Tech Pitch: Azimo

The FinTech digital payments company recently backed with $10m Series A shares its start-up story...

Company name: Azimo
Founders: Michael Kent (39) and Marek Wawro (31)
Background: Kent: Serial entrepreneur – co-founder of Small World Financial Services
Based: London

Very simply, what does your tech start-up do?

Launched just two years ago, Azimo is a UK-based online social money transfer service which is revolutionising the way people send money around the world. Azimo is the cheapest and easiest way to send money to 198 countries worldwide, either to a bank account or to over 270,000 cash pick-up points around the world. Accessible via smartphone, tablet or desktop and even through Facebook, Azimo has created a better way to send money between countries.

As well as serving migrants who are sending regular transfers back home to support families and communities, Azimo’s customers include expats, travellers and people who use the service for large one-off payments, for example for purchasing property overseas.

Tell us why there’s a need – what do you disrupt?

Remittances out of the UK alone total more than $20bn every year and for hard-working migrants losing a tenner on an exchange rate conversion is really significant. The old-fashioned way that the likes of Western Union and Moneygram operate is broken! Why in this day and age do you need to walk into a store and take the risk and cost with an agent?

If you’re sat at home, accessing Azimo through your PC or smartphone – you are inputting your bank details so you’ll very rarely get that information or where you want the money picked up from wrong. Compare that to somebody who is running a shop who is serving cigarettes, baked beans and telephone calling cards and is too busy so your details are just written down on a piece of paper and then re-entered into a computer system later. It’s old-fashioned and expensive. The old system just doesn’t work. Social media and digital is the future.

There is a real and urgent need for more transparency in the way all financial institutions operate, including money exchange businesses like Western Union, who take large spreads on exchange rates. We launched Azimo with the principle aim of disrupting the traditional money transfer market with rates up to 85% cheaper than legacy transfer providers like Western Union and Moneygram.

We’re now fiercely challenging the exorbitant fees demanded by high street banks, the standard poor customer service and lengthy delivery times and showing that there is an affordable alternative. With Azimo’s confirmed delivery to the recipient’s account in 24 hours or less, travellers and migrants who are sick and tired of being ripped off by extortionate bank charges and poor exchange rates in the UK now have a more ethical and modern way of sending money abroad.

Are you funded?

Yes, 2014 has already been an exciting year for us, with the company closing a $10m Series A funding round in March led by Greycroft Partners, Accion and e-Ventures.

We’ve recently been linked in the media with a potential acquisition by Facebook, as the social network giant looks to enter the online money transfer market – we cannot confirm or deny that story but it does demonstrate that financial technology is clearly becoming a growth sector.

What were you doing before starting?

Michael Kent co-founded Small World Financial Services in 2006 and successfully built the business from a start-up to become Europe’s leading money transfer business with a $3.5bn turnover and $100m+ revenue in just six years. Prior to setting up SWFS, he was a corporate development director for News International focused on M&A, internal consultancy and new ventures, and a business director for the WPP Group plc. Kent is currently on the board of the Camden Roundhouse, the iconic North London music venue, and manage a portfolio of angel investments in the financial services sector.

What the best thing about where you’re based?

London is already the best place in the world to start a FinTech business but on the venture capital side London’s local providers will need to grow-up or see the US firms come over and eat their lunch.

This year we aggressively stepped up our fast-growing operations in the UK, Ireland, and Germany by rolling out the Azimo service further across Europe, including Austria. Our new location is perfect as the EU holds more potential than the US for us as the money transfer market is worth more than $102bn.

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