From 2 founders to 1000 employees — how a small-scale startup grew into a global community
We’re happy to announce we’re now 1000 employees strong. In the early days of TransferWise, back in 2011, it was just our two founders, Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus, who’d figured out a fairer and cheaper way to send money abroad.
Fast-forward to today and we’re now 60 nationalities, working in 9 cities, across 4 continents, powering 750+ currency routes and saving 2 million customers £60 million every month. That’s a lot of numbers.
So how did we grow so rapidly from 2 people, to 50, to 100 and now 1000? And what are the lessons we’ve learnt? We asked some of our people for their perspective on how they’ve seen our company grow into a global community.
“The kinds of problems our teams are working on impact millions of people every day, they’re pioneering new ways of moving money around the world and that’s a big responsibility.”
“Growing from a startup to a global company is not just about the number of people you hire, it’s the magic in finding the ones that work well together. People who make each other more effective, rather than slow each other down.
“Everyone at TransferWise is part of an independent, autonomous team of around 10–20 people. Teams make their own decisions. They are closest to our customers, so they decide what problems to solve and where to spend the most time.
“The kinds of problems our teams are working on impact millions of people every day, they’re pioneering new ways of moving money around the world and that’s a big responsibility. We give a lot trust to our teams and they need to be comfortable with that freedom.
“Organising by autonomous teams has helped us to scale fast, because we’re able to work on lots of different opportunities, in parallel, with little organisational overhead.
“We’re just at the very beginning of our story. I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can build together as our community grows bigger. Ask me this again when we reach 5000 employees!” Kristo Käärmann, founder and CEO
“Since joining our London office in February 2011, I’ve worked in a range of roles which include: product marketing; customer service; operations; customer insights and now customer communications.”
“I was the first employee at TransferWise! Originally from Estonia, I used to live in the same building as Kristo when he told me about his idea. We talked about who the potential customers might be and how they would use TransferWise to save money.
“One day, he called me saying he’d launched the company and asked if I’d I like to join? I said yes. I was a customer at heart and needed the service for myself. Since joining our London office in February 2011, I’ve worked in a range of roles which include: product marketing; customer service; operations; customer insights and now customer communications.
“The reason I’ve stayed at TransferWise is the challenging work and the mission we’re trying to achieve which I wholeheartedly believe in – money without borders. I’ve been a customer since day one and use TransferWise every day. There’s also the smart, lovely bunch of people I get to work with." Eva Tomaspolskaja, our first employee
“An idea that came from talking to our customers about the challenges they faced living cross-border lives, was the creation of our borderless accounts. Both of these initiatives started with the vision of a single employee around three years ago.”
“There are many ways of building a company and many successful cultures out there. Our path to this point isn’t the only way and may not have been the fastest way to get here. But one of the things that’s different at TransferWise, is the radical levels of ownership and empowerment.
“This is a double-edged sword. It means you can move fast to fix and resolve problems within your domain — without asking for permission. On the flip side, it means every problem you see, is your problem to resolve and this can be challenging at times. It’s sometimes hard to figure out where to focus.
“For example, an idea that came from talking to our customers about the challenges they faced living cross-border lives, was the creation of our borderless accounts. This initiative started with the vision of a single employee around three years ago. Today our borderless bank account is the first platform to offer true multi-currency banking for anyone that needs it. You can now hold and convert 28 currencies at the real exchange rate, with local bank details for the UK, US, Australia and Europe.
“How has TransferWise changed as we’ve grown? In many ways, we haven’t. People joining teams today feel like they are growing a network of small startups within TransferWise just as they did when we first launched.
“There’s still a lot of work to do and still masses of opportunity (we are still moving less than 1% of the world’s money!) — hence that early stage startup vibe of, move fast and take the opportunity, still exists.” Nilan Peiris, VP Growth
“The people you hire must be the kinds of personalities that aren’t happy with ok. They’ll want to work in a challenging environment where they can tackle problems that no one’s looked at before ,”
“Culture is the most important tool you have when growing a business. It’s how you attract the kinds of like-minded people who’ll get behind your organisation’s mission and purpose. It’s how you help these people come together to make an impact for your customers
and it’s how you retain them to make sure your business grows from strength to strength.
“However, this only works if your organisation has the kind of culture that empowers your employees to learn, grow, iterate and evolve as fast as possible. That’s what will give you the competitive edge. The people you hire must be the kinds of personalities that aren’t happy with ok. They’ll want to work in a challenging environment where they can tackle problems that no one’s looked at before and that impact millions of lives every day. That’s what we have at TransferWise.
“Although it’s not been easy to keep a consistent take on our culture as we’ve grown to 1000 employees, we’ve invested the time in making sure everyone in our organisation shares the same values and understands from day one what’s important to us as an organisation. This is how we make sure our culture doesn’t get diluted and that the people joining us now are just as passionate about what we’re trying to achieve for our customers as they were five years ago.” Catherine Alani, Global Head of Recruitment
Ambitious people thrive here, because they can naturally see the direct impact their work is having on our customers.”
“You might think TransferWise is as simple as sending money from A to B, but behind our app and website, is a complex engine of currencies and routes, that’s being built and powered by our talented teams, based in cities around the world.
I feel our employees naturally adapt to change well and it’s thrilling to work here. As an employee, this is the biggest benefit of all. I can join or create a team to work on whatever I think will help TransferWise the most. Over the past three years that’s ranged from Marketing, Finance, Business Intelligence, Databases, and most recently Planning and People/HR topics. Not only does nobody get in the way, they actively support me. It seems logical, but I’ve never seen it happen in another organisation to the degree it does at TransferWise.
Ambitious people thrive here, because they can naturally see the direct impact their work is having on our customers. Imagine the energy when 1000 people are working together with all that passion. That’s TransferWise.” Jeff McClelland, Head of People Experience
Interested in helping us build the future of finance? Visit transferwise.com/jobs to find out more.