Q&A: Jared Jesner and Simon Sacerdoti

Name, role and company:

Jared Jesner – Founder and CEO, and Simon Sacerdoti – Founder and CFO/COO, of WeSwap

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric): 

Under £1m

Employee numbers: 14

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

Jared: WeSwap harnesses the power of peer-to-peer and brings travellers a fast, accessible and simple solution to getting best value foreign currency. By allowing travellers to swap their currency with each other, it avoids using expensive bureaus who charge commission on top of the interbank rate.

What’s the big vision for your business?

Jared: We want to revolutionise the travel money exchange industry and to make WeSwap the leader in travel money across the world. Ultimately, we want to disrupt the currency exchange market and inspire a world where swapping money to get the best rate possible is the norm.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

Jared: At present, we are welcoming users from ten European countries: The United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Our aim is to bring WeSwap to even more countries and our overall aspiration is to eventually offer a truly global service.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

Simon: I was made redundant from a job I had for seven years, as a result of the dot.com crash in the early noughties. I had been on partnership track in a large international professional services firm, and it hit me very hard. However, it really helped me to get my priorities straight and understand that the only person who is uniquely interested in my career and wellbeing is me, so I had to really go after the career I wanted. Since then, I have worked for other organisations, but ultimately I wanted to pursue my dream of starting my own business.

What makes you mad in business today?

Jared: Sometimes I find in business it is challenging working with long supply chains who work at a very slow pace. When you first start up a business, you want to go all speed ahead therefore it can be frustrating to be held up by others.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

Simon: We will be! WeSwap is based on a simple idea and travel money is something that people are always looking to get the best deal on to maximise their spending power on holiday. We believe in simple, transparent pricing and we know consumers respond well to such up-front, best possible rates. By tapping into the ever-growing peer-to-peer market, we can deliver the best rates to consumers, so we see this service as becoming the ‘go-to’ for travellers.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

Simon: Generally speaking, it’s harder for Fintech startups in the UK to qualify for EIS and SEIS, which are amazing initiatives to de-risk early stage investing. I believe this needs to be simplified so as not to stifle innovation in what is one of the UK’s strongest industries.

How would others describe your leadership style?

Simon: I hope my team would describe me as someone who leads by example, by displaying expertise and diligence. I suspect that they may view me as a bit of a soft touch, but also uncompromising and demanding with our commercial partners and suppliers.

Jared: I believe in working together as a team at all times and tackling problems head on. I must admit, I can be quite stubborn! I think this just means I’m passionate about what I do but I’m always keen to hear my colleagues’ opinions so that we can learn together.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

Simon: When I turned 30, I bought myself a Ferrari 355 Spyder. It cost me the majority of my net salary each month, but I loved it. I kept it for 18 months, and then traded it in for a Smart, which I still drive 11 years later!

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

Simon: EIS and SEIS are great, but I think they need a bit of tweaking. The exclusions need to be thought through again and the time limits should be reconsidered. These days an exit within three years is possible and EIS benefits should be retained. I also think that entrepreneurial businesses should benefit from reduced payroll taxes and admin – it’s quite an overhead.

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