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8. TransferWise

A cheaper way to send money

Kristo Käärmann, co-founder and CEO of TransferWise
Source: Transferwise
Kristo Käärmann, co-founder and CEO of TransferWise

Founders: Taavet Hinrikus, Kristo Käärmann
Date launched: 2010
Funding: $91 million (Source: TransferWise)
Industries disrupted: Money wire-transfer services, financial services, currency exchanges

This London-based firm, started in 2010, allows people to make international money transfers among 292 currencies, with plans to add another 300 this year.

Co-founders Taavet Hinrikus, the first employee at Skype, and Kristo Käärmann, a former management consultant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, came up with the idea for the company when they tired of the fees big banks were charging them to transfer money between their jobs in Estonia and London.

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TransferWise charges 1 percent for transactions below $5,000 and 0.7 percent for amounts over that. The company claims to be eight times less expensive than banks. It's able to do that, since its peer-to-peer model uses a proprietary algorithm to match customers with their counterpart in another country looking to transfer money in the other direction, avoiding currency-exchange firms and banks.

Since its founding, the company says its users have transferred $4.5 billion around the world. In February, TransferWise launched its currency-transfer services for the first time in the U.S. so that Americans can now send money overseas for less.

"Taavet was based in London but was paid in euros, and I worked in London but paid a mortgage in Estonia in euros. We devised a fair way to exchange money using the mid-market rate—without the markup and fees charged by banks—and TransferWise was born." -Kristo Käärmann, co-founder and CEO, TransferWise

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