Wise founders Taavet Hinrikus, left, and Kristo Käärmann.
LONDON — The founders of money transfer service Wise are now billionaires — on paper, at least.
The British fintech company formerly known as TransferWise went public on the London Stock Exchange Wednesday, in a direct listing valuing the company at $11 billion.
Wise was founded in 2010 by Estonian friends Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus. Frustrated with opaque bank charges on international money transfers, they figured out a new way to make cross-border transactions at the real exchange rate.
The pair would informally transfer money between one another, by looking at the mid-market rate of a certain day each month. They say this allowed them to achieve a fair exchange rate without paying additional bank charges.
Just over a decade after Wise was formed, the fintech firm’s founders have risen to billionaire status.
At an $11 billion market cap, Käärmann’s stake in the business is worth approximately $2.1 billion, while Hinrikus’ is worth $1.2 billion, according to CNBC calculations based on a breakdown of ownership provided in Wise’s prospectus.
Wise declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.
Here’s who else won big from Wise’s direct listing:
- Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures is Wise’s largest external shareholder. Valar’s 10.2% stake is now worth about $1.1 billion.
- IA Ventures, which holds a 9.6% stake in Wise, is sitting on over $1 billion of shares.
- Andreessen Horowitz’s 9.3% Wise stake is now worth $1 billion.
- Baillie Gifford holds a 4.9% stake worth $536 million.
Since it is a direct listing, Wise’s private backers are selling shares directly to the public. This is different from an IPO, where a company issues new shares to raise capital in a public offering.
Wise is a four-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company that most recently ranked No. 23 on the 2019 list.