Flywire, a Valencia-based international payments company, serves as a great example of a Spanish company that has seen success by employing a global mindset. I came across Flywire during my time in Valencia, and had the opportunity to visit its offices as well as chat with Founder Iker Marcaide and VP of Engineering/early employee Felipe Talavera. The company was founded in 2009 by Iker Marcaide, a Valencian who was living and studying abroad in Boston at the time. Marcaide had a very difficult time trying to transfer funds to pay his tuition, and was struck by how inefficient and expensive the international bank transfer process was, plagued by high banking fees and long delays before payments were received. The concept for Flywire, originally known as PeerTransfer, was born from this experience.
From the start, the company existed as an international company, with operations in both Boston (customer-facing personnel) and Valencia (technical personnel). Marcaide’s time in Boston facilitated this cross-border setup, and his U.S. network was instrumental in helping the company secure funding from international investors (the company has raised over US$140 million to date including a US$100 million Series D round led by Temasek Holdings). At the same time, his Valencian roots enabled him and his early-team to build out a technical team in the affordable and tech talent-heavy Spanish city. Because the company has always been able to rely on access to a global network and foreign capital to support its growth, it has been less susceptible to the pitfalls of scaling as a born-in-Spain startup, and still maintains a large presence in Valencia, where 100 of its 300 employees reside.
Flywire represents not only a global company, but a trailblazing company. Flywire set a standard for a new wave of international payments and bank transfers products and has maintained its position as the world’s leading provider of international payments in the education sector (as well as a leader in the healthcare and commercial sectors). Today, it processes payments across over 200 countries and over 100 currencies, and as of late has been aggressively expanding its global reach and offerings through several acquisitions. The more it grows, the more it can provide its customers: in addition to a better and more efficient user experience, the company is able to offer customers increasingly affordable rates by bundling payments and transferring in bulk to cut down on an individual customer’s transfer-related fees.
If more Spanish companies are to emulate the path set by Flywire and others like it, they must spend time and effort upfront building both a long-term strategy and an international network. As a founder, this means anticipating future capital and hiring needs and developing a plan to address these needs as soon as they arise. Practically, it means traveling to other markets and villages, from Berlin and London to New York and Silicon Valley, to learn, meet foreign investors, test other consumer bases, source talent, and make connections with decision makers. It means keeping tabs on experienced senior technical talent abroad, because this talent is in short supply in Spain. These foreign clients/customers and connections will undoubtedly come in handy if and when any Spanish startup outgrows the resources that can currently be provided by the Spanish startup village, whether financial or otherwise.