FreemarketFX was founded by Alex Hunn in 2011 and has created a platform to enable business and individual users to exchange currency through a Financial Conduct Authority-approved service with a fixed commission charge of 0.2 percent.
The startup is based in the financial powerhouse of London, and employs 10 people. We put Hunn under our spotlight to hear more about FreemarketFX.
Why did you develop FreemarketFX?
Exchanging one currency for another, as a requirement of business, is expensive. Foreign exchange is regarded as a complex product and that suits the current market incumbents perfectly. It’s a profitable space to operate in.
It is, however, not a market where people are generally happy with the service they receive, specifically around cost, transparency and efficiency.
Through business and personal experience, I was also dissatisfied with the current status quo and realised that trading market technology could be adapted for FreemarketFX. Free from legacy technology platforms and systems, we could build a new sort of financial services provider: a ‘fintech’ company.
Tell us how you got your business off the ground.
Starting any business is a huge challenge, but the challenges are multiplied when that also includes regulatory bodies and global bank relationships.
These challenges require significant investment, not in cash terms, but in time commitment. And when you’re starting a business, one thing that is not on your side is time.
But it was all about taking small and logical steps as part of a clearly defined strategy. There were many components to each of these steps. Some took longer than anticipated, cost more than we had forecast, or just proved harder than expected.
However, knowing the end goal kept us focused and allowed us to successfully execute on our plan.
What level of funding have you received so far?
To date, we have been angel funded although we are unusual for an early stage company in that we also have a corporate as a shareholder.
What challenges have you encountered to date?
Many. Our biggest two were regulatory authorisation and then securing a global bank relationship. Both required significant patience but have been the right strategic call.
What’s been the biggest highlight of your business to date?
We have had many small wins rather than one specific big highlight. However, becoming operational with customers transacting was a key milestone.
Once transactional, there is a massive mind shift as to how your business is perceived, internally and externally.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
By definition, startups never really stop so we are very often communicating with one another late into the evening. It is, however, nice to get out as a team and celebrate a good day with a quiet couple of pints.
What did you do before starting up FreemarketFX?
My background is in fixed income and capital markets for companies like Credit Suisse First Boston, Deutsche Bank and MF Global.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
You get to experience everything, which is the best and worst thing about a startup.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which would it be?
Betfair. The concept is similar, although how the propositions are delivered is very different. Like Betfair, we are looking to innovate and disrupt a large and lazy market, which means challenging the current status quo. Exciting times!
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
We share office space with a few other startups, which reduces cost and creates a dynamic and interesting working environment.
Tim Berners-Lee for the creation of the World Wide Web.
Smart or casual?
Both have their place, although casual for choice.
Coffee shop of choice?
Gails or Paul.
Beverage of choice?
There are a few.
Teamer. I coach kids rugby and it’s a great way of keeping in touch with the team and who’s attending what event in a really easy, intuitive way.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
We do a lot of networking, although we've never actively participated or been attached to specific startup communities.
Could the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
The government is already providing great support via the SEIS and EIS investment schemes.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from IoT wireless network firm Nwave Technologies and e-commerce and augmented reality firm GoInStore, to cloud platform provider and consultancy Steamhaus and website and app monitoring firm RapidSpike.
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