Tuesday 25 October 2016

Investor Dunphy puts several million into fintech startup

Fast-growing firm WeSwap enables travellers to save when changing money

John Reynolds

Published 09/10/2016 | 02:30

Waterford finance entrepreneur Martin Dunphy. Photo: Avonlee
Waterford finance entrepreneur Martin Dunphy. Photo: Avonlee

Waterford finance entrepreneur Martin Dunphy has invested several million euro in a fast-growing, UK-based fintech startup that enables travellers to save money on currency exchange and swap it with others who have the corresponding currency.

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WeSwap's person-to-person platform uses a multi-currency prepaid debit card and an app, and has over 200,000 customers who can manage up to 18 currencies on their card.

Already partnering with online hotel and travel booking firms, including Expedia and SkyScanner, the firm is growing by up to 25pc every month. In the next 12 months it plans to form more partnerships with bigger organisations in the travel industry, such as airlines and hotel groups, Dunphy said.

The Waterford businessman made an estimated €35m in 2014 when he sold UK consumer finance business Marlin Financial Group to its biggest rival, which was owned by US private equity giant JC Flowers.

"Transparency is increasingly a huge issue for consumers in business, and this applies to foreign currency exchange, where a business might offer zero commission, but don't offer the market rate, or there are hidden fees throughout the process.

"WeSwap offers you the market rate, and takes a smaller percentage, 1pc to 1.4pc, compared to credit card providers, which charge up to 2.75pc on both payments or cash withdrawals," he added.

Dunphy's London-based investment firm Ascot Capital Partners led the last €8m investment round in the company, ahead of a €4m crowdfunding round that will begin next week.

WeSwap - whose founder Jared Jesner previously worked as a currency trader in a City investment bank before spending five years with oil giant Shell as a business and technology manager focusing on cards and payments - has a number of rivals in this space including Travelex and Revolut, which raised money on a valuation of £42m in July.

"We've got people on the board and we're working actively with the firm's team to grow it and secure more funding. They've proved the model in the UK and now it's about expanding to other countries too, to which we may also have to locate some new staff. Our level of adoption and usage metrics are all going in the right direction. The cost of acquiring a new customer needs to be driven down as we scale up. The next target is 500,000 users and we carry on from there.

"We have a roadmap for the business with key targets and financing dates. There will be some hurdles but we're with them for at least several years. If it reaches a point where it needs tens of millions more financing, we might have to look at whether we're still best placed to support it," Dunphy added.

As well as Social Toaster, a US social media startup with clients including Sony and Viacom and the UN, he has also backed Immuta, a cybersecurity startup set up by four former US intelligence agencies contractors.

The firm is targeting the booming enterprise software market and claims to provide the highest level of security for processing sensitive data, primarily using a data management and analytics toolkit aimed at data scientists, business analysts and data engineers in these businesses.

He has also put several million euros into residential apartment blocks in Philadelphia in the US.

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