By @. CurrencyFair are an Irish company who are making great progress in the area of international currency transfers who we featured last November. In the booming Irish FinTech (financial technology) sector with many high profile exits already such as RealEx and TrustEV, CurrencyFair are already a long way along the road to being one of Ireland’s next FinTech success stories.
In late 2015, in a highly symbolic move CurrencyFair outgrew their 80 staff capacity building in Ranelagh and moved into the old Bank Of Ireland offices in Ballsbridge to enable the company to continue expanding. We caught up with founder Brett Meyers to learn a little bit more about the company’s growth and successful evolution. Brett is personable and easy going, but is clearly excited and passionate about the future for the company he co-founded in 2010.
The fabled pool room in the new Ballsbridge offices
It is clear from Brett’s accent that he might have spent some time elsewhere. Brett is actually an expat from Perth, Australia. He arrived in Ireland via the UK to expand his horizons. He soon realised that this was where he wanted to stay and he has now been in Ireland for 15 years.
— paul hayes (@paulhayesman) November 21, 2015
CurrencyFair evolved out of an idea that solves a pain many of us have experienced. CurrencyFair first opened for business in May 2010 but Brett and his co-founders had set about solving the problem of expensive and inconvenient money transfer services in 2008.
As with many successful early stage startups in Ireland initial funding came from friends, family, and Enterprise Ireland. The growth since 2010 has been impressive to watch. Speaking with Brett he was confident that the move to Ballsbridge will give the company the capacity to remain and continue growing from their new base for at least the rest of 2016 if not beyond. The headcount growth over the last five years tells its own story. At the end 2010 CurrencyFair had 6 staff. 6 in 2011, 7 in 2012, 25 in 2013, 47 by 2014, and then doubling in 2015 to 94. Already early into 2016 and it is now 96 with plans to hire more.
— CurrencyFair (@CurrencyFair) February 28, 2016
We asked Brett to explain what exactly does CurrencyFair do for its clients. He explained “CurrencyFair is a peer to peer currency transfer service that empowers people to send money from their domestic bank account to their own, or a third party’s, foreign bank account up to 90% cheaper than they can using a bank or broker”. The series of videos on their website and their youtube channel are short well put together explanations of how it works, and why they are able to undercut traditional banking options.
To see more of their great explainer videos see here
Looking forward we asked Brett what the future offers for CurrencyFair. He clearly articulates that the global opportunity is massive. “We’re changing the way people send money abroad, and we won’t stop there. We’re great for expats moving their money, and businesses paying foreign suppliers, and all in all there are trillions moving annually”. The growing volume of transactions processed supports this positive outlook for the future. To date CurrencyFair have helped customers transfer €3.1 billion, saving them an estimated €160 million in transaction charges.
For CurrencyFair to maintain their rapid and necessary growth in the face of a crowded market offering to exchange your currency it has been necessary to raise funds to maintain their rate of expansion. To date they have achieved this by using in-house fundraising initiatives. They are open to using advisors for future rounds of fundraising, however they feel it is important to choose the right investment partners. CurrencyFair have turned down many potential investors. One investor they have partnered with is Dublin VC Frontline Ventures. There is a great story around this partnership and one that is perhaps representative of why Dublin has experienced the FinTech success that it has enjoyed.
Brett explains how CurrencyFair came to collaborate with VC Frontline Ventures. “The relationship started through a chance meeting with Will Prendergast of Frontline Ventures in Dax Restaurant, near our very first office in Dublin. Despite it being early days, Will had already heard of CurrencyFair, which would have been unlikely had we chosen to base ourselves in a larger Fintech / VC community like London or San Francisco. The relationship developed for at least a year before Frontline actually invested – this is a great way to build a lasting partnership with your investors.”
— Brett Meyers (@brettlor) February 10, 2016
To date CurrencyFair has raised €13.5 million. The bulk of investment has gone into building the product and the CurrencyFair teams. Brett explains that marketing CurrencyFair has been greatly helped by the fact that it is such a compelling story.”Word spreads amongst people who need to transfer money overseas, without the need for much marketing. Conversations in pubs, articles in the press, friends referring friends and family referring family. All of this free word of mouth and pen is now gaining momentum in the business community too.”
— CurrencyFair (@CurrencyFair) October 28, 2015
When we first visited the new CurrencyFair offices, for a guided tour before their exuberant nightly WebSummit FinTech gatherings, it was clear that Brett and the team were excited to move into the new offices. We asked him if it was it hard to find suitable new office space in Dublin’s tight commercial market. Meyers confirmed it was a challenge, albeit a positive one. ”The market for commercial space has really picked up since our previous move just two years ago. It’s a great sign that Dublin is back on its feet.”
With CurrencyFair’s rapid expansion we wondered how challenging hiring had been for Irish fintech SME, especially with much competition for talent in Dublin from the American tech giants. Brett felt positive about the calibre of staff that they had recruited. He also felt that CurrencyFair offers it’s own special brand of enjoyable work culture and different opportunities than might be experienced in a large US owned tech company. “We’ve been lucky to attract and retain a very talented workforce. We are up against the American tech giants recruitment wise, but I think that we offer a considerably richer and more dynamic work experience and the sort of people we want to attract recognise this. There’s a real opportunity for every new hire to make a meaningful difference at CurrencyFair.”
Finally we asked Brett what tips he might have for other companies hoping to grow beyond startup size and on to the rapid scaling path followed by CurrencyFair and other successful Irish FinTech companies. Brett was clear on the value of mentors and the help they can provide. “I’d advise any new start up business to seek out good mentors early on in the life of the business, and try to get as much advice as possible. There are many things you can only learn through experience, so being able to short circuit that and benefit from the wisdom of those that have gone before is a big advantage.”