Somalia-born Ismail Ahmed’s WorldRemit Raises $175M, Pushes For U.S. Market Share

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Ismail Ahmed launched WorldRemit in 2010 to provide a low-cost money transfer alternative to expensive brick-and-mortar agents he remembered from his native Somalia.

His remittance firm now serves almost 4 million clients and just saw its biggest funding round yet.

A $175-million Series D round included returning investors,
Silicon Valley-based TCV and Accel, and London-based Leapfrog Investments. The money will be used to expand in the U.S., according to a press release.

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TCV was established in 1995 and has additional offices in New York and London, with tech investment interests in Facebook, Spotify and AirBnb.

Accel focuses primarily on early-stage startups and has offices in London, India and China.

Based in London, WorldRemit raised $40 million in 2017 in a deal led by LeapFrog Investments, known for backing high-growth financial companies, Crunchbase reports.

The company has yet to disclose its valuation following this $175 million funding round, but Techcrunch said it is estimated to be more than $900 million.

Somali entrepreneur ismail ahmed
Ismail Ahmed, CEO of WorldRemit. Photo: flickr

In 2018, WorlRemit became one of the first U.K. financial service firms to secure licenses in all 50 U.S. states, The company aims to become the preferred remittance company for users to and from the U.S., according to Techmoran.

In that same year, the U.S. became the firm’s largest send market. With this newest investment, the company expects to grow its American and global markets further, according to the press release.

Remittances to Africa increased by 3.3 percent to $34 billion in 2017, according to World Bank data.

Ismail Ahmed inspired by remittance experience

WorldRemit founder Ahmed was motivated by his experiences with remittances when he was younger.

He saw how remittances transformed his village, first during the Gulf oil gold rush when his brother and others went to work and sent money back home, and then when he moved to the U.K. during Somalia’s civil war and became a sender of remittances, according to an interview with Moguldom in 2017.

Those experiences and an understanding of both sides of the transaction process inspired him to build WorldRemit.

Ahmed attended the University of London Business School, where he studied for an MBA.

In 2007 Ahmed worked as a compliance advisor to the U.N., helping African companies to comply with money transfers.

He was fired after he blew the whistle on fraud and corruption at the U.N. Development Program in Nairobi. He received threats from within the organization but ultimately won his case at the U.N. Ethics Committee.