WeSwap: Simon Sacerdoti and Jared Jesner
Backed by super angels, peer-to-peer travel exchange service WeSwap has grand ambitions to disrupt the currency exchange market
Name: Jared Jesner and Simon Sacerdoti
Age: 34 and 42
Company Name: WeSwap
Staff numbers: 14
Location: Greater London
Date Launched: 30/10/2013
Tell us what your business does:
Simon: WeSwap is an online, person-to-person travel money exchange service which travellers can use to swap their currency for a rate of just 1%, without using banks or expensive retail outlets.
WeSwap is the ideal product for the social media age, offering an alternative way for people to get hold of their foreign currency. WeSwap believes in simple transparent pricing and by cutting out the middle-man – the community of users is guaranteed the best possible rate.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Jared: As a duo, we spotted a gap in the market for a peer-to-peer travel money exchange service and were both frustrated by the huge rates banks and currency exchange bureaus were able to charge consumers.
The WeSwap journey began in my trading days, with the realisation that what we pay for travel money bears very little resemblance to the actual exchange rate traded in the currency markets.
The next question was how would this work in practice? The answer came during my time working at Shell and my exposure to the world of payments. At this time in early 2010, prepaid cards were a new and emerging trend which brought along the epiphany moment about how to deliver the WeSwap service.
With extensive experience in advising successful entrepreneurs and corporate finance, Simon recognised the opportunity in this innovative idea and together we both quickly realised the synergy between our skills and experiences to make WeSwap a success.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We believe in simple, transparent pricing and we knew consumers would respond well to such upfront, best possible rates.
Combine this with the ever-growing peer-to-peer market and we knew we were onto a winner, in this social media age where people look to fast, accessible and simple everyday solutions.
What were you doing before starting up?
Simon: I was a chartered accountant with nearly twenty years’ experience advising entrepreneurial businesses on corporate finance (including a number of tech businesses).
Jared started out working as a city trader at large investment banks for five years, before moving on to work at the oil company Shell on the management of payment-related IT projects.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Simon: Definitely! After I left University in 1992, I was one of the founders of an online multi-player game. This was my first exposure to business and I loved it. I realised how little I knew and wanted to gain some formal training and education in business, and decided to pursue training as a chartered accountant. This led to a 15 year career in corporate finance, which has provided me with the experience I now bring to WeSwap.
Jared: Honestly, I didn’t always want to run my own business. When Simon and I came up with the idea of WeSwap, I knew I had to create this service and this specific idea would be a success. I didn’t ever want an excuse to run a business for the sake of it but, with WeSwap, I have the chance to run a business that I am fully behind and 100% believe in.
How did you raise the money?
Jared: WeSwap is backed by two super angel investors as well as a variety of smaller investors.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Jared: We’ve had to challenge some pretty entrenched thinking in the world of payments, and persuade some big players that what they believed was impossible was in fact possible. It was also important for us to recognise that we need to work with this regulated industry to go anywhere in this business, adhering to set rules and working with reputable names such as MasterCard to build our reputation.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
WeSwap allows consumers to swap directly with one another, removing the middle man such as banks and high street currency exchange providers, charging just 1% for the service. As a result, this brings down the cost of currency exchange and offers an unbeatable proposition to travellers.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Simon: The moment we knew that we had achieved what we had set out to do – our first ‘real’ customer taking a live journey through loading an account, swapping money and spending the funds using the WeSwap prepaid MasterCard.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Simon: Build an excellent support network including peers that are at a similar stage of starting up, whatever sector they are in. Hire the best team you can justify for the stage you are at and the funding you have. If you don’t value what you are doing and selling why should anybody else? If possible, don’t undertake the journey alone – the partnership between Jared and myself has been really key to our success. We have challenged each other, ensured rigour of thinking, and supported each other in the tough moments.
Jared: Don’t expect your idea to work straight away! It may be brilliant, but in this industry you will need to wear a thick skin to survive. Challenge is one of the best things about being an entrepreneur and perseverance is your key to success! Don’t be afraid of failure, embrace it and use it as a chance to prove your strength of mind to turn things around.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
Jared: We want to revolutionise the travel money exchange industry and to become the leaders in travel money across the world. Ultimately, we want to disrupt the currency exchange market and inspire a world where swapping money is the norm.