CurrencyTransfer.com: Daniel Abrahams

Daniel Abrahams shares his “Expedia for business foreign exchange” start-up and talks building the right team and global ambitions

Name: Daniel Abrahams
Age: 26
Company name: CurrencyTransfer.com
Number of Employees: 8
Location: London
Date launched: 12/02/2014
Website: www.currencytransfer.com

Tell us what your business does:

Online marketplace matching businesses with the most competitive international payment quotes. Think Expedia for business foreign exchange.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

We want to make business foreign exchange as simple and as easy as booking a plane ticket online. Over the past three years, we’ve seen industries such as travel and insurance disrupted by price comparison and aggregation. Nothing existed for businesses making cross-border payments, and we aim to solve that.

International payments is very cloudy, expensive and opaque. CurrencyTransfer.com was built on three pillars: transparency, access and choice.

How did you know there was a market for it?

The size of the business cross-border payment industry is $21tn per annum. Very early on, we got out of the building and spoke with potential users of the marketplace. The feedback from the everyday importer, exporter and professional service firm was that business foreign exchange is broken.

It’s one of the last areas of financial services where the customer truly doesn’t know what a simple transaction is costing their bottom line. The banks are applying high mark-ups of up to 5% away from the ‘real exchange rate’ and slapping on extortionate fees. 90% of our addressable market are still transacting with the high street banks.

Those who are savvy and shopping around with currency brokers end up losing out due to inefficient shopping around, which takes time and is inaccurate due to market fluctuations. It became apparent very quickly that there was a market for bringing currency aggregation into one clean, transparent venue.

What were you doing before starting up?

Before starting the business, Daniel was studying business in Sydney and co-founder Stevan Litobac was travelling around Europe. We were both astonished at the mark-ups banks and bureaus were applying to the ‘real rate’, concealing profit with big old signs saying ”we offer 0% commission” or ”fee free payment.” It’s the classic bait and switch, which we feel is wrong and unfair. So, we set out on a road to try and fight for a fairer and cheaper deal on currency.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes. Ever since my headmaster at school said ”you have a problem with authority” I thought it was best to carve out an entrepreneurial career!

How did you raise the money?

The business has been completely self-funded to date by me and Stevan. We recently demoed our innovation at Finovate, the world’s largest conference showcasing the future of financial technology. We were approached by a number of investors who are keen to join our mission to fight for a fairer and cheaper deal on currency. In order to grow aggressively in 2014, we will be looking for strategic partners to help realise our goals.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We take platform fees from our panel of currency suppliers streaming live rates to the marketplace. Customers still get the best rates each time they trade due to the competitive environment we are building, where foreign exchange companies bid to win your business.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?    Getting buy in from the FCA authorised currency suppliers has taken a lot of relationship building and nurturing. We’re essentially asking these guys to ”pull down their trousers” and reveal live exchange rates, in competition, on a third part website. As the first company to request this, it’s a challenge we’ve had to overcome.

What was your first big breakthrough?

We were delighted when the first three currency suppliers to our marketplace said, ”Hey, we’re in 2014, let’s embrace transparency.” Together with our initial customer validation interviews, we felt a perfect storm that we’re solving a need for the customer and addressing a massive problem with international trade.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Find the right team. If you’re building a web based business, it’s critical to have a balance of skills in the founding team between development, marketing and design. Lastly, just do it. In the face of adversity and smart people saying existing business models can’t be disrupted, take comments on board but carve your own path to success. Identify a tired and broken industry and innovate!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

We’d love to be the platform of choice for every business globally that trades internationally. Rather than going direct to a bank or broker, international businesses see CurrencyTransfer.com as the marketplace which will get them the most competitive international payment quotes, on every trade.

We’d strategically like to have a presence in the UK, Australia, Canada and the USA. Finally, as visionaries, we’d love to have helped the whole market move towards 100% price transparency.

Businesses in 2014 deserve to know the exact cost to the pound and pennies of making a cross-border payment.

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