Daily: Wise founders' story contained plenty of twists and turns

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Wise, formerly Transferwise, staff form up a Euro symbol. Source: Wise

Wednesday's London stock exchange (LSE) listing of Estonian-founded fintech firm Wise, formerly Transferwise, which created Estonia's first two billionaires in Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus, was the culmination of over a decade's development, daily Postimees reports on its English-language page, with the story featuring along the way such notables as Richard Branson.

As reported by ERR News, Wise debuted on the LSE Wednesday with a value of £8 billion sterling, or €9.3 billion.

The company renamed itself Wise in February this year.

A more detailed time-line of the foundation of the firm, noted investors involved, some of its famous marketing campaigns and other aspects can be found in the Postimees article, but in short is as follows:

  • To 2008: Wise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus is working at another famed Estonian startup, Skype, as its director of strategy, and engages in a practice whereby he would transfer an equivalent amount from his to Käärmann's U.K. accounts, in sterling. The latter would do the same simultaneously and in reverse, using the-then Estonian currency, the Kroon, between the pair's Estonian bank accounts, leading to savings of thousands of euros per annum.
  • 2010: Käärmann files his company with the relevant U.K. registry in March.
  • 2011: Estonia goes on to the euro at the beginning of the year. The first of several share splits takes place in May, while the firm gets its first rounds of funding later that year.
Kristo Käärmann. Source: Wise
  • 2012: The pair start an initially unsuccessful search for significant investors, renaming the company Transferwise in July that year, with offices in London and Tallinn.
  • 2013: US$6 million is raised, including from noted PayPal and Facebook investor Peter Thiel.
  • 2014: A share split takes place in April, and Virgin founder Richard Branson becomes an investor later in the year, after US$25 million is raised in June. Company employs around 100 people.
  • 2015: Transferwise has raised around US$58 million by January, with investors headed by noted VC firm Andressen Horowitz, while firm's market value is now around a billion dollars. The famous "underwear" ad campaign takes place in London in this year, while the company now employs 300 people. US operations start in the same year.
TransferWise cofounder Taavet Hinrikus Source: Priit Mürk/ERR
  • 2016: The firm becomes a 'Unicorn', one with a market value of over a billion US dollars. Estonia has half-a-dozen of these at the time of writing, the highest per capita incidence of any European country, it is reported.
  • 2017: Last reported direct investment rounds bring in around US$280 million. Company reports that it is now turning a profit.
  • 2019-2020: Hinrikus and some other shareholders, including staffers, sell shares to new investors. A secondary funding round raises over €260 million. In late 2019, Virgin founder Richard Branson reportedly sells his Transferwise stock.
  • 2021: Company renamed Wise in February and floats on LSE in July, with an initial value of €9.3 billion.

The full Postimees article is here

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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