Richard Branson, Peter Thiel, Nikolas Zennström and other big names back $100 million free money transfer campaign for startups

Apr 18, 2013
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Taavet Hinrikus, part of the original team that built Skype, has launched a campaign to give 1000 EU startups $100k each of free international money transfers, using the technology he has developed for TransferWise, the only service that allows regular people to access the real, mid-market exchange rate. All startups participating in the campaign will receive $100k TransferWise voucher, which will be good through April 14, 2014. Hinrikus’ primary mission with this campaign is to help European startups save money and focus their limited resources on growing their business, rather than wasting precious resources on bank fees incurred via activities such as paying employees or suppliers abroad, setting up international offices or raising investments from foreign entities. Hinrikus and other backers of the effort also hope that this will ease things a bit as EU startups look to expand internationally.

In speaking about his inspiration for launching this effort, Hinrikus adds:

“I remember all too well how depressing it was to throw away the precious little resources we had in the early days of Skype. We didn’t have investment and were struggling – every pound and euro needed to count. Working between London, Tallinn and Stockholm, meant we were constantly wasting money on banking fees. It was important to me to do something about this for other startups when I got a chance – TransferWise’s technology and this campaign is my small way of doing that.”

Several serious big-name backers

The campaign already has a lot of buzz and has backing from some 25 highly prominent startups and others from business world including, Sir Richard Branson, Niklas Zennström, CEO of Atomico, co-founder of Skype; Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal; Richard Moross, founder of MOO, Sherry Coutu, serial entrepreneur and investor; TCIO, Jon Bradford from Techstars; and Eileen Burbidge, partner at Passion Capital just to name a few. Although these backers are throwing their weight behind the campaign, many look at the what TransferWise does in general as a much-needed game-changer in the area of financial services. Sir Richard Branson spoke to this point today on his personal blog while Peter Thiel also emphasized this point stating:

 “Innovation in the banking industry typically involves rent-seeking or unsound derivatives, which offer marginal benefits to consumers such as startups. TransferWise demonstrates true innovation in banking by enabling its users to retain their wealth across borders, instead of paying big fees to big banks.” 

French involvement?

Needless to say, this is a campaign that could be a huge benefit to many startups across the EU. In light of this, one would think that French backers would be better represented   Guys like Xavier Niel, who’s always looking to disrupt the status quo, Bernard Arnault or Stéphane Richard are nowhere to be found or, at least, haven’t been as vocal about their support. Kima is an investor in TransferWise though, so I would think are probably on board. In France there’s much talk about how to support startups and minimize the red tape and cost for them. International efforts such as this are a positive step towards tackling some of these problems. In addition, one thing that is really nice about this is that it is an international effort to address an issue that is a headache for many startups expanding internationally, especially in the EU. Even more reason for France and other underrepresented EU countries to more visibly get on-board.

How you can participate

Interested startups should visit http://transferwise.com/startups and sign-up by May 10, 2013 to claim a voucher for free transfers up to $100,000. The vouchers will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Startups do not need to use the voucher in one go, but instead can opt to use them as they see fit as long as it’s before the April 10, 2014 expiry date. In terms of which currencies its good for, TransferWise supports currency transfers between Euro, British Pound, Polish Zloty, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian Krone and also supports transfers from these currencies to US Dollars. Transfers from US Dollars to European currencies are coming soon.

Remember that there are only 1,000 vouchers available, so sign up asap!