Business Technology

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Currency startup poised to grab bigger slice of market

Dublin Web Summit

INNOVATION: Brett Myers
INNOVATION: Brett Myers

Tom Lyons

In an open-necked shirt last Tuesday, Brett Meyers looks like a tech guy, but he talks like the ex-banker he is when it comes to his business. An Australian, the managing director of Currency Fair last week secured $2.5m (€1.8m) in a new funding round led by Frontline Ventures and a few angel investors.

In just three-and-a-half years Currency Fair has helped customers exchange €600m worth of foreign exchange saving them, Meyers estimates, €20m in bank fees. Not bad for a company which, until last week, had boot-strapped itself up with only €1m in investment.

Currency Fair is a peer-to-peer exchange that matches up customers all over the world in order to allow them exchange currency at a fraction of what they would pay otherwise. "This new funding will allow us push out our marketing spend and expand," Meyers explained. "In the first quarter of next year we'll do an even chunkier round which will be for product enhancements as well as more marketing spend." Next round funding he said would be between $5m and $10m.

"Our problem is, even though over €2m a day is going through our site, this is still tiny compared with the size of the market," Meyers said.

"Our challenge is to raise awareness that we are out there among consumers and educate them to understand we are the cheapest."

Meyers, who announced his new fundraising at last week's Web Summit, said Currency Fair employed 24 staff in Dublin and would hire more after securing fresh funding. Meyers declined to say how much equity his company was giving in return for new funding, but said its management retained majority control.

Everyone, he said, from British pensioners living in Spain who want to swap pounds for euro to Irish emigrants working in Australian mines who want to send money home cheaply, is using Currency Fair. "Small and medium enterprises are also about one-fifth of our business," he added.

"We don't have large corporate customers as they are big enough to get good rates from the banks themselves."

Meyers said Currency Fair decided to locate in Dublin because of its "startup eco-system" and the support being offered by Enterprise Ireland.

"I think the Irish Government recognises now that the long-run driver of the economy is innovation," he added.

Meyers said, however, that Ireland needed to make it more tax efficient for startups to offer its employees options.

"People are leaving stable jobs with, say, Facebook or Google to do a startup so they need to be incentivised to take on something more risky."

Meyers said bringing in Frontline was not just about money and that its partner Will Prendergast had also helped them learn how to do things better. "This would be main advice to first-time entrepreneurs. Get more advice earlier on," Meyers said.

"The tendency is to just think you know your product and that's enough. You need someone on your team who knows things (about your sector) and saves you having to discover things yourself."

"Look, I never intended to do a startup. I just decided I had an idea and I wanted to do it. I know now that the more startups there are in Ireland the more success there will be. It feeds itself."

Sunday Independent

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