Wise Debut Turns the Fintech's Founders Into Billionaires — Here's Who Else Won Big

  • Wise founders Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus are now billionaires following the fintech firm's stock market debut.
  • Käärmann's stake in the business is worth approximately $2.1 billion, while Hinrikus' is worth $1.2 billion.
  • Other early investors who won big from Wise's listing include Peter Thiel's Valar Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

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.

Billionaire status

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.

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