future, and more, visit Disruption Banking in order to read a comprehensive piece by Andy Samu: https://disruptionbanking.com/2021/06/21/wise-like-transferwise-why-is-wise-going-public-in-london/.