You’ve travelled abroad and forgotten to change your money in advance. Now you’re forced to pay extortionate exchange rates charged by the local banks or the airport’s bureau de change. It’s a situation that has been faced by many.
But 26-year-old Londoner Daniel Abrahams has co-founded a company set to battle currency woes.
He and business partner Stevan Litobac have devised a solution for both private individuals and the increasing number of small and medium sized companies (SMEs) doing business overseas.
Starting with just £500 in 2010, the entrepreneurs launched two foreign exchange price comparison websites — MyTravelMoney.co.uk and MyCurrencyTransfer.com. The aim was to make it easier for individuals to exchange and transfer money at competitive rates.
“Imagine you’re about to buy a house in Israel and need to make a very large pound-to-shekel transfer,” says Abrahams, who grew up in Hendon, north-west London. “Our websites help you compare a whole list of non-bank forex providers offering the best quotes. We are the Expedia or Kayak of currency. Instead of airlines, we list currency suppliers.
But Abrahams’ CurrencyTransfer.com website, aimed squarely at businesses, goes one-step further.
“At the moment, sending international business payments is expensive, time consuming and far from transparent,” says Abrahams. “Now we’ve forced forex brokers to show live feeds of the best rates they can offer versus the actual market rate. This means brokers are actually bidding against each other to win your business.”
The Manchester University graduate explains that while such tools have long been available to major FTSE 100 companies such as Shell or BP, this is the first time SMEs will have access to a platform that could save them thousands of pounds per transaction. For an import-export business transferring hundreds of thousands of pounds several times a year, the savings are significant.
He claims that he has facilitated “over 600 million dollars worth of currency turnover” since the 2010 launch. His business takes a percentage on each transaction generated through his company’s platform.
The start-up story began with the advice and support of Jewish employment charity, TrainE-TraidE. Abrahams has since taken the business from the Google Campus in Shoreditch to the heart of Tel Aviv’s financial district. In addition to a Covent Garden-based team of five employees, it also has an Israel office with seven full-time employees handling the technical and programming aspects of the business.
Before setting up the Tel Aviv office, Abrahams spent three months in Israel searching for the top high-tech talent. Abrahams, whose mother is Israeli, speaks glowingly about the “Israeli entrepreneurial mindset.
“The culture comes from the experience of the battleground and that means it’s win at all costs,” he says.
“Israelis look at the big success stories like Waze and Viber, and think they could be the ones to create the next billion-dollar company.”
After long hours in the Israel office, he spent evenings improving his Hebrew at ulpan classes. As part of his “personal business plan”, he plans to make aliyah.
In terms of future expansion, Abrahams is bullish. “We are looking to open new offices all around the world, including in Australia, Canada, Asia and Europe. Our business model can expand internationally pretty quickly. By the end of the year we are hoping to reach 25 to 30 in-house staff,” he says.
“We’ve got healthy cash in the bank to already start expanding organically. But once the new venture capital investment kicks in, that’s when we are hoping to supercharge our growth.”
Abrahams is now taking part in the UK Trade & Investment delegation to South by Southwest, a festival in Texas which has a reputation for boosting the profile of high-tech start-ups.