TransferWise is a London-based business started by two Estonian mates, Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann. The business was a stroke of genius on behalf of Kristo who, in 2008, decided to send his chunky £10,000 bonus back to his home country from London. After sending the money, Kristo noticed that he was missing £500 of it. As it turns out, the bank had taken a 5% cut for their ‘services’. Angry at himself and angry at the banks, he got in touch with Taavet and they vowed to make a change.
A steady growth
BBC reports that Kristo and Taavet began using the service to transfer the money just between themselves via small transactions. Soon, the platform steadily grew via word of mouth. Thanks to a favourable tech review or two, TransferWise went international.
A New York venture firm called IA Ventures initially invested in the guys after European firms were being fiscally conservative during the late 2000s. With this funding and a nod of approval from the UK’s Financial Services Authority, Kristo and Taavet soon drew the attention of Sir Richard Branson and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin.
How TransferWise became a winner
For Branson, Levchin, and four million other users, TransferWise’s appeal is simple: it asks for a flat transfer rate of 0.5% – as opposed to the big banks’ standard 5%. That’s it. No hidden costs or unpleasant surprises when the money lands overseas. Amd it’s because of this simple formula that there are now 10 global TransferWise offices in places like Tokyo, Budapest, and the boys’ Estonian capital of Tallinn.