Three years ago, Daniel Abrahams and Stevan Litobac met online through a business website and discovered they shared the same gripe: both felt short-changed by travel money transactions and international payments. But their bugbear soon turned into a very profitable idea writes Hayley Minn.
Founded in 2010, MyCurrencyTransfer.com is now one of the UK’s leading foreign exchange comparison websites and claims to help more than 120,000 people and businesses find the fairest and cheapest currency deals every month. Abrahams and Litobac even won Startup of the Year at this year’s TrainE-TraidE Business Awards and recently relocated their business to Israel.
Saving customers up to £5,000 on every equivalent £100,000 transferred, Abrahams, 26, who is originally from Hendon, said: “Rather than getting ripped off by the bank, which offers hefty exchange rate markups and extortionate fees, we partner with the world’s leading foreign exchange specialists.”
MyCurrencyTransfer’s sister site, MyTravelMoney.co.uk, looks at the live exchange rates of all major UK travel money suppliers. The young entrepreneurs claim this saves customers up to 10 percent on travel money deals, versus the rates you would find at airport bureau.
Even better, customers can have their currency delivered to their front door by the next morning.The pair recently decided to relocate their management team to Tel Aviv, which is home to the largest proportion of startups per capita in the world. They are now working towards establishing a permanent office in Israel.
Abrahams, a former Hendon United Synagogue member, said: “It’s been great to mingle with some of the brightest tech minds on the planet, and to see first-hand the business running smoothly across two countries is a very satisfying feeling.”
Studying international management at Manchester University, Abrahams put his skills to great use – last year alone, the company’’ turnover increased by 400 percent. He believes the most important thing to do when starting a business is to “work hard every day on bettering your product and always be thinking strategically about the business.”
He adds: “Once you grow to a certain level, you cannot be in control of everything, and delegation becomes hugely important. From design to marketing to tech talent, the goal is to hire smarter people than yourself.”
He tells me he is very proud that the business has been entirely self-funded, with growth coming from reinvesting the company’s profits. And while he and Litobac are often approached by business angels and venture capital firms offering to invest in the company, the duo believe they can “continue to grow the business organically and profitably this year without taking investment”.
Along with launching their first international office in Tel Aviv, Abrahams said the greatest moment of his career to date was seeing their “first collection of money transfer and travel money orders come through the site”. He said: “It was definitely validation of our business model.”
Abrahams admits to making his fair share of mistakes along the way, but says they are important to “learn from”. He said: “In the early days, we weren’t nearly as aggressive as we should have been with our digital marketing and product roll-outs.”
Abrahams believes the reason MyCurrencyTransfer has done so well and remains popular with online audiences is due to the simple fact they are “not a bank or a dodgy currency salesman”.
He added: “The secret to any business success is to solve a big problem people have in their lives. In our case, foreign exchange is a $400billion a year global problem, and we use technology to find customers the best value deals on the market without any agenda.”
Abrahams reveals he wants to expand into new markets and bolster his team. He and Litobac also aim to launch a car hire and airport parking comparison service within the next four months.
When asked what advice he would give to someone starting a business, he smiles and quotes LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your website, you’ve launched too late.”