Peter Thiel leads $6M round for fintech upstart Transferwise

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is, to put it mildly, a prolific investor. These days it feels like his main focus is on cleantech, but he also still has an eye for the financial technology (fintech) sector, as evidenced by the investment his Valar Ventures vehicle has just made in Transferwise.

We’ve covered Transferwise several times over the past couple of year, documenting how the U.K.-based firm is shaking up the international bank transfer market. The company maintains reserves across multiple countries, which it uses to allow transfers at much cheaper rates than those levied by traditional banks.

One of Transferwise’s early angels was PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, so it’s not hugely surprising to see Thiel join in the company’s $6 million Series A round. Other participants include Levchin again, IA Ventures, Index Ventures, TAG, Seedcamp, former Betfair CEO David Yu and Xavier Niel’s Kima Ventures.

Transferwise does seem to be growing at a very healthy clip indeed. At the end of February 2012, it had done £10 million ($15 million) in transactions. By the end of 2012 the total was £50 million, and now it’s apparently £125 million – growth is between 20-30 percent a month. And it’s not hard to see why. I used the service myself once, and it does what it says on the tin: save money.

As Thiel said in a statement:

“Innovation in the banking industry typically involves rent-seeking or unsound derivatives, which offer marginal benefits to consumers. TransferWise demonstrates true innovation in banking by enabling its users to retain their wealth across borders.”

According to Transferwise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus, the fresh funding will help the firm add a dozen new currencies (it currently does euros, pounds, dollars, Polish zlotys and Danish, Swedish and Norwegian krone) and push into the German, Spanish, French and Italian markets.

The company will also hire about another 20 people, on top of its current 35, and will start “taking a look at traditional marketing” too, Hinrikus said.