Mission Driven Startups

So what is it about Transferwise that doesn’t ring true?

I don’t want to sound overly critical because I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiment, but is it me or does this level of sincerity seems ever so slightly forced?

Yes, mission-focused business have a strong sense of purpose and I have no reason to doubt that Transferwise aims to provide a good service at a reasonable price. But that’s not exactly storming the Bastille is it?

A good service at a reasonable price is only radical in the light of global banks making billions of dollars profit at the expense of tax payers and even their own customers.

So, again, I applaud the sentiment, but are we really supposed to be so excited that you’re *not* going to rip us off?

I don’t think that is such a basis for self congratulation and I’m uncomfortable about the amount of effort TransferWise put into convincing us how genuine and well-meaning they are. Which genuine revolution ever had such slick marketing? Look at the photo at the head of this article. That’s a *physical* version of the Transferwise logo in front of the Royal Stock Exchange and the Bank of England. Their advertising agency’s props department spent ages constructing that ‘crack’ in the pavement so it looks real but does no actual damage to a central London landmark. I can’t imagine how much that cost.


The money transfer business has a really big social issue at its heart. Foreign workers at the lower end of the income scale often send home huge proportions of their earnings. Remittances to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and China dwarf the personal payments to other countries.

These are transfers made by the lowest paid to the poorest countries. So if I am going to be impressed by the “mission” of a transfer operation, I will be impressed by the mission to make it cheaper for foreign workers to help their families back home. I would be impressed by such an operation offering genuine support to foreign workers (the source of most their income) by providing legal services to exploited domestic workers, human rights assistance to victims of trafficking and support for calls for minimum wages and employment standards.

Is a “mission” to offer good service at a reasonable price *really* something we should get excited about?

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