2nd episode in our one-on-one series, now with FlyMoney CEO, Tal Ekroni, on having a vision that has a global effect on world travelers and becoming a successful revenue-generating company.
We know there’s a story behind FlyMoney, do you mind sharing?
So FlyMoney started with my students. I was a lecturer of finance at the Israeli college for management when 3 of my students reached out to me at the end of the semester. They said “listen, Tal, we’re traveling to India in a couple of weeks, what’s the best place to get the Indian Rupee from? Should we go to the post office, maybe exchange at the bank, exchange at the airport, withdraw from an ATM, do they even accept credit cards – how does this whole payment system work when you travel abroad?” At that moment I realized that currency exchange for travelers sucks. You pay way too much, it’s an entirely offline experience, and there is zero transparency in the whole process. Therefore, we established FlyMoney.
“All we do is gather all rates every second, from all the currency providers worldwide, and we affiliate transactions for them.”
Let’s dive into what FlyMoney does, and how your idea grew from ideation to execution?
FlyMoney is an aggregator of currency solutions all around the globe that integrates with financial institutions that can provide currencies to travelers all around the world at a low cost. We are already integrated with currency providers in 56 different airports that can offer our travelers money upon arrival or before their trip. That means in their origin country, or after they land in their arrival country. FlyMoney aggregates all of these different solutions, and always shows the travelers what is the best way to exchange their money. The travelers can pick the relevant delivery method for them, and then execute the transaction, securing the rate so that they’re getting the best rate possible at every point in time.
The way the idea changed from ideation to execution deals with the role of FlyMoney within the transaction of the money. At first, we thought we take local money, exchange it, and only then use local agents that have the local ability actually to provide this physical money to the travelers. However, when we started to dig in into the regulations, we understood that this is a mission that is nearly impossible – to get regulated in so many countries all around the globe. So we shifted from trying to be the currency provider, a regulated financial institution, into an aggregator, just like rentalcars.com or Kayak. All we do is gather all rates every second, from all the currency providers worldwide, and we affiliate transactions for them. We do not touch the money and therefore do not need to be regulated in any way.
Could you tell us about your newest service, which is sending customers foreign currency to their door, rather than having to pick it up at the airport?
Our next product, if you will, is a home delivery of foreign currency. Over the course of the company’s development, we have identified that there is a big segment of people that wish to get money, not at the airport but actually to their doorstep so they can be safe and sure that they’re going to have the money for their upcoming trip. Therefore we have partnered not only with currency providers at airports but also with currency providers that can make home delivery of money. You could just order money and then receive it at your doorstep without having to worry about the opening hours at the airport, or what will be the rate when you arrive there.
Your co-founders are Ben Aviram & Gilad Shlang. How did you guys join forces?
The idea started, as I said, with my students. That was around two years ago. Then I realized that to develop a prototype, obviously, there would need to be resources allocated toward development. In my last startup, before FlyMoney, I had co-founders who were not equally sharing the equity with me, and that was a mistake. It was an unequal partnership, and the engagement of each of us was different. Every slight delay or change or pivot required a new assessment of what is the involvement of every one of us to the company. I learned from this mistake; I understood that the best way would be to take people on board that will be able to be a partner, a co-founder fully obliged like me, in charge of the tech side while I take charge of the business side. It helps a lot in everything; costs, testers, accelerators, to every place you need to go you have a partner.
What qualities should one look for in a co-founder or employee?
When looking for a co-founder, the most important thing is to make sure that you have shared values. If you share the same opinions regarding priorities, regarding what’s good and bad within specific behaviors, so that these topics do not arise afterward when you get into much, much more profound dilemmas down the road. It’s great to have the capabilities and talent within the team. However, you do need to make sure that you share the same values regarding how the company should look like, what’s the pace we should work at, what kind of people do we want to bring on later on as employees, what’s our work ethic? These are the things that you might need to make sure are aligned before you choose a partner for your business. Regarding hiring employees, the most critical factor to consider is that, at the beginning of the business, every employee is sort of a co-founder. Each makes a difference to the company’s activity just as a co-founder does. From a team of 3, to add one person is a significant increase in the ability to perform work. You have to treat that kind of employee just like you treat a co-founder. They have to match the company values and the company culture. In the beginning, it is so crucial that you get people who share the same values as you.
What has changed since your seed round and what have you learned from the previous round that you keep in mind during the current fundraising?
Leaving definitions of seed, pre-seed, A round aside, just before we entered the accelerator we raised $200,000. Afterwards, we raised another $500,000—it was an instrumental investment called “Safe” which is a kind of convertible note agreement. Now we are raising our $2M round. From the first round until now we have gained a considerable amount of data and earned a lot of experience within the industry that we work in. We now know the right strategy to move forward. We have valid numbers regarding our average transaction, our conversion rate, the best way for us to appear on travel websites and the ideal hiring process once we complete this round. We also have many other data points including the sales cycle, integration cycle, technology, product, and business. So there’s nothing to compare to where we were 15 months ago and what FlyMoney is today.