11. TransferWise

Eating up foreign-exchange fees.

Founders: Taavet Hinrikus, Kristo Kaarmann (CEO)
Launched: 2010
Headquarters: London
$397.8 million (PitchBook)
Valuation: $1.6 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Machine learning
Banks, wire-transfer services, financial services, currency exchanges

George Kavallines | CNBC

TransferWise co-founders Taavet Hinrikus, the first employee at Skype, and Kristo Kaarmann, a former management consultant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, came up with the idea for their London-based company when they grew tired of the fees they were paying big banks to transfer money between their jobs in Estonia and London. Banks and exchange kiosks can charge anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent of the total amount you're looking to send. TransferWise charges that day's bank exchange rate, which is the best possible exchange rate at the time of a given transfer. It also tells you exactly how much you'll pay in fees on every single transfer, which can be as low as 1 percent of the total, depending on the currency. Today more than 2 million customers send over $1 billion each month on the platform.

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Last year TransferWise introduced its borderless account, which allows business users in the U.K. and Europe to hold 28 different currencies, with a local account number and the ability to switch currencies instantly. It's designed for people who need to receive and send money abroad and who want to utilize the company's low exchange rate and fees. The company plans to roll it out in the United States later this year.

So far, TransferWise, which became profitable for the first time last year on about $100 million in revenues, has raised $397 million, including a Series E round of $280 million in November. IVP and Old Mutual Global Investors led the round. It plans to use the money to develop its borderless account and expand in the Asia-Pacific and Latin American markets. Co-founder Kaarmann was named CEO in July, replacing co-founder Hinrikus, who announced he was stepping down but staying on in a part-time role as chairman and board member.